Having worked within this industry for over a decade now, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of getting to know many of the genre’s biggest stars on a very personal level. Behind all of the glitz, gore, and excitement, they’re very real people just like you and I.
It’s not often that you get to see a celebrity’s private side, but on the premiere episode of Season 2 of Adam Green’s “Scary Sleepover,” Todd pulled back the curtain in the most personal and touching way possible… by discussing his recently deceased brother, Donald.
“Not many people know this, but I have a full brother besides my half-brother,” Todd tells Green. “He’s a year older than me. His name is Donald… Donald Todd. He recently passed away about three weeks ago.” [Editors note: This episode was filmed on December 2nd, which means Donald had passed in November] “It’s been about 12 years since I’ve seen him. He was institutionalized when he was like four. I’ve got these old pictures of he and I playing in an old plastic pool in the backyard… riding our little tricycles… All of a sudden I woke up one day, and he was gone. I was two and a half… three… I kept asking my mother, ‘Where’s Donald, where’s Donald?,’ and she wouldn’t tell me. This began a pattern in my life. That’s why at the age of three I was sent to live with my aunt, who protected me from almost everything.”
Todd continues tearfully, “One of the reasons for my drive, my creative drive, is because it’s for more than one person. Every job that I would go for, every meeting… it wasn’t just me; I would bring Donald with me. Donald is my imaginary muse.” It’s truly a heartfelt and incredible moment, and there’s so much more it’s painful to even transcribe.
So it’s with great pleasure and honor that we celebrate five of Tony Todd’s most memorable roles in loving memory of his brother, Donald, who we are sure is smiling down on Tony. Your little brother has made you proud, sir. Cheers.
Night of the Living Dead
If there was EVER a huge pair of shoes to try to fill, it would be Duane Jones’ from the 1968 George A. Romero classic Night of the Living Dead. In 1990 Todd was tasked with doing just that by assuming the role of Ben. Night is very sacred ground to a lot of fans, myself included, but Todd nails it in every conceivable way. His frustration, fright, and confusion is palpable; and his portrayal of Ben remains one of the best roles of his career.
From having had the pleasure of knowing Tony and working with him, I can tell you first-hand that his role as Reverend Zombie in the Hatchet franchise is most representative of who he is… captivating, fun, and playful. With a career that’s home to several ultra-serious roles, Hatchet II gave Tony room to play, and play he did!
While filming Hatchet II, Tony asked director Adam Green if his “character had any super powers.” Green responded, “No.” Todd then asked, “Can my character THINK he has voodoo abilities and magical powers?” Green said, “Yes… but he doesn’t really.” I’ll be damned if those powers are not on display during the Final Destination franchise. Whether it be from a stern look, a soft smile, or a single uttered line, Todd can take even the smallest of roles and make his presence seem utterly omnipotent and omnipresent. Not many actors can do that, but Todd does so effortlessly.
In 1994’s The Crow Tony assumed the role of Grange, right-hand man to the nefarious Top Dollar. Once again, with just minimal screen time, Todd wrings every single bit of malevolence out of a character who just about every other actor out there would have phoned in. That’s the thing about Todd… he may not always have the most screen time, but he has the uncanny ability to make even the smallest of roles unforgettable.
In 1992 Todd teamed with Clive Barker and director Bernard Rose to create one of the horror genre’s most beloved characters, the Candyman. Despite there being only three films in the franchise, Todd’s performance as Daniel Robitaille has put him up there with heavy hitters who have double the amount of flicks under their bloody belts: Jason, Freddy, Myers, etc. What makes the character so endearing? It’s the amount of heart Todd gives him. You feel not only his rage but his sorrow. You understand this supernatural being on a very human level, and in the end that’s what makes him all the more frightening.
As a fan and a friend, I would like to take this time to once again dedicate this list to the memory of Donald Todd and thank Donald for all the inspiration that he gave his brother to create so many lasting memories. We may not have known you, Donald, but we are grateful to you, and you are loved.
God bless you both.