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a question by Apr 19, 2012
With the passing of Jonathan Frid, I was wondering what do you remember most about him (he did one man shows of Shakesphere and was very influential in making Dark Shadows the phenomenon it was)?
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answered:    June 04, 2012
I was amazed at how he was able to turn what was supposed to be a short-term monster role into the heroic lead. Yet, by his own admission, he thought his own performance was terrible. Coming from a theater background into daytime TV wasn't easy for him, especially having to memorize new lines every day. I still get a chuckle from the scene where he's aiming a rifle at Adam (the show's resident Frankenstein monster), and ordering him not to harm...well, he was supposed to say "Julia," but he had to recite the name of every other female character in the show before he finally remembered! There was a time early on in the series where Barnabas was simply killing off everyone that he merely suspected of "getting too close" to discovering his secret. He even wanted to kill little David, but decided that scaring him witless was a better idea. Man, that did not work for me on two levels. First, I was around David's age, myself, so the idea that Barnabas wouldn't even spare a little kid (and a Collins, no less) was really distasteful to me. And, secondly, there is an unwritten law in horror show production which states that you never threaten the life of any youngster character in your script -- or, worse yet, kill off the kid. That's crossing the line, as far as the audience is concerned. Sure, there have been exceptions ("Jaws"), but they are few, because little kids really don't need to have death made so personal to them. It can be traumatizing, because they identify with someone their own age on the screen. And most of us feel that a child's death is more tragic because it is a life that hasn't really had a chance to live, so it kicks us right in our protective instincts. I wouldn't doubt that Barnabas became less cool to many of us at that time. :-( But when he was over his Josette fixation (or at least able to put her aside for the present), he could be a quite the champion for other causes. He really empathized with Chris Jennings' problems, and with Quentin's. And he became quite good at time-travel missions and missions into parallel time. With or without his vampire powers, he was a force to be reckoned with.
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June 04, 2012
I missed the "evil" Barnabas period and only got to see those episodes many years later when the series started to repeat on public television. I got hooked on the series by flipping the channels and hearing Quentin's Theme and seeing Quentin's ghost. From that episode on I hardly missed any of the shows.
June 04, 2012
I recall the appearance that Frid made on NJ public TV, during a fund-raiser to keep Dark Shadows on the air. Rather than the dignified persona he played on DS (or he displayed on talk shows of the time, like the Mike Douglas show) he was running around, behaving like some overgrown little kid! The on-air personalities around him were quite plainly astonished, too, by the looks on their faces. They reacted as if they weren't quite sure how to react. Frid also seemed not to be very willing to discuss much about the show. Perhaps he saw that he was not among fans, or even any people who were the slightest bit knowledgeable about it or wanted to be (but they still had to feign enthusiasm for it in order to entice the fans at home to open up their checkbooks). So he just decided to have some fun with them. And he let the viewers know that he was "available for work," which suggested that he was between acting jobs, and didn't have a whole lot of faith in his agent to remedy that situation. Or maybe his agent told him to advertise himself, while he had the chance, I don't know. But whatever the cause, I felt embarrassed for him. What made matters worse, was that not long after NJN had gotten all that money from the fans, they still dropped the show from their schedule.
June 04, 2012
Frid was very gracious in talking to me and signing an autograph at his Shakesphere show. At the DSFest I waited a long time for him to sign a photo and he refused to use the pen I had that was special for the photographs and got quite snippy with me and then signed with a very cheap pen that easily smudged. This would support your point that he had to force himself to continue to be associated with DS but really enjoyed it to be acknowledged for other roles.
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