Tony Todd was at the House of Moves in Los Angeles recently, but the star of the Candyman and Final Destination movies wasn’t working on a new film or TV show. He was providing performance capture for Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The actor plays Admiral Tommy Briggs in the futuristic sequel to the blockbuster Cold War saga, and his digital visage can be seen in the most recent trailer which highlighted the new villain and showed Todd in character. Todd talks about going virtual in what’s expected to be the biggest game of this year – if not all time – in this exclusive interview.
How familiar were you with the Call of Duty franchise before you started this project?
Dude, I’ve been a gamer ever since Intellivision. I grew up on video games. When I was in college, even during snowstorms, I would go the half-mile to the drugstore to play Millipede. I’ve had every system until the two that are running neck and neck now, so to ask me how familiar I am with Call of Duty is kind of insulting.
What do you think of Treyarch’s work?
Let’s put it this way, I was playing Call of Duty: Black Ops on Sunday, just two days before I had to come in. I always do that, just to get my adrenaline pumped up; it’s awesome. To finally be in something, it’s like an instant 9.9, and an instant major seller. It’s like a kid at Christmas.
For me it was weird, because my manager didn’t tell me what the game was. When it came up, we were told it was between me and one other person. I didn’t have to come and meet them. By the end of the day, it went my way, and then he told me what it was. I said, “Man, why didn’t you tell me that? Are you crazy?” He says, “What is wrong with you?” I said, “This ain’t no damn Fable 2; this is a big deal.” I got him to realize it, but now he’s too stringent about it. This is a game changer, pardon the pun.
What’s the process been like working with Treyarch on this game?
I get the script piece by piece. I just got a piece this morning when I showed up for what I had to do today. It can be mindbending. Hopefully, I have done enough training and stuff that I can make it work, but I do have an exhaustive amount of work. My character has some 50-odd pages. I think for gamers, it’s probably going to be the most narrative game that they may have ever encountered. Between the ‘80s flashbacks, the future, the holograms, and the current situation on the Battleship Barack Obama; it’s just going to be mindbending.
Can you talk about your character in Black Ops II?
I’m an Admiral. I’m right in line to be Defense Secretary. I have ambitions of that nature. I’m a hands-on leader. I run this immense battleship, which is the number one battleship that protects America from dangers both internal and external. I hand select my men. I have supreme trust in them, and don’t ask them to do anything that I haven’t done. I was actually flying missions during 9/11. The men respect me and trust that, and I rule with a strong hand.
What’s it been like working on performance capture for this game?
It’s strange, but I’ve learned to accept it. You have to put 82 dots of light on your face. I was just told today that it cost $6 apiece; if I had known that, I wouldn’t have scratched the whole left side of my face off. Then you have to get into a wet suit with some other dots on it. We were talking, “Oh, you’re totally naked.” You have no pockets. You have no place for your thumb or your script. You have to be on top of your game and know this character.
What impact do you think performance capture will have on the final game compared to past games you’ve worked on, like Star Trek Elite Force II where you stayed in the recording booth?
Hopefully, this will make for a richer experience, because sometimes booth acting can be just that, and I’ve done some of that. I take acting seriously. I remember one time I went to some session for the Cartoon Network. It was like 9:00 in the morning, and everyone was wearing their slippers and sh*t. I was saying, “Wait a minute. Would that character wear bunny slippers? Really? But you’re a dragon, aren’t you?” This is sort of the opposite, because you strip down your artifices, and you’re all putting on a similar uniform to become proactive for the same purpose.
It’s different on many levels. As a gamer, it’s thrilling; it’s like Christmas. As a student, I’m learning something every day. It’s not just a character with three lines. I’ve got a lot to say in this game. I actually say, “C*ck s*cker,” quite a bit.
How well do you think Black Ops II is going to do this year?
We’re gonna break records, man. Don’t you understand that? We are gonna break records. We’re talking records shattering. Stop and ask yourself why you see so many Call of Duty commercials during the football season? This game is going to be huge.
How do you think this game will compare to your Hollywood hits?
It’s unbelievable. Michael Bay told me when I did Transformers [Revenge of the Fallen] that I was going to be in the biggest f*cking robot movie of all time; that was partly true.
That movie made a lot of money.
Yeah, but they didn’t tell me about the review parts. It ain’t my fault, man.
I don’t think anyone blames you.
I hope not. I just did the lines they gave me. I’m blessed, because I get to do these kinds of pop culture signature things that are fun to be a part of.