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December 2007
An Interview with Beverly Todd

An Interview with Beverly Todd

byWilson Morales

December 24, 2007

There are plenty of films where someone has to play the wife of the leading character and sometimes the wife character is just written for prop purposes and sometimes the character is given more to do and the role is very juice. For Beverly Todd, to take on the role of a wife of a ill husband, it gave her the chance to reunite with someone she had great chemistry once before, Morgan Freeman. Just about 18 years ago, the two of them starred in the explosive film, ‘Lean on Me’ and now she stars along with him in ‘The Bucket List’.

In the Rob Reiner directed film, corporate billionaire Edward Cole (JACK NICHOLSON) and working class mechanic Carter Chambers (MORGAN FREEMAN) are worlds apart.  At a crossroads in their lives, they share a hospital room and discover they have two things in common: a desire to spend the time they have left doing everything they ever wanted to do before they “kick the bucket.”

Todd also captured the hearts of many as the grieving mother of Don Cheadle’s character in the the Oscar© winning film “Crash” and has won a People’s Choice Award and four times been nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

According to her bio, on TV Todd proved quite adept at playing both classy and streetwise urban roles. Highlights include stand-out performances on the PBS Special “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” the esteemed mini-series “Don’t Look Back: The Story of Leroy Satchel Paige,” in which she co-starred with Oscar© winner Louis Gossett Jr. as Mrs. Paige, and as an integral part of the historical TV event “Roots,” playing the role of Fanta. More recently she played a recurring role on the hit TV show “Six Feet Under.” She currently has recurring role on “Lincoln Heights” and “House.”

In speaking with blackfilm.com, Ms. Todd talks about reuniting with Freeman again on the big screen in ‘The Bucket List’, working with Jack Nicholson, and her upcoming role in ‘The Lena Baker Story’.

Can you describe you character in the film?

Beverly Todd: I play his wife and they have been married for a long time and the children are gone and now it’s about how they will communicate with each other. Then he gets this horrible illness and in her mind, she’s thinking that this will be an opportunity to be with him and take care of him and show him how much she loves him and find some way to get back to his heart. Not that she left it, but sometimes when couples have been together for a really long time, they communicate through their children. When the children are gone, it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re whom I’m talking to now’. They have to find the road back to each other. Because he has this opportunity to go and do all the things he’s never experienced, he takes advantage of that and of course my character feels deserted. She’s missing her opportunity to reconnect with her man. She’s very hurt and distraught and that’s how she feels.

Why do you think it took someone else like Jack’s character to help Morgan’s character live this carefree life all of a sudden?

BT: When you are married and you keep having children and the children come first and then there are the bills and there’s college, and they are all educated and have high positioned jobs, and he sacrificed his freedom and what he wanted to do and go and learn for his children and his family, so he felt that life had cheated him. At the end of the day, what did he have to show for his life? He’s a very bright guy and he wanted to college and explore his intelligence and he didn’t get that opportunity, so he missed his boat and he’s thinking that he missed his chance. So he’s making this list of things that he wants to do before he kicks the bucket, i.e. the title, and Jack sees it and says, ‘Hey! Let’s go do this. I have the money. We don’t know how much time we have but right now we’re healthy.’ Morgan ponders this and decided to do it.

What was like to work with Morgan again?

BT: It was like a reunion. We sort of stayed in touch but not really. When you see a friend that you haven’t seen in a while and it‘s somebody that you felt good working with, it was like a reunion. It was great. We worked very, very well together. There’s something magical that happens with Morgan and I when we are working. We just feed off of each other and really in sync with each other’s acting sensibility. It was great.

One of the joys of this film is that now only are you and Morgan working together again, but you have the pleasure of working with his real-life son, Alfonso, in the film.

BT: Yes! I know his son and in fact his son sings. I went to a concert that his son was having and he’s a real good singer. He has a CD out and he’s been performing music for quite some time and it’s a whole another him when he’s singing. It was wonderful.

How was working with him as an actor?

BT: He’s a good actor. He had his character down pat and he knew what he was doing. I was impressed. I was very impressed with his acting ability.

You didn’t have that many scenes with Jack but how was working with him?

BT: With Jack and Morgan, it’s like watching the master work, meaning somebody who is so proficient at what they do and what they have learned. It was wonderful. Can you imaging working with two icons of the American cinema, world cinema really. Jack is very centered. He doesn’t come around the set to fool around. I don’t know what people’s opinion of him is, but when he comes to the studio, he is prepared for work. He is 100% in his character from the time he comes until the time he leaves. It was magic watching him.

As you read the script, did it hit you at all, personally?

BT: I certainly have known people who have had terminal illness. I have known people who wish that they had an opportunity to walk and do things to take advantage of something they missed. On many levels it was something that reminded me of people that I knew. But it’s a very well-rounded story because it touches the human spirit. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry. It has everything you can possibly want in a movie. The subject matter may sound a little down, but it’s now. It’s uplifting. It gives you the chance to see the possibilities no matter; and that what I loved about the film.

As an actress, it must have been rewarding to see that you had more than one or two, especially when working these guys?

BT: Yes, it was so rewarding and I was so thrilled that I had an opportunity to be in this kind of movie with those kinds of actors and I was given a lot to do. A lot of times when you are in a film with two giants like that, your part is reduced down to the minimum. I had a lot of dialogue and wonderful and that scene between Jack and I weren’t face to face but we were on the phone, it was great. When I finally saw the film, I just beamed. I was so proud of me.

After working for over thirty years, what does this film do for your career?

BT: You have to keep going. You have busy yourself. When you have a gift, your gift is in more than one area. I was out producing. I was out directing stage plays and starring in them. I executive produced a documentary on the life of Dionne Warwick. I say to young to learn how to do everything. You can’t sit by the phone and rely on one talent. You have to hone and develop more than one talent because talent is talent. I feel so lucky that I have had a career than has taken me through the years. I also tell young people to take care of yourself because you don’t know when your break is going to come. You don’t know the longevity of your career and by golly you want to look good while you are doing it.

I also see that you are also in ‘The Lena Baker Story’. What part do you play in the film?

BT: I’m playing Lena Baker’s mother. Tichina Arnold plays the adult Lena and another younger actress plays her at age 10 and another actress plays her at age 22 and I’m the mom. I age from younger to older. It takes place from 1906 to 1945. That role was the first character, except from when I played Mrs. Paige in the Satchel Paige story, when I read the script, she leaped into me and did not leave until the last day of shooting. I never had a character take over me like that from the beginning until the end; and it was almost as if she wanted to live again. She got an opportunity to live through me. It’s a wonderful written script, very well directed, and it’s a brilliant story. Tichina Arnold is fabulous as Lena Baker. She’s a solid good actress.

The Bucket List in select theaters on December 25th; it opens nationwide January 11th.


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