Camden returned to Buffy to play “Gnarl” in season seven’s episode “Same Place, Same Time”. Gnarl was a skin-eating demon and Camden did his own stunts and wire work. Later in that same season, Camden played the Ubervamp or Turok-Han, which was a recurring role. He also played “The Prince of Lies”, a geriatric vampire in the submarine episode of season five of Angel.
Camden Toy is not only an actor but also a writer and a film editor. Besides his roles on BtVS and Angel, he has appeared in over 100 independent films plus several that are still in production. Camden has also written and produced five full length solo theater pieces that he has performed across the country.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Camden. I found him to be very interesting, open and quite talkative. Judge for your self.
Whedonopolis- How and when did you decide to become an actor?
Camden Toy– I grew up in a theatrical family where we talked often about theater and movies. My dad would practice different accents and I picked it up from him. He was a makeup artist and studied acting at the Pittsburgh Playhouse in the same classes as Shirley Jones before she was discovered. When I was six years old, I found my dad’s make up case and started messing around with it. My dad fortunately was not upset and showed me how to apply it and how to use the nose putty, spirit gum and fake hair. My house was a really popular place on Halloween because my Dad would answer the door in full transformational make up.
When I was in the third grade we moved to a small town where there was a great little summer theater. It was run by three New York producers. It was there that I learned all about theater. I learned how to rehearse, how to do make up and about sets. I did everything, including sweeping up. I had a weird unusual childhood, saw a lot of productions, a different one every week. It was pretty wild!
W- Do you remember your first role?
CT– When I was in the third grade I was in an acting class where by the end of all the lessons there was only two students left, myself and a little girl. So, with only two people left in the class, we did “Alice in Wonderland” and I played the Cheshire Cat and the Caterpillar and she played Alice. My mom made a really cool caterpillar costume. I was so nervous that I felt sick and I told my dad I can’t do this. He told me it was only butterflies and I got through it fine.
W- How do you decide which role to go for/accept?
CT– I try to take every role that comes around. I have passed up some roles for silly reasons and then I end up regretting it. An actor’s real job is looking for roles and it is rare when you get offered one. There is a lot of rejection so when you are offered a role; you take it except if it goes against your moral fiber. We are actors because we love to do it.
W- How did you become involved with Privateer?
CT– My agent, Robert Depp, sent me to audition. The director, James L. Bills, turned out to be a big Buffy fan and got totally star struck. It was so funny; he even went so far as to say “I gotta call my wife”. I later brought him an autographed picture of me as “Gnarl”.
W- What is the premise of Privateer?
CT– It is set in 1812 and is the life of Jean Lafitte and his efforts to help the U.S. in the battle of New Orleans. The role of Jean Laffitte is played by newcomer, Nathan Grubbs. I play Dominique Youx, Jean Lafitte’s mentor and confidant.
W- Tell us about your character Dominique Youx.
CT– Dominique Youx had been a cannoneer in Napoleon’s army. When I was auditioning for the role I offered to try it in a French accent. When I did the role took on a life of its own. Jean Laffite thought of himself as American and most likely had a New Orleans accent while Dominique was actually born in France.
W- Can you tell us a little about your experience shooting?
CT– It was filmed in North Carolina, even though it was based in New Orleans. We filmed in different locations, one was a southern plantation and also on real pirate ships. The problem with shooting on ships is that your schedule is at the mercy of the sea. But it was great fun and I had to learn to sword fight. They had swords custom built for the fights on the ships. I already had training in martial arts, but not in sword play, so I trained with Jeff Lewis, the fight master and choreographer. I trained a couple of weeks in Los Angeles and then continued to train in North Carolina.
W- The official website/blog states that it is in the editing stage with a release planned for this summer?
CT– What we actually filmed was the trailer only, which is in the editing stage. They are still in the process of raising the money for the actual movie. They had to raise a lot just to do this trailer. This will be a multi-million dollar project and since they plan to use semi-known and unknown actors, it is a little more difficult to get funding.
W- So what’s next for you? Besides Privateer, do you have anything else coming up?
CT– James L. Bills of Privateer has some other projects coming up that he told me about. He is pretty definite about a horror trilogy that he has contracted with. I also did a feature film this past summer called Trickery Mimickery. It will probably be hi
tting the film festivals first. It is a three person film, one role was written for me and one was written for my friend, Ezra Buzzington. Ezra played a bartender in a demon bar in one of the episodes of BtVS. The film was shot in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. It is in black and white, very gothic, very unusual and not a lot of dialogue. It is a super low budget film and will be out in early fall.
I also have a vampire film coming up; there is no set date for shooting, maybe early April. It is called Loved Ones and the writer, director is Shawn Cain. Other people were considered for the role, but weren’t available, so my name came up and was passed onto the director, it was a serendipitous thing that happened. When they sent me the script it was of an ancient vampire from Greek times. It is a feature film not a trailer. It is to be shot in Seattle and I haven’t been there since the early 90’s.
W- More and more independent productions are showing up on the internet both as a place to see if there is interest in a project before shopping it to the studios and as alternative marketplace or even TV. Have you considered this for any of your productions?
CT– No, I haven’t but James C. Leary, who played, “Clem” on BtVS, sent me an email about a project he is doing on YouTube. He has a webseries that he has launched called “Lost Angeles” that is made up of seven 3 minute long videos.
W- Since all roads (and interviews) lead back to Buffy: Do you have any memories of you guest spots on Buffy and Angel?
CT– I was glad they kept inviting me back to do scarier and scarier roles. Gnarl was the most fun and multi-layered, the “Hannibal Lector” of the demon world. Other than, that I remember sitting in the makeup chair beside Doug Jones everyday and how we developed the roles of The Gentlemen for “Hush”, it was very organic. Then I wasn’t on for several seasons before they asked me to come in and audition for the role of Gnarl in season seven. I was editing Zen Noir at the time and someone remembered me and called. They actually were thinking of Gnarl as a much smaller character, maybe the size of a small woman. They were running out of time and remembered me thinking “He’s creepy” and called me to read, since Gnarl was an actual speaking role. I thought “Oh, my God” he is really verbal when I picked up the script and I played with it.
I also remember talking to Sarah (Michelle Gellar) and getting to know her then she realized “I don’t really know what you look like”. I was in the makeup chair hours before and for hours after everyone else. We eventually met one time without my makeup. On the set of Angel, I said “Hi” to James Marsters and he did not recognize me because I was in makeup. After James realized who I was he said he was glad to see me.
I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with these amazing people. The scripts that these amazing people came up with and the characters they created. It was an amazing chunk of TV history and good things always come to an end.
W- We get to the final part of the interview, which is Pivot’s Questionnaire from “Inside the Actor’s Studio”. What’s your favorite word?
W- What’s your least favorite word?
W- What turns you on?
CT– My girlfriend
W- What turns you off?
CT– Emotional disconnect
W- What sound or noise do you love?
CT– Sound of the waves, the ocean
W- What sound or noise do you hate?
CT– Leaf blowers
W- What’s your favorite curse word?
W- What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
W- What profession other than yours would you never like to attempt?
CT– Garbage collector
W- And finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
CT– Welcome Home