Tony Todd recalls the day he landed the role of Venom in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 like it was yesterday.
“You know, I thought I had magic calls before. I remember when I got the call for Zoom in ‘The Flash.’ When I first got the Fallen in ‘Transformers,’” he muses. “But this one was like a standing ovation for my collective voice over work. My whole career, actually. Everything leads to another thing. I’m a big kid. I’m a gamer myself. So it all just fell into place.”
Speaking to Variety weeks ahead of the highly-anticipated game release, Todd gets a big grin across his face as he teases his interpretation of the symbiotic villain.
“It’s a given that people think he’s evil. As an actor, you can never play evil. For me, I wanted to emphasize the joy of his landing on this particular place in time,” he says, adding that New York City is the perfect playground. “It’s filled with so many human beings who are ready to be symbiotized — food choices and stuff!”
When he was cast, Todd went straight to work on developing his own unique take on the murderous alien with a powerful hive mind. “As soon as I got the job, I went over to Golden Apple and said, ‘Give me your best 20 graphic novels on Venom’ and they willingly supplied it for me. I just started there and tried to dig as deep as I could.”
Though he had worked previously with “Venom” film star Tom Hardy on 2006 horror flick “Minotaur,” Todd avoided drawing too much inspiration from the 2018 blockbuster: “I watched a little bit of the first ‘Venom’ movie, but I wanted to make it my own. I just took the temperature check and then just created things — a building block.”
The most important aspect of his Venom? “The joy! Venom, even though he may do things to people that they don’t like, he’s filled with joy. He’s happy. He’s like an overgrown kid in kindergarten that drinks too many orange juices and graham crackers for lunchtime. Then the teacher can’t put them down because he’s faster.”
That said, his Venom isn’t all fun and games: Todd describes the giant alien as “thunderous,” adding, “He’s well-rooted. There’s nothing flighty about him. He’s one of the most grounded, both feet on the ground, characters I’ve ever had the opportunity to express. He’s also very Shakespearean.”
When fans get to see Venom in all his glory in the full game, Todd hopes they can feel the love he put into the role: “I just want fans to know that I’m a gamer first. I didn’t just take this as a job. I took this as an act of love. I hope that comes across with my interpretation and my inclusion with the entire ensemble.”
Among that ensemble is Yuri Lowenthal, who portrays the OG Spider-Man, Peter Parker. As Venom’s alien symbiote takes hold of him, Lowenthal’s voice begins to coalesce with Todd’s, something the duo had some preparation for. “Yuri and I worked together before. We did an anime series on Netflix called ‘Dragon’s Blood,’ and it was a similar technique: our voices merged and stuff. Once I came on board and we clicked into that, we said, ‘All that other stuff was just rehearsal for the real deal — the real blending,’” he says. “I couldn’t be in better company.”
Todd says that ‘rehearsal,’ along with his other iconic roles (like “Candyman,” of course), have led him to this role. “All the voicing patterns I’ve learned and accumulated over the years all feed into the moment at hand. And I can honestly say Venom is one of my most cherished roles that I’ve ever had the opportunity to layer and to bring expression to,” he says with a smile. “This is a role of a lifetime. If I only did one other role in life, this would be it. But hopefully there’s many more.”
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 launches on Oct. 20 for PlayStation 5.