*Michael Eklund, Lance Henriksen, and Tony Todd get on a train… It sounds like a set up to a really good dirty or gory joke, but in reality it’s the very basis for a new horror western titled The Cold Descent. The feature film, which is directed by Michael Steves, completes principle photography tonight, but a number of the cast members were available during lunch break yesterday to chat. The timeframe, the backdrop of an old multi-car train, the cast, the writing and inspirations, and the action mixed with blood and guts… I really think The Cold Descent is going to be one of the most anticipated titles of this year.
Yesterday I posted my interview with Michael Eklund, and this interview is with Tony Todd. When you think of one of the reigning kings of the horror genre, there is no force of nature bigger than Tony Todd. He’s been in dozens of iconic titles and franchises, most notably Night of the Living Dead (first remake), Candyman, The Crow, Wishmaster, Final Destination, and Hatchet. In my interview with Mr. Todd, we discuss his character in The Cold Descent, how all signs pointed to him serving as a lead in the film, his first ever on screen scalping, and much more.
As always, I have provided the transcript of our interview below. However, I have also provided an MP3 via YouTube where you can listen to the interview in its entirety, including friendly conversation and questions and commentary that didn’t make it into the transcript. Check it out!
HS: What can you tell me about your character, Jericho Whitfield?
TT: He’s a really iconic character that I had a fascinating time creating along with the help of the art department, my own personal research on life post-1871, and my fabulous director Michael Steves. Jericho Whitfield is a slave who freed himself during the revolution and he’s obsessed with striking vengeance because his entire family was massacred and scalped. What’s going along with that is the constant struggle with his humanity because he ultimately killed his own master, who was smart enough or benevolent enough to teach him the classics like Plato, Socrates, Shakespeare, the poetic… He’s a very well spoken man who is also primal and barbaric.
HS: How did you really know this movie was the one for you?
TT: I don’t just take gigs anymore. I don’t need to do it for the money. For me, it’s about the character, the story, and who I’m going to be working with. I always want to meet my director before we get to work so we can cut through some of the shorthand, figure out how we can communicate, what we want to say, what our intentions are. I met with Michael Steves twice and I asked him, “Where did you go to school?” and he said, “Wesleyan University.” That made my brain stop because my daughter went to Wesleyan. I asked him, “What year did you graduate?” and he said, “2013,” which happened that I went to that graduating ceremony. Small world. That’s what we look for in life – cosmic placement.
HS: Are you proud of The Cold Descent so far?
TT: On a modest budget we’ve managed to put something together that I think is really unique. Horror fans and Tony fans are really going to adore it. I did my first scalping on set last week, so that was a lot of fun.
HS: I can’t believe after all the years of your career you haven’t done a scalping yet!
TT: I have not! It’s not a pretty sight. The great thing about the internet is you can do research on everything. You’d be surprised about all the stuff that exists on scalping. It wasn’t a pretty sight. When you want to scalp a person, you go right to the hairline which is the thinnest part of the membrane on the entire body and it just comes right off. You’re just left with a skull that won’t do anything else.
HS: You, Michael Eklund, and Lance Henriksen, this movie is going to be huge. I’m proud to have broken the story.
TT: Besides the three of us, we have this young woman named Jennifer Laporte who’s in her second year at the School of Arts in NYU. She’s going to be a Jennifer Lawrence type personality to watch in the future. She’s really eccentric and good, and she’s all of 19-years-old. She plays my slave master’s daughter, Annie. I took time to know her, because my character hates her, but Tony used to teach. So, I embraced her right away and wanted to know where she went to school. We discussed acting and teaching of acting in between takes of this film. It brought out my nurturing side.
HS: Can you give me a clue as to what the scarier, malevolent force is on the train? Is it more of a person or a thing?
TT: It’s more of a purgatory experience. More supernatural. Think of the train as a halfway vehicle between Heaven and Hell. It’s not something that is given at the beginning or the end. It could be a continuous loop. It has a lot of influence to it. Michael Steves has a lot of influences. He knows Hitchcock, Spielberg, and “The Twilight Zone,” and he took [storytelling] from that and great, iconic dialogue.
*Thank you for taking the time to chat with me, Tony! You are one of the biggest names in horror and I’ve been a fan of yours for twenty years. This was certainly an experience I will never forget!
For more information on Tony Todd and The Cold Descent, please visit the following links:
Tony on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0865302/
Tony on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TonyTodd54
The Cold Descent on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4287470/
The Cold Descent on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cold-Descent-Film/424482094371421
The Cold Descent on Instagram: https://instagram.com/colddescentfilm