Local actor, popular athlete, and just about "everybody's friend," Tony Todd was born and raised in Santa Monica. While attending Santa Monica High School in the 1980s, he was taken under the wing of coach Dr. Tebb Kusserow. It was there that Tony's talents in both football and baseball began to shine, attracting a stream of college recruiters. Moving full speed toward his dream to play for USC, Tony was suddenly stopped in his tracks by a severe ankle injury. But, it didn't keep him down. Instead, he began to channel his passions into helping others with their dreams, not only as a mentor, but by rallying financial support for them when needed.
However, the story doesn't end there. So, how does a young man go from being a promising star athlete to getting a shot at acting? One day, post college, Tony was driving past a local park when he noticed a crowd of kids dressed in baseball uniforms gathered on the field. Something was going on. As it turned out, Castle Rock was holding auditions for the movie Little Big League. The fact that this former Samohi sensation didn't have acting experience, or an agent, did not deter him. Instead, he spirited home and quickly returned, dressed for the part and with the unflinching determination to get an audition.
Sporting his trademark smile and wily confidence, a few swings from the plate later, he was in. He had landed his first acting gig playing the role of Mickey Scales. Fast forward to 2018. Tony gets a surprise call from first assistant director, Lisa Satriano, a friend and former Samohi classmate whom he'd worked with some years earlier. Lisa was asking if he'd like to be in the new Marvel film, Black Panther. And, so it began.
His athletic prowess and streak of acting roles recently led Tony to the Atlanta set of Black Panther, where he worked for four and a half months as a stunt actor.
"I am so grateful that I was invited back to work on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," he said, adding, "The experience was bitter sweet because we'd lost our leader, [actor Chadwick Boseman], as everyone knows."
These days Tony still lives in Santa Monica, and keeps his connection to his alma mater through his nephew, a Samohi student and basketball player. "My heart and soul will always have a strong attachment to Samohi," he said, noting that he stays in this city because, "Santa Monica is where I lived during my formative years, and I cherish the ethnic diversity as well as the enviable weather. And, most importantly, because my family and friends are still here."
Appreciative, hopeful, and with an unwavering enthusiasm for life, when not on the set, or at a sporting event, you just might find Tony sitting on a bench on the pier, watching the sunrise, or a beautiful sunset.
By Deborah Gray