EXCLUSIVE: Candyman star Tony Todd wants the world to know he’s not retiring.
Not only is he too busy working on a multitude of projects at any given time, but he also wants to spend more time with his growing family and supporting up-and-coming Black talent like writer Bill Posley. The pair recently collaborated on Posley’s directorial film debut, Bitch Assfeaturing one of the only masked Black serial killers to appear in film.
Deadline has an exclusive clip of Todd as the character Titus Blaq in Bitch Ass above.
Described as Think Don’t Breathe meets Squid Game—But Black, the film is an homage to 90s horror films like Tales From The Hood and People Under the Stairs. It will celebrate its world premiere at SXSW tonight at Alamo Lamar D at 10 pm
The film tells the story of Cecil (Tunde Laleye), a normal teenager in the 80s who was bullied for being overweight, shy, and for his love of board games. One night, the 6th Street Gang targeted Cecil as their victim, encouraging new recruits to scar and disfigure him. After the attack, he was never heard from again — until 1999 when Bitch Ass emerged from his slumber.
A new crop of 6th Street recruits have heard the legendary tales of Bitch Ass and are challenged to rob the house where he lived with his abusive grandmother on initiation night. When they walk into various parts of the house, they each discover they are part of a game. If you beat Bitch Ass, you live but not many will survive.
The cast also includes Sheaun McKinney, Me’Lisa Sellers, Teon Kelly, Afro, Kelsey Caesar, and Belle Guillory.
Todd and Posley spoke with Deadline about heralding a new era of Black horror stories with Bitch Ass.
DEADLINE: Tony, you have multiple decades’ worth of credits in the industry. Why did you choose to work on this indie film?
TONY TODD: Isn’t that a great title? I love it. It’s one of the things that drew me to the project. Bitch Ass is unapologetically for the love of horror, and I can appreciate that. I’m a huge fan of independent filmmaking, so when I spoke to Posley and learned about what he was doing and that it’s an ethnic oriented project, I knew I had to give back and lend support. I was more than pleasantly surprised when I saw it in the stack of scripts for projects to consider. The hope is, for each project you’re able to give to, five more materialize. It’s a wonderful thing. That’s been my key to success.
DEADLINE: Bill, as an indie filmmaker, what did it mean to you to have Tony say yes?
BILL POSLEY: I was dreaming big when I suggested we try to get Tony to do the film. I knew his participation would legitimize this film, specifically in this genre. I remember when my brother and I were little kids, Candyman was everything! There were no other Black serial killers out there representing and there haven’t been many since. So I thought, what better way to change that than to have somebody like Tony come in and do this. He and I talked a lot about how in the 90s, there was this beautiful genre of horror movies that took place set in the hood and all Black neighborhoods that just went away. What better way to tribute those movies that came before us than with this homage?
DEADLINE: Bill, this film has a gaming aspect that is very similar to Netflix’s Squid Game. Did the series inspire you or was it a coincidence?
POSLEY: We did it before Squid Game was released. We wrote the script about two years ago and we finished shooting about six months before the show premiered. It’s just serendipitous. In our film, part of the way our killer kills is through games. He was bullied as a kid for playing board games so he takes games like Connect 4 or Operation and turns them into kill games, which is similar to Squid Game. We were actually so happy to see it on the show because it legitimized for us that there’s an audience and an appetite for it. Bitch Ass and Squid Game are totally different and I find it really fun when they’re compared to one another.
DEADLINE: Bitch Ass is a complex character who while evil, you can’t help but feel sorry for him. Why did you want to create sympathy for a serial killer, Bill?
POSLEY: A la Candyman, me and my co-writer Jonathan Colomb wanted this character who is villainized to be humanized. You want to shift loyalties and not know who you’re rooting for. In Candyman, you see him get murdered and tortured so that when you see him kill, you find yourself cheering for him. That’s definitely an element we wanted for Bitch Ass from the beginning.
DEADLINE: Tony, what are the must-have elements when creating the ultimate horror baddy?
TODD: What Bill just mentioned: You gotta have audience sympathy for the character in some way or another. There’s gotta be something attractive about the character that makes people want to root for them but at the same time feel repulsed by the idea. And for me personally, for every film that I do, I create a backstory for all my tortured people and my heroes alike.
DEADLINE: What’s is Titus’ backstory?
TODD: He’s a flamboyant ex-circus performer that stumbled upon this simple house and he just wants to get out and reach the masses to warn them not to take him lightly.
POSLEY: If I may add, when Tony came in to shoot, he sat down at this piano and told me, “Just trust me, I got this.” So we stepped back and when he does the first take, I swear to you, I forgot to yell cut. Everyone in the room, the cast and crew, we all just looked at each other and couldn’t believe what had just happened.
TODD: I hope you know, I felt the same way about the whole movie, not just that scene. Seriously, I’m proud of you. This is no minor achievement.
DEADLINE: Any plans for a sequel?
POSLEY: We do have an idea for a sequel. Hopefully, someone at SXSW snaps this one up so we can keep expanding the Bitch Ass universe.