Opening this weekend at your local Cineplex is a movie set to break box office records: Marvel’s Black Panther. On pace to make over $200 million in its opening weekend alone, the film looks to be another global sure-fire success for Marvel.

While a juggernaut of a film like this can maybe feel otherworldly, you won’t have to travel to Wakanda (or Hollywood) to find someone that worked on the film; Santa Monica born and raised actor/stuntman Tony Todd appears in this year’s biggest film, doing stunts and playing a member of The Border Tribe, an experience that came out of nowhere for the industry veteran.

“I give all praise to Lisa Satriano,” Todd begins, recalling how he landed the role. “That phone call came out of the blue.”

Todd said he learned of the part while spending time with a well-known friend and fellow Samohi alum.

“It was Sunday, December 4, 2016, around 12:53 p.m. I’m with my buddy Charlie (Sheen) and I get a text from another Santa Monican, Lisa Satriano. She’s big-time, works AD on big movies. Lisa texts me, ‘Is this still you?’ I send her a picture of Ronald McDonald and me so she sends me, ‘I wanna get you on this movie as a stunt actor. Marvel’s Black Panther.’ I just wrote back, ‘Hell yeah.’”

The next day, the ever-jubilant Todd was in Atlanta training and filming.

The boot camp was intense for the former SaMoHi football standout but ultimately rewarding.

“Oh boy, you name it. We worked out from 7 a.m.-5p.m. Push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, sword fighting, and flips. everything. They wanted us looking like warriors,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Tony Todd

Photo courtesy of Tony Todd

Todd said the final product, even the production itself, is “epic,” and “a game-changer” for both him and the industry.

In Todd’s words, sometimes on film sets, he’s “the only brother there.” This set, however, was different. Predominantly African-American (but still diverse throughout), this crew was like “a giant, small family,” to Todd, everyone from catering to the lead actors intermingling, working hard, and having a great time making the film. The former football player found a team he was proud to be a part of.

“I don’t have to be the star on this thing,” Todd says, in reference to his work on the film. Although a featured stuntman, he has no lines. “But, hey, if the team is doing well, we’re gonna win. It was an honor to work with black excellence and to let the world know, hey, we can do this just like anyone else.”

As for his local roots, Todd still lives in Santa Monica, humbly acknowledging his former football coach Tebb Kusserow and Lisa Satriano as main driving forces in not only his career but also who he is as a person.

Everything happens for a reason,” Todd said, about meeting these other two Santa Monicans. “I look back and I’m glad I met these people. Life is all about opportunity.”

Marvel’s Black Panther opened on February 16 and is rated PG-13.

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