San Andreas hits theaters May 29, 2015, and man, we can’t wait for this heart-pounding and action-packed film. Todd Williams, who stars opposite Dwayne Johnson as Marcus can be seen flying high (in a badass helicopter) in this long-awaited (and did we mention earthshaking) feature film. I mean, what’s not to love about a movie where a father is trying to find his daughter after a devastating earthquake hits California (I’m impartial to the idea of an earthquake destroying my city, but let’s not be too critical!)
You may recognize Williams from his major roles on (some of my favorite) shows, like Teen Wolf, The Vampire Diaries, Bones, and The Chicago Code, just to name a few. But just because this Network Television powerhouse is coming to the big screen, it doesn’t mean he’s getting too big for his britches. The humble actor spoke at length with me about the importance of persevering through the ups and downs of life, and always following your dreams. Williams’ enthusiasm for his craft, and for encouraging others to do the same is beyond refreshing in a face-paced, often insincere world.
Not only did we talk about his coveted role in San Andreas, but we even threw it back to his Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf days where he told me which supernatural being he’d want to be if given the chance!
Now, ready, set… read.
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Before we talk about all of the great projects you have coming out, let’s take a step back for a second. What sparked your love of acting? How did you get started in this business?
TODD WILLIAMS: Let’s see… We’re taking it back to the nineties! I was going to a performing arts high school at the time, and my senior year, there was an advertisement for management looking for new potential clients. So, I went down and auditioned for them and that was that. That’s what got me officially started doing it professionally. It wasn’t necessarily doing a television series, because being in New York, there really wasn’t that much available at the time. It was pretty much three shows and they were all Law & Order. So, outside of that it was mainly commercials and voiceovers and stuff like that in addition to going out for television stuff here and there.
MM: Definitely. You ended up kind of going to NYU as sort of your back-up plan. Is having something else to fall back on if things don’t work out in the industry something you would recommend to young people who want to try their hand at acting?
TW: I don’t recommend having a fall-back at all. If you have a dream and it’s something that you’ve always wanted to do, and your heart’s telling you that’s what’s going to make you happy, and you really understand why you’re doing it, then there’s a strong purpose for doing it. You know, a lot of people don’t really understand what goes into it. In order to pursue this, you have to persevere through a lot of ups and downs. I think the only thing that is going to keep you going, is having a very strong reason for doing it. don’t recommend fallbacks, because then you’re putting your energy into an area that you don’t really care about, and you’re planting worry that the first thing isn’t going to work out. It’s actually counterproductive to what you’re wanting to do. The best recommendation I can give is just to go for it and give 120% of your effort and energy into it. Have faith in yourself that given that this is what you want to do, you will overcome any obstacles.
MM: That is some great advice. So, Todd, you’ve been a busy guy. You’ve got to tell me about your new movie coming out- San Andreas.
TW: Basically it’s a huge blockbuster action disaster film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. There’s two aspects to it… you have the spectacle aspect, which is you’re going to see a lot of great special effects, things crumbling, people running screaming and dying, and you know, bridges and tsunamis, or whatever it is that you’ve seen on the previews. So it’s going to be exciting from that standpoint- visually. Then, on the other side, you have this really great story about a man, who at the point that we’re introduced to him, the relationship between him and his family is kind of drifting apart. Not necessarily that they don’t love each other, but that there are circumstances that you become privy to that have caused him to pretty much put all of his energy into his work and not really see that his family is kind of drifting off. The earthquake becomes the catalyst that makes him take action and go, “You know what? I’m going to save my family under these incredible circumstances, no matter what.” So, saving his family- not just from the earthquake, but just in general- figuratively and literally. He’s trying to save his family. So that’s what the story is about.
MM: And how about your character Marcus?
TW: As Marcus, I am a member of the LA Fire Department Helicopter Search & Rescue team, and one of Ray’s, played by Dwayne, closest friends. Basically, because the theme of the story is, as you can see in the previews, “Where will you be” and “Who do you want to be with”, you have this man who is going to try and save his family. As Marcus, I’m pushing that theme forward. We have a long history together, I see the situation that’s happening, and I’m basically telling him, “Hey man. You gotta take some action. You gotta do something because I sense this going on and you have to do something about it.” So we go back and forth about that a lot, until he actually decides, “You know what. I got to do what I got to do.”
MM: You’re basically the driving force of the story. Is that something- what’s something that jumped out at you in regards to this film? What do you generally look for when choosing to do a project?
TW: Well most of the time right now it’s auditioning, so… Ideally you want to have something that just has elements that interest you. It’s different, because action films tend to be heavy on the spectacle and less on the story, and then you have character driven films, which are less on the spectacle and more on the story, and some actors just want to do one or the other. Me, what my experience has taught me, especially doing a film of this magnitude, is that I like to do both. I want to do character driven films, and I want to do films that have a fifty-fifty spectacle story aspect to it, because there’s a lot of interesting things in both and different approaches that I have to take to both. So, it’s a challenge in different areas and exciting in all areas.
MM: It’s definitely a rarity to find both in a film, so it’s awesome that you get to be a part of something that has both qualities, and you get to do what you love.
TW: Yeah, yeah! I feel extremely fortunate to have been cast in this. I didn’t know the magnitude of the film at first, because I just went in and there wasn’t really that much material given. There wasn’t really an in depth breakdown of what was going on, so in my mind it was a modestly budgeted film about whatever. I wasn’t really thinking about it until I was there and I saw all the studios and people involved, and the money that was involved, and I was like, “Oh.” All of a sudden, (laughs) it got me nervous for a second! Until I landed and got to meet everybody, and that’s what was so great about it, was that given the size of the film and the people involved, it was just the coolest laid back set! And the crew and the cast were just so amazing, humble, and cool- especially Dwayne. Just a pleasure to work with. It definitely set a standard, because this was my first major film. It definitely set a standard that I’m always going to anticipate.
MM: I would imagine you weren’t able to do all of your stunts due to safety issues, but do you have one stunt that you were able to do, that you just really enjoyed?
TW: It was really stunt heavy… a lot of it took place in the helicopter, so I definitely had to learn how to navigate such a tight space with four people, and doing all these things. We took some time… they had built this makeshift helicopter suspended at about ten feet in the air, and we basically went through our different roles and tried to learn how to dance within the small space. So, it was more dancing- not literally dancing, but just learning how to do our job, do it correctly, and to look official in such a tight space.
MM: Yeah, you don’t want to fumble all over each other! (laughs)
TW: Yeah! You don’t want first responders watching this and being like, “Yeah, that’s not how it goes.” You want to bring some authenticity to it. Luckily we had some experienced people that did an amazing job and made us look as official as we could.
MM: We can’t wait to see it all unfold! So, in addition to movies, you’ve done a lot of television. Do you prefer acting in one over the other? How does that process differ for you?
TW: No. The more that I’m able to do, the more I realize that I like to do it all. Television is very much about time. We’ll shoot like six scenes and get maybe two to three takes max, and you’ve got to keep it moving, because you know, time is money. Then you have film, which depends on how slow are the pieces going to be. If you have an independent film, which is not making that much money, it will be equal to television in terms of the pace. With San Andreas, we would sit and do a scene for like a week, just because there’s so much coverage that they’re trying to do, and I enjoyed that equally as well as I enjoyed only getting two to three takes, because with two to three takes, your process is different. Your approach is slightly different, and it exercises different muscles. So, I dig it- I dig it all.
MM: You just want it all. You just want to do it all! I appreciate that! (laughs)
TW: I wanna do it all, baby! That’s what life’s about.
MM: Exactly! So, being immersed in shows like Teen Wolf and The Vampire Diaries, would you rather be a vampire, a werewolf, or… let’s throw in a zombie? And tell us why you chose that.
TW: First off, I’m not going to be a zombie because they’re decomposing over time. I don’t really want to eat people. I don’t know. Okay, being in the world of Vampire Diaries, let’s just say vampire or werewolf. I don’t know, it’s limiting. I’d be a hybrid!
MM: Oh, you’d be a hybrid! I see what you did there.
TW: I’d be a werewolf AND I’d be a vampire. The best of both worlds. Yes.
MM: You’re still going to have to eat people though! But at least it’s not their brains, if you were a zombie.
TW: You know, I think that there’s different ways that I could go about doing it. Because the vampire needs blood, you know, I can procure that in very different imaginative ways that don’t necessarily mean eating anybody. Maybe I could get a nice girlfriend or something and she just let’s me bite on her neck. There’s nothing wrong with that, if she’s into it.
MM: I admire that. That is a good answer. I approve of this. So now obviously you’ve played a wide range of roles over the years. Do you have a type of character that you’ve played or maybe a character that you’d like to play in the future?
TW: That’s what so great about it, I don’t know what’s going to come. The reason why I love acting, is because you take these human stories, and it can be fiction or nonfiction, and it sheds light on the human condition and all it’s trials and tribulations, ups and downs, joys and pains. Whatever the backdrop is, it’s about exploring these various areas of the human condition. So, as long as I’m able to do that and go different places and explore different realms of the human condition, I’m cool. It can be with werewolves and vampires, or it can be with helicopters and search & rescue teams, or it could be whatever. I’m open to all of it. You’ve got to be open to all of it. I don’t think that I could be an actor and be close minded at the same time, because then it is limiting. And that’s for life in general. If you just like one thing all the time, or you just do one thing all the time, you’re missing out on everything. I mean, there are so many things that you can experience, so I think ultimately, if I get on something where the writing is good, the people are great to work with, hey! I got no complaints. And the pay is good! (laughs)
MM: Yes! That’s not bad either. Now, here’s a random question for you. If Netflix said, “Hey Todd. Here! Have your own show.” What would that show be about?
MM: Would you go in the reality TV realm or would you do some sort of creative project?
TW: Nah, it wouldn’t be reality. I don’t know. I don’t know specific subject matter, I just know that it would be interesting if it was complex and layered. The storyline would be complex and layered, because that would challenge me and make it interesting. But what is it about? I have no idea, I can’t think of anything right now.
MM: That’s okay! Had to trip you up on a Friday.
TW: Yeah, you know. You gotta make my brain work on a Friday.
MM: Lastly, is there anything else that the fans can look forward to in 2015, or any message for your loyal supporters?
TW: I want to tell those fine people, thank you for supporting me- especially you, mom! And, yeah. I’m all about living your dreams. That’s all I’m about, you know, understanding that we have such limited time here. And… just experience everything. We have five senses, there are so many things that we can be ingesting in different ways. I think that’s what living is about. It’s just about pursuing your interests. Whatever makes you happy. Whatever doesn’t hurt other people in pursuing your interests, I’m all about that.
MM: It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me, and we’re looking forward to your movie coming out shortly.
TW: Thank you, McKenzie.
Watch San Andreas in theaters Friday, 5.29.15!