(Note: Note: This isn't the most illuminating interview with Jonathan Frid that you're ever going to read. I've hotlinked some of the subjects in the story to make it a more interesting experience, though. Enjoy!)
The Dangerous Days of Jonathan Frid
Like most actors, Jonathan Frid lives a double life. (Or, in his case, it’s more accurate to say a life-and-a-half. His acting life as Barnabas Collins on DARK SHADOWS leaves little time for a living life as Jonathan Herbert Frid.)
Both lives have some dangers ahead, and he faces both with a clear eye.
“Poor old Barnabas Collins never passes a day of his life — and so far there have been about 65,000 days — without being aware of the danger hanging over him as heavy as a stake,” Jonathan says.
“When I first started on SHADOWS, Barnabas was a practicing vampire who really didn’t want to be a vampire. But as hard as he — I — tried to avoid it, there was always an awareness that at any moment I was going to be forced to stick my fangs into the neck of someone I really loved very much. That’s definitely not a nice way for a basically gentle man to live.”
“There was also the constant danger that someone was going to find out that I was a vampire, which would mean instant stake-in-the-heart — which is also not one of the nicer things to look forward to.
“For the past few months, the writers have given us a break. Dr. Hoffman (Grayson Hall) pulled off some kind of scientific shenanigans — you’ll have to ask her to explain them, I’m not the scientific type — which made Barnabas temporarily a normal man.
Adam, lives, Barnabas has no need for any blood of his own. Unfortunately, Adam has wandered off somewhere, and if anything happens to him — like getting run down by a bulldozer, or choking on a chicken bone — it’s back to the blood bank and the coffin-sized bedroom for me.
“Needless to say, that’s the kind of danger that makes a man very uneasy, and as an actor it’s something that I must keep in mind every minute that I’m playing Barnabas. And with my schedule that’s most of my waking hours.”
During what few hours Jonathan has to relax and think about himself as a young actor rather than an ancient vampire, he must also give some thought to the dangers that could lie ahead in her personal and professional life.
IS HE AFRAID?
“For one thing, people keep asking me if I’m not afraid that playing in DARK SHADOWS for so long is going to typecast me, so that people will think of me strictly as a vampire. I will admit that the danger has certainly occurred to me, but I don’t really about it too much,” he says honestly.
Actually, Jonthan Frid has good cause not to worry too much about that. Long before he first struggled out of his coffin on afternoon television he established a reputation in Canada, New York and most of the rest of the country as one of the finer Shakespearian actors. At festivals from San Diego to New Jersey he has created the brooding villains and sprightly comics of classic theater; on television he has been seen on such non-spooky shows as LOOK UP AND LIVE and AS THE WORLD TURNS. On Broadway he was featured in the comedy success ROAR LIKE A DOVE with Betsy Palmer.
And, most important of all, id the legion of loyal fans who have flocked to him in the two years since his first throat-nibble on DARK SHADOWS keep that loyalty — there will always be demand for the darkly handsome face and courtly manners of Jonathan Frid.
“There is another danger I have to live with that is both satisfying and maddening,” he admits. “That’s some of the fans.”
“Let me explain quickly that I’m not complaining about fans — it’s very important to an actor to know that his work is appreciated, and the mail that comes to me makes me very happy, even though I find it hard to believe.
“But you must remember that this ‘stardom’ stuff is very new to me; I’ve lived a fairly quiet life as a stage actor where the only real contact you have with an audience is when you take your bows at the final curtain.
“Hearing the applause from a theatre audience and suddenly being mobbed on the streets are two very different things,” he points out, “and the second still frightens me sometimes.”
Jonathan’s coworkers on ABC-TV, who have often helped pilot him through those mobs safely, have some comments to make about his relationship with his fans.
“He’s absolutely the best I’ve ever worked with,” says one. “In the almost two years since this whole overwhelming popularity started, I’ve never seen him be rude once to anyone. I remember once, when I started to work with him, I suggested that we leave the studio by the back door, so we wouldn’t be delayed by the crowd waiting in front. At first he agreed, since we were in a rush to get to a photo shooting, but then he reconsidered and said ‘No, I can’t do it. Some of those kids have been waiting all day. Let’s go out the regular way — how long can it take?’ Now that’s class.”
Jonathan is also well-know at the network for his constant willingness to give up his own time — which is in short supply at best — to travel to other cities to talk about DARK SHADOWS. (A visit to the local children’s hospital is usually a must on these trips, and he recently, without fanfare, made a quiet visit to a Veteran’s Hospital just outside New York.)
There is a danger involved with large crowd of fans — the famous Barnabas ring has been torn off his finger a dozen times — but it is, again, obviously a danger that Jonathan refuses to worry too much about.
For all the “dark shadows” that could lie in the future, Jonathan still manages to enjoy the present. When the story recently made it possible for him to take a week off, he was immediately on a plane for Acapulco, where he could relax and be anything by a working vampire. Sometimes, when his schedule is a little lighter than usual, he slips out for a quiet dinner — usually alone.
And sometimes he allows himself to indulge in one of his favorite pastimes — he goes to a party.
“I have to confess it — I love parties. I almost never have a chance to go to any more — and maybe that’s another danger. I’ve had to turn down so many invitations in the past year that pretty soon people are going to think I’m high-hatting them and stop inviting me to any parties at all. There’s a real danger to worry about!”
And so the dangers mount up, both for Barnabas and for Jonathan. But, as Jonathan says, “Wouldn’t it be awful boring if there was never any danger in your life?”