Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jonathan Frid discusses "vampiring for profit and fun," 1968 newspaper interview

"Barnabas" Is a Bloody Matinee Idol Now
The Titusville Herald, July 1, 1968


THE ACTING wasp stings you when you're at university in your native Canada; then you study at the Royal Academy in London, you do repertory all through England, you are graduated as a directing major from Yale drama school, you do Shakespeare with Katharine Hepburn—and what do you have, finally?

What you have is the juicy part on a. daytime TV soap, opera of—a vampire.

The turn of events is a little confusing to Jonathan Frid, a good-looking mid-40s Canadian who is "Barnabas Collins," the 175-year-old bloodsucker who passes himself off as a Visiting cousin from England to one of the principals on'"Dark Shadows," the ABC-TV serial telecast five times a week to more than six million rapt women and schoolkids munching their mid-afternoon milk and cookies.

However, "I've played, villains before," says Frid, a legitimate professional—and while he isn't sure whether to make a big thing out of vampirism and become the latter-day Bela Lugosi, the fact is, he plays Barnabas for all he's worth. "I always try to play against the villainy of the character," he dissects. "By adding a trace.of humanity, you give the character more dimension and thus make it more believable."
Or, in brief, Barnabas isn't all bad. Only 99 percent.

HIS CHILLING performances, complete with fangs, have resulted in one of those American phenomena — immense popularity with the masses of a good, solid, no-good rat of a character. In one year, Jonathan Frid fan clubs have mushroomed everywhere, he gets more than 700 letters a. week and he just signed to bare his teeth for two more years on the series, which stars the still-lovely Joan Bennett.

Jonathan accepts the good luck with surprise and pleasure. "I came on the show for three 'weeks originally," he says. "That was all the part was supposed to run." But when America's housewives fell in love with the genial ghoul, he was written, in more or less permanently. As one Carmichael, Calif., woman- wrote him: There is no escape from, the burning' light you create! In simple words, you could bite ME anytime, for I would not be able to resist your fatal charms!"

A SIX-FOOT bachelor with hazel eyes and brown hair, Frid has a sound acting background. He studied radio announcing at a Toronto school then, operated, by Lorne Greene, he did all this Shakespearean festival stuff and four years ago he was on Broadway in the British import, "Roar Like a Dove," with Charlie Ruggles and Betsy Palmer. Nor is he new at soap opera; in 1962 be was a psychiatrist in "As the World Turns."

Vampiring for profit and fun, he explains, is no snap, "it have us social life at all," Jonathan says. "I  go home at night and work two or three hours on the script, and get up at 6:30 or 7 and work for an hour over breakfast before going to the studio. There, I work on the script all day long, when I'm not rehearsing."

This sombre Zacherly of the housewives' set got some good practice in villainy by playing Richard III—and we all know what a dirty rat. He allegedly was—at the San Diego, Calif. National Theater. He tempered Richard's rantings, too. "I began to see that he did have a right to the throne and this lent the character some humanity," says Jonathan, who soft-pedaled the way Dickie knocked off every one in his path.

Meanwhile, the mail pours in. "He gets me too excited, I could smoke a pack of cigarettes just watching him," one woman penned. "I just sit there drooling over you," a 15-year-old New Tork girl wrote.

"It makes you, wonder about people," Jonathan Frid says with a smile, baring his fangs slightly.

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