Thursday, August 17, 2017

Louis Edmonds: The Country Gentleman of Collinsport, 1969

The Country Gentleman of Collinsport 

From "Afternoon TV" #9, 1969

by Jay Edwards

"Right now—especially when we go into the past—I always hope I can be a tyrant, or very selfish, or anything unattractive. Bad people are much more fun to play."

That terribly proper, terribly English, terribly dignified aristocrat who has been a star of Dark Shadows right from the beginning —that Louis Edmonds — had a teen age ambition that may come as a surprise to you.

"When I was a teenager I always wanted to play the villain in a cowboy picture," he said recently.

There's another interesting thing you discover in talking to him—he would probably still love to play the villain in a cowboy picture. You realize this when he starts talking in the present tense, saying "Actually, I could save them a lot of money, since they wouldn't have to hire a stuntman. I could do my own riding; I can even jump — moderately but not extravagantly."

Louis Edmonds, today, is a star. But the teen-age dream is still there.

There is also no reason to doubt that he could do it since he not only plays a country gentleman as Roger Collins— Louis Edmonds is a country gentleman. As a child (he was born in Baton Rouge on Sept. 24) he grew up on a sugar plantation near a levee on the Mississippi River, visiting his grandfather's farm in upstate New York during the summers.

"I was always around open spaces without really being conscious of it," he said. "I was very active in outdoor sports — not competitive things like football; I mean sports like riding and swimming. I did all the things little boys do when they grow up in the country."

That part of Louis Edmonds really hasn't changed as much as you might assume, considering that he is now a successful New York actor with two movies, several Broadway plays and almost three years of Dark Shadows to his credit. He doesn't live in an over-priced, noisy, hectic, uncomfortable Manhattan apartment. Louis Edmonds is still a country gentleman.

"About four years ago I realized that New York was changing," he said, "and I didn't like the city anymore. I still have an apartment here, where I stay when I'm in town, but I live now in a little New England-style farmhouse on Long Island, where I have maximum privacy."

Louis (pronounced Louie by his friends) was obviously reacting to his Southern boyhood when he withdrew from the hustle of the city, but the house itself is not necessarily done in a Southern style.

"When I was up in Cape Cod (Mass.) I saw lots of little farmhouses like mine painted in a pure blue with no green in it — there it's called Puritan Blue; in Virginia it's called Williamsburg Blue; some places it's called Dutch Blue — with white trim and bottle-green shutters. I liked it so much I decided to have my house done that way."

Somewhere between leaving the countryside of Louisiana and settling in the countryside of New York Louis Edmonds lost — obviously—the Southern accent that comes with a Louisiana childhood. Even when he is not playing Roger Collins he still has the sound and rhythm that has made English actors think he is English, too.

"It's not unusual for Southern people to do an English accent easily," he said, "but it has been a problem. As an actor I get typed as anything but an American — and that's not good.

"I can get back into a Southern sound if I need to, and I played a German in a movie once. I think I was blessed with a good ear for the way people talk; the only sound that's very difficult for me is the Midwestern or the Madison Avenue sort of businessman."

Acting—which certainly contributed to his present very correct English diction—has been the most important thing in Louis Edmonds' life. "I wasn't a very good student in high school," he said, " but I made the Honors List when I started studying acting at Carnegie Tech because expressing myself made me interested in learning. I didn't become aware of me until I started acting."

After he discovered himself as an actor in college he was off to the navy (he started as a pilot then became a Communications Officer in Panama), after which he wound up in New York (where he was once a doorman at Radio City Music Hall), then did a series of plays that finally led to Dark Shadows.

"l started out as a villain on the show, which was great fun, but they made me nicer as time went along. Right now — especially when we go into the past — I always hope I can be a tyrant, or very selfish, or anything unattractive. Bad people are much more fun to play."

Again the word villain, so unlikely coming from this gentle, flawlessly dressed country gentleman (he was wearing a terribly British brown jacket with short lapels which the wardrobe mistress had originally brought in for Roger Collins, gray pin-striped slacks, a brown pullover shirt, suede walking boots and one of those short-brimmed British caps made famous here by singers such as Donovan and Bob Dylan).

The fact is that Louis Edmonds requires challenge — like playing roles from Shakespeare to the musical version of Candide—and he most enjoys playing eerie, evil roles; roles unlike himself.

But his life does — unlikely as it may seem—include one thing very much in keeping with the foggy, mysterious world of Dark Shadows.

Louis Edmonds, in the comfort of his quiet, dignified farmhouse, really does live right across the street from a graveyard. 

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