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Beverly Todd AKA Mrs Joan Levias of ‘Lean on Me’ Has Never Gotten over Her Only Child’s Death – Inside Her Life after the Movie

Olawale Ogunjimi
Sep 26, 2021
01:30 P.M.
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"Lean on Me" star Beverly Todd who acted as Mrs. Joan Levias, experienced a tragedy that she is yet to recover from. After entertaining the joys of motherhood, the actress lost her only child—insights into the heartbreaking story and her life.


Beverly Todd is a woman of distinct character and talent who showed her expertise in Broadway, the London stage, film, and television. She distinguished herself in the film "Lean on Me," as Mrs. Joan Levias.

Since then, she has been recognized by fans, colleagues, and the entertainment industry with a number of recognitions via awards.

 Beverly Todd arrives at "A Dark Foe" Film Premiere on February 15, 2020 | Photo: Getty Images

Beverly Todd arrives at "A Dark Foe" Film Premiere on February 15, 2020 | Photo: Getty Images


Todd has starred alongside notable entertainers such as Morgan Freeman in the blockbuster film "Lean on Me," Whoopi Goldberg in "Clara's Heart," and Richard Pryor in "Moving."

The "Lean On Me" alum talked about her experience with many celebrities, explaining that she has been fortunate to work with other skilled stars. However, she singled out one person, Sidney Poitier. According to her:

"He was my mentor at the very beginning of my career, so I think because he was the one who got me started in this business and on a very high level being with him..."



Amid her busy career, Todd built a very close bond with her only child, Malik Smith, and when he was away, the pair always talked on the phone.

The actress explained their last conversation before his demise, hinting that her child was complaining about the cost of a planned vacation and that she assured him that he could always reach out for more funds.


Although this conversation could have gone any other way, with most parents fussing about their child's expenses, Todd was thankful she did not react negatively to her son's complaints.

The actress never envisaged that it would be the last time that she would ever hear her son's voice. Sadly, it was, and after Malik Smith's death, she had to cope with the emotional trials and constant questions from people who cared about her well-being.



Malik Smith was a young 18-year-old when he departed from the earth. He was a victim to a severe beating—punches to his head, and kicks without provocation.

The incident occurred at a dance club on the outskirts of Salt Lake City. Smith had enjoyed skiing earlier in the day, before the brutality that left him brain-dead.



Smith's killer was tried in court; he was also a young adult, a man named John Leota. The convict admitted that he did not mean to kill the deceased who had embarrassed him.

Leota's testimony explained that he struck Smith once in the face before kicking him. First, he was charged for second-degree murder and later convicted of misdemeanor homicide, which caused him to serve eight months in jail, even though he bagged a one-year jail term.


At the hearing, the defense lawyer, Phil Hansen, told the court that Todd was responsible for pulling out the plug of the machine that kept her son alive.

This stirred a wave of reaction from the actress, who vehemently denied the accusations levied by the attorney, as she burst into tears.

Smith's dad Keiser supported Todd's stand and revealed that the life support machine was unplugged after a few tests confirmed that their son had been left brain dead.


The case did not end there; some celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Warren protested against the misdemeanor conviction of someone who was tried for second-degree murder.

On the other hand, members of the Polynesian community supported Leota, claiming that some wealthy African-American Hollywood stars were in the quest to deprive the convict of justice.

The conviction was hurtful for Todd, who stated that Leota's sentence was a light one. But rather than feel defeated, she struggled to make a change and began to work towards toughening the homicide laws in Utah.



For the family of the deceased, his death was not the only tragedy; the trial that followed was another. His parents were instructed to leave his body rather than bring it home because there was a probability that it would be needed during the trial.

For seven months, Smith's body was stored in a cold room in Utah. Todd continued to feel pangs of pain, and rejection, sitting every day in the courtroom, assuming that nobody cared about the death of an African-American child.



This was a grief too heavy to bear; expectedly, the tragedy affected Todd's life pattern. She added a few extra pounds and found it difficult to go back to work.

Two years after her son's demise, Todd admitted that one never really gets over such a loss, even though she began to function and gradually slipped into her busy schedule.

She added that she battles with emotions that are either calm or frantic. Still, Todd mentioned that she feels better as the years go by.



Todd has surrounded herself with optimism as she continues to further her career and pad her resume. In 2017, she joined Instagram and posted a chic photo which she titled,

"New plans, new projects, and a new Instagram account. Welcome 2017."

Immediately she resumed online; Todd began to share some of her invaluable moments involving other celebrities like singer Brandy Norwood via her page. She also uploaded a throwback snap where she posed close to Samuel L. Jackson at the CineFashion film award in 2016.


In 2018, The "Lean on Me" star shared her spotlight on Instagram with actor and rapper Common. The duo dressed in African prints as they worked smiled.

Todd celebrated an African Getdown event hosted by Common at the private residence of Jonas Tahlin. These days, the 75-year-old looks happy, dashingly beautiful, and nearly unrecognizable as she takes her time to meet other celebrities.

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