Thursday, July 11, 2019

Denise Nickerson 1957-2019


Denise Nickerson (1957-2019) was a consummate professional, and a mature, lively actress. But those only hint at her primary contribution to Dark Shadows. Her primary contribution truly was that, over and over, even after acting was no longer a part of her career, she was us.

Born in 1957, Nickerson was nearly twelve when she joined the cast of the Dark Shadows, putting her squarely in the demographic of the show’s most passionate viewers and future ambassadors. Her first character, Amy Jennings, was a stranger to Collinwood — a miniature Victoria Winters — just like the viewers. Brave, clever, resourceful, and articulate, the character was nobody’s Mary Sue. It was an easy leap for young fans of that era to see themselves as Amy, and the strength of the character was a compliment to fans, writers, and specifically, Nickerson, herself. On Dark Shadows and in her other most famous project, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Nickerson handled the fantastic with a sense of theatrical size and relatable humanity that sold both projects. Yes, her characters could have the narcissism expected of characters that age, but Nickerson gave them each a vivid sympathy that made them instantly likable and relatable. Her second DS character, Nora, provides Quentin with the impetus to clean up his act, making her Sarah to his Barnabas. Just as Quentin was an earthier character than his cousin, Nora was a similar evolution, and Nickerson took us there with truth and heart.

After a string of questionably rewarding roles and the knowledge that her parents squandered her earnings as a performer, Nickerson retired from show business to take a series of clerical and support jobs, marry twice, and become a mom. In that sense, she continued to mirror and represent the lives of so many of the hardworking, suburban fans who had identified with her as children. Nickerson had a number of medical challenges in her adult life, making her familiar with pain and survival. After suffering a stroke in 2018, she died one year later after falling into a coma.

Dark Shadows had no shortage of talent, much of which is contained primarily within the walls of Collinwood. Nickerson’s achievements go outside and into diverse branches of popular entertainment. We admire her not just for what she represented on the show, but for how she represented the show beyond.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...