Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Dark Shadows Daybook: Jan. 19

Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1198


As Barnabas embarks on a determined mission of cross-dimensional bloodlust, is he the victim of a larger trap? Barnabas Collins: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Shot by Lamar Trask,  Angelique dies in the arms of Barnabas, not hearing him proclaim his love. Savage in his response, Barnabas chases and stabs Trask, who finds himself trapped and dying in parallel time. Emotionally decimated, Barnabas returns to the present with Julia and Stokes to find that they have successfully altered the timeline for the better. Meanwhile, Letitia Faye and Desmond catch a brief glimpse of parallel time where Julia Collins discovers Trask’s body.

1198 is a dangerous episode. As the resolution of the primary series, it trolls fans as much as it fulfills their desires. There is no eleventh hour return of Kathryn Leigh Scott. There is no tearful reunion with Josette. Instead, Barnabas discovers happiness in the arms of a one-time enemy. As the program does what it can with what it has, it shocks more than satisfies. Seen now, it also divides viewers like few other decisions made over its run. 

Do we see Barnabas discovering his authentic love for Angelique or merely convincing himself that the only game in town is what he always wanted? Is the series putting viewers in the same position? Are fans of the Barnabas/Angelique romance responding to something illuminating in the text or are they just making the best with what they have, convincing themselves it’s what they wanted all along? Are you on Team Angelique or Team Josette? It might depend on when you saw it. 

For millions of viewers over several decades, the climactic twist of Barnabas’ true, romantic direction is something they saw only once… or never saw at all. Without VHS, DVD or frequently cycled reruns, his “real” love is more of a rumor or fever dream than a fondly remembered highlight of the series. Until the mid-00’s, there was no way to review the moment, nor scour any of the series for clues. Good thing, because there were no clues. The writers were making it up as they went along, and if they had known that Barnabas’ true love was Angelique, they would have telegraphed it years before. Of course, the show might have benefited from this. But the fact that they can’t even hint at his unrealized love makes it more of a surprise. 

And it makes the whole argument irrelevant. In 2021, Dark Shadows exists as a complete entity. The details of its authorship are just those: details. This is the reality of Barnabas Collins because it’s now part of a finished work. 

The answer to the Josette vs Angelique question may not be so clear-cut as just choosing one over the other. I used to think of Angelique as the hero because of her 11th hour transformation and the tremendous sacrifices she makes along the way. But upon this viewing, I was struck by a possibility I had never considered before. As a director, something I always tell actors is that any character, at any point, may not be telling the truth. Even if the author makes it appear as if they are, they might not be. So, in terms of her grand transformation, what if Angelique is making it all up?  Or some of it up. After all, she has always been perfectly happy to use her powers to influence Barnabas’ decisions. How he came about loving her was always less relevant than the fact that he simply did. No love spells (on him). She simply mastered the fine art of influence. First off… threats to family. That’s in 1795. Then, threats to him. That’s in 1968. In 1897, maybe jealousy over Quentin? 

But at the end, none of those things worked, did they? Not like making yourself the hero against your past villainy, wiping out a larger threat, and then creating loyalty by curing your own curse. Has Barnabas been manipulated by a vast disinformation campaign? I say this because his decision is ultimately swayed by, yes, the involvement of witchcraft, years after her initial efforts. If it’s ineffective to use your occult powers, simply impress everyone by removing them. One way or the other, you’re still exploiting the occult. One way or the other, you would never be in the position you are if it were not for witchcraft. Clever. And strangely Zen. 

Take the implications to episodes that never happened. We have no evidence that she’s really given up her powers. It’s not like there’s a meter we can check. If she can suddenly cure a near-incurable curse, she can make her abilities appear and vanish at will. Faking her own death is the longest-but-strongest game possible. Had the 1971 Primary Time storyline happened, it might very well have seen Barnabas exploring the timeline in pursuit of Angelique. At last, she would be desired and sought on a level to rival Josette. 

At last he would have her right where she wants him. 

It’s just an interpretation. Just a what-if, True Believers. Yes, a bleakly cynical one of multilevel manipulation, but you have met Angelique, right? 

This episode was broadcast Jan. 27, 1971.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Dark Shadows: The Revival Begins


When a boozing handyman decodes the secret location of a wealthy family’s long-lost treasures, he uncovers the deadliest legacy of all. Can the new tutor for the family’s troubled heir unravel the mystery before becoming a bride of the living dead? Loomis: Jim Fyfe. (Repeat. 1 hr.) 

All-around scamp Willie Loomis unleashes Barnabas Collins, a vampire trapped in his own coffin for two centuries. Masquerading as his own descendant, Collins reclaims his dilapidated ancestral home and is compelled to woo his family’s newest employee, a soulful governess who resembles the bride he lost centuries before, 

When Ben Cross died, I remember writing that the 1991 Dark Shadows "revival" was the first expression of the franchise that felt like mine. It was the first Dark Shadows production of any kind  to roll out in my lifetime. More or less. I was born just a few days after the program went off the air, and, let's put the cards on the table, I'm not really sure Night of Dark Shadows counts except as a metaphor for the Fine Art of Settling for What We Got that was the albatross of being a fan back then. Few gigantic pop culture phenomena required as much of its fans as Dark Shadows at that time. This was a program you were lucky to even catch on TV. In 1990, many of the fans had never seen the entire series and had no real hope of doing so. I worked for public television at the time, and the rumor around the station was that Worldvision was asking so much for the final package that absolutely no station would carry it. True? False? I don't know. But I don't see Gerard Stiles around here, do you? 

Following the success of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the idea of a prime time, big-budget, hour-long television series on the most powerful network on television was like a reward for loyalty. And it immediately created a strange sense of conflict with the original series. To this day, I feel inexplicably disloyal saying nice things about a TV series that could have hired almost all of the original stars, the oldest of which, among a certain age bracket, wasn't even 50.  Still, putting that aside, this was an incredible proof-of-concept. This was an affirmation that Dark Shadows was not just a TV series.  A recognition like this is like finding yourself on the pop culture equivalent of the periodic table. Attention was at last being paid. And honestly? The fact that the original actors were not featured was, strangely, a compliment to them. It was an acknowledgement that they created something so indelible that it became larger than their individual personalities. If anything, it was a tribute to their immortality…  just a few inconvenient decades early.  

In my lifetime, there was no better time to be a Dark Shadows fan. Twin Peaks had cleared a path for a nighttime supernatural mystery soap opera.  Anne Rice was going great guns and had yet to go through that weird, post-9/11 Jesus phase. The Lost Boys wasn't that long ago, and if the Bernard Hughes character isn't the prototype for what they did with Dave Woodard, then… well... I don't need to bother coming up with something to finish the sentence. He clearly was the model. 

And you've got to love that. However, therein lies the ultimate reason for the show's failure. Bernard Hughes. Mastermind of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait? You tell me. The future staff of Dark Shadows goes to see The Lost Boys and the hot property they come back with is a character kind of like Bernard Hughes. Yeah, that's the takeaway, apparently. Keep in mind, I exist in a world where Bernard Hughes defines male sex appeal. But there are times when I wonder if I am actually the entertainment industry's key demographic. Not that a 1991 Dark Shadows has to be the Lost Boys, but it was state-of-the-art. And the 1991 Dark Shadows… was not.

I don't lay the failure of the show on the Gulf War. I had a reason to watch the show because I was a Dark Shadows fan. So, I did what a person did at the time; I read the newspaper and I read TV Guide and I followed the show around like Waldo wherever it might pop up on the schedule in between Iraq’s regularly scheduled missile attacks on Israel.  I never missed an episode. So, if motivated, it was scientifically possible for a viewer to keep up with the crazy schedule of the show. But the rest of the nation was not properly motivated. Logic dictates that the program, despite its quality, did not significantly motivate viewers en masse. And that's what happened.

Dan Curtis was 39 when the original Dark Shadows went on the air. To put this into perspective, not only was he a relatively young man, but his greatest inspiration, Tod Browning's Dracula, was only 35 years old when the original TV show premiered. Yeah, it was only five years older than the Dark Shadows remake is now. It was all pretty fresh, cosmically speaking. In fact, the original novel was less than 70 years old at that point. But by 1990, Dan Curtis was 63. Horror had reinvented itself at least twice since he was a prime mover in the field. And while no one would call him tired, he produced a Dark Shadows remake that had the kind of dated swagger that comes from someone who helps invent a genre. Because of that, maybe he doesn't see a lot of need to check in with what has become of that before jumping in again. I kind of get the feeling that everyone around the office considered Dark Shadows 1991 relevant because Dan Curtis said it was relevant .  Unfortunately, the Zeitgeist didn't get the memo.

In the long run, I think this serves the 1991 Dark Shadows series better now than it did at the time. It has a stately confidence that grows as the series moves on. But I don't know many people who hang out at the water cooler gushing about how excited they are to see more stately confidence that night on TV. Perhaps, in 1990, God help me, it needed a blond Barnabas with spiky hair and a leather jacket. That was the fashion back then, and at least it would be a tribute to paying attention. And that's great. They didn’t do that. After all, conservative clothes never go out of style. It has an admirable stodginess that a 63 year old guy who had  just spent a decade waging World War II would look at and say, "Yeah, that's about right." 

Yes, let's admit it, we answered the question, "What if somebody gave a Dark Shadows and nobody came?”  Because it was not Twin Peaks. It was a response to the Zeitgeist of 1967 that got made 23 years too late. Me? My idea of a great band back then was and still is the Ink Spots. So, I like the fact that the show is not some winkingly postmodern flavor of the month, diagnosing the audience's sperm motility the old-fashioned way with a high style that can't make up its mind if it's parody or sincere. Like Twin Peaks. Instead, that show just bullies you by condescendingly Lynchsplaining that whatever tonal interpretation you have of it is wrong. But my real beef with that show is that it was successful and reportedly good and a lot of people liked it and instead of priming the audience for Dark Shadows, it created a situation where Dark Shadows was criticized by many for not being it. 

And because the man works his ass off to run this particular Bartertown, I have to acknowledge the head of the Historical Society here. It would be ooky not to.  You get the daybook, I believe, because Wallace has big executive stuff to do. The guy is a fantastic writer. Go back and read Monster Serial if you want proof. Look at the first line of his Alien review. It is rhetorically sublime. The man knows what he's talking about. One day, if I'm lucky, I will be able to hook a reader with a simple first sentence like the one he uses there. Wallace loves Twin Peaks, and he's smarter than I am to an extent that makes me a gym coach who's gotten stuck trying to muddle through an organic chemistry textbook because the actual teacher has jury duty. He loves Twin Peaks, so go watch it. I'm just cranky because what kind of a world is it where a guy dressed up like Barnabas Collins (Dale Cooper in his natty black suits) gets all of the cultural cachet while the new Barnabas Collins struts around in vaguely dated turtlenecks that make him look like Ron Burgundy's mortician?  Barnabas Collins was not a man with much need for business casual circa 1979.  I swear to God,  I think Willie just raided Roger’s latest donation to AMVETS and convinced Barnabas that it would impress Victoria. I'm sure he talked Barnabas  into slathering himself with Paco Rabanne, wearing a gold chain under the offensive turtleneck,  and probably sansabelt slacks just to complete the ensemble.  Ben Cross brings a uniquely regal sensibility to Barnabas, and it works best in the context of the 1791 flashback. That's really where the character comes into his own, and since everyone knows what the mystery of Barnabas Collins actually is, I wish they had simply started the series there. It would have given a fresh sense of sympathy and relevance to his quest for Josette, allowing them to enter the modern era with Barnabas as an understandably reluctant vampire. That was a magical choice that the original series had to discover through trial and error. There's no need to repeat the learning process. Let the story itself do the heavy lifting. Unfortunately, Cross is forced to play an almost cartoonishly suave and confident vampire who is largely interesting because he's named Barnabas Collins. I wish they had allowed him to explore the nervous, fearful, and  paranoid, dethroned aristocrat that I always think of when considering the essence of Barnabas Collins in those early episodes.  Cross was reportedly a man with a tremendous and ebullient sense of mischief, and I think he would have risen to that challenge with a lot of gratitude.

Having had fun at the expense of a show I actually like, let me list what really works in this pilot. The cast is incredibly strong.  Joanna Going is positively luminous as Victoria Winters.  Alexandra Moltke strikes me as playing a loving caregiver for a disturbed boy who also does what she can as an educator. Joanna Going gets to play a highly credible educator who also happens to have a skill at reaching this disturbed young man. It's an important distinction, and it makes it easy to root for her as a character capable of solving Collinwood's mysteries rather than someone I'm just kind of concerned about. The rest of the performers spend most of their time doing what casts do in a pilot; they recite exposition. But they execute it with a sense of investment and stakes. Roy Thinnes’ natural presence and dark integrity help to create a different type of Roger Collins, but one I am just as interested in seeing revealed. This is a man who has been married to a fire demon and has lived to tell the tale. And it's wonderful to see Jean Simmons out of makeup, despite having rock and rolled all day and partied every night.

In a cast of standout performances, there are several unexpected ones that work exceptionally well and are worthy of special praise. Dan Curtis and the team make lightning strike twice with the casting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as David Collins. Like David Henesy before him, he has a blend of maturity, menace, confidence, and vulnerability that does the impossible by making a child character just as interesting and unpredictable as any of the adults. Equally terrific is Barbara Blackburn. She combines Caroline’s necessary youth with a mature intelligence, sense of wit, and honest, smokey-voiced eroticism grounded more in those inner qualities than simply relying on her bone deep physical beauty. As with the women of the original Dark Shadows cast, Hollywood really missed the boat by not casting her in everything possible for the next 30 years. 

My favorite of all of them is Saint Jim Fyfe. His audition was reportedly an explosive exercise in risk-taking that commanded his casting… despite being nothing like John Karlen.  Because the character is so distinctive, he gets to have far more fun than anyone else in the cast. Fyfe and the writers know that this character is destined to be a sympathetic everyman, loyal to Barnabas more and more out of an instinctive sense of his master’s nascent humanity than fear.  It’s only now that I can see a series where Willie is the audience surrogate more than Victoria.  Making Willie the troubled inheritor of the Ben (Stokes) Loomis mantle grounds his sense of loyalty in something larger than himself, and it is the thread that so beautifully ties together the two eras occupied by the show. No, he’s not John Karlen. But he does what I think Karlen would champion; he makes the character his own rather than an imitation. It’s a trait shared by his castmates, but he gets to explore the furthest dimensions of it. There are few episodes of the series where he doesn’t make me laugh and tear up just a tad. Fyfe embodies the single most important adage in selecting performers: choose the most interesting actor, not just the most naturalistic. 

If Dark Shadows 1991 failed to be a show with numbers demanding a second season, and if it falls short of being the late-Eighties music video nightmare that might have gotten all the gang talking at the sock hop, it doesn’t matter. It sustains its half-season with a unique, compelling, and headstrong voice that doesn’t need to ask for anyone’s approval. Dan Curtis’ braggadocio may have created a strangely anachronistic show, but given the nature of its lead character, that may have been the most loyal choice possible. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Dark Shadows Daybook: Jan. 5

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 404


Does Vicki have the power of witchcraft after all? All bets are off when a smitten jail guard quits his day job to become Collinsport’s newest lawyer for her defense. Peter Bradford: Roger Davis. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Judge Matigan goes from defending Vicki against Trask to distancing himself when she reveals her anachronistic origins. From the wings, a handsome young gaoler named Peter Bradford volunteers to defend her innocence. Meanwhile, Barnabas is interrupted by a spying bat when he attempts to tell Josette the true identity of the witch. 

If the Monolith from 2001 were to have taken a break from filming his upcoming Valentine’s Day special across the hall, he would have dropped in on this episode of Dark Shadows. Apes at his feet. Golf club over his shoulder. “Thanks for the Memories” wafting around him thanks to Bob Cobert. Why? Change must be heralded. And to be certain, change is arriving. Dark Shadows, cauldron of moral ambiguity, is about to get its first, pure hero. Ladies and gentlemen, join me, Richard Strauss, and the Also Sprach Zarathustra Dancers as we welcome Mr. Roger Davis

Specifically, Peter Bradford. A character unlike any that the show has introduced in 400 episodes. He’s a capital-R Romantic hero in the midst of a Greek tragedy. Both the actor and character bring everything right to Dark Shadows, filling needs we never knew the show had until now.  It's appropriate that this segment of the show should feel even more like a Greek tragedy than Dark Shadows normally does. And that’s saying a lot. If this program were any more Greek, it would smashing plates and awaiting the Pierce Brosnan musical number. The show may have have been low in budget, but the stakes in the drama are inventive and gripping.

The forces opposing Victoria Winters are like those tormenting Gods themselves. They are relentless. Vast to the point of institutional. And inevitable. Vicki’s journey is a maddening cycle of hopes dashed, raised, and dashed again. The arrival of Peter Bradford is part of that cycle, but it also feels like the storyline is finally bucking with an unexpected defiance toward fate. Vicky deserves it. It's awfully cheeky of the universe to pick on Victoria in the first place. Did it not have a worthier target? This is the person famous for saying that she doesn't understand.  I love her to death, but I think few could argue that Vicky could get stuck on a broken escalator. As always, I ask why is she back there? Why was she chosen?  

Especially with her growing fascination with Josette and her era, Vicky makes an ideal witness.  She departs for the past as something of a Collins fangirl, herself. Her reverence for the Collins fam puts her in a perfect position to be let down by the clay footed reality. The mighty have to fall. It’s what makes high drama so satisfying. Besides, we can’t get the deposit back on the periaktoi, so we might as well use them. Pure as they come, Victoria is untouched by the tragic flaws creating the forced implosion of the Collins family. She’s an outsider. (Then again, so is Angelique… and Josette.) It makes sense that an outsider would be her undoing. 

Everyone admits that Trask is full of monkey feathers, but they seem incapable of honoring the wisdom of Susan Powter and stopping the insanity. She is surrounded by ineffectual voices of wealthy, Enlightenment reason consistently subordinated by a superstitious redneck.  In this episode, it looks like she’ll be getting the best lawyer in town. Complete with judiciary super powers, Addison Powell might as well enter nude and greased up on a wrecking ball to save her, just like Miley Cyrus did, and Kate Smith, before her. The day is saved until she makes the mistake of telling the truth, and then the needle scratches off the record with cosmic inevitability. 

Enter Peter Bradford. This guy’s different. He doesn’t even look like he belongs in a Dan Curtis production. Tenor, not baritone. Sandy haired, not dark. Physically proportionate rather than elongated and looming. The Dan Curtis taste in casting men who look like he did has trained us to expect a pattern, and Roger Davis breaks it. In doing so, he feels like an ambassador from the real world, and we instantly trust him. As he offers a tearful Vicki his help, seasoned viewers wait for the music or lingering shot that would normally signal a hidden agenda. Wait all you want; we finally have a genuine mensch. If Dark Shadows is a universe where the average person harbors secret hazards, then the very presence of an average person implies statistical outliers. One would be a Trask, who is nothing but a public menace. And now, we meet his opposite. Just as rare. Seemingly, just as inevitable. 

In his debut, Davis does what few actors can: he makes doing the right thing actually interesting. We see a compassionate strategist in Davis, with a purity of purpose that suggests a man who will not back down. That very sense of dedication hints at a man of both love and principle, who will, by turns, be equally feral and contemplative. His benevolence has a necessary edge, and Davis’ native senses of intelligence, passion, and mischief are precisely the elements that define the program’s unpredictable bravado.

Vicki may finally have a fighting chance. As Dark Shadows explores its power to push beyond limits, it also finds new limits to push. 

This episode was broadcast Jan. 11, 1968.

Long Live The Phoenix: The First Monster of Dark Shadows

There are a lot of serious Dark Shadows fans who have never seen the 200 or so episodes of the series prior to Jonathan Frid's introduction. That represents about a year's worth of episodes and at least three overlapping storylines, all of which are essential viewing if you ever want to really understand Dark Shadows.

The first week of the show might be the most important block of episodes in the entire series. I'd put it on the shelf next to the first issue of Neil Gaiman's comic series The Sandman or the pilot of The Shield, in terms of who thoroughly it establishes themes that would go on to inform the rest of the series. As much as I love the soapy stories that follow that first week of Dark Shadows, the only storyline you must see involves Diana Millay's turn as the show's first monster: Laura Collins, "The Phoenix." And hooboy, she's a doozy.

Serialized storytelling has the habit of blooming during its darkest times. Spider-Man was introduced in the last issue of Amazing Fantasy, because why not? What did they have to lose? The X-Men saw a similar revival during the 1970s during a run of the series when almost nobody cared about the characters. Barnabas Collins has long been seen as a similar Hail Mary pass by Dan Curtis to grab the audience by the short and curlies and demand their attention ... but Laura Collins did it first. And nastier. 

Laura was introduced as a seminal soap opera character: The Ex. She had only been whispered about prior to her return to Collinsport, but everybody knew she was bad news. She had been married to Roger Collins (which doesn't speak well of her character), was the mother of a young sociopath and was involved -- somehow -- in vehicular manslaughter that sent an innocent man to prison. But she was something else, too: a full-fledged demigod with a horrifying goal. She doesn't return to Collinsport to bury any hatchets with Roger or his old friend/nemesis Burke Devlin ... she'd come home to murder her child. It's a compulsion she's barely aware of and is helpless to resist. It's as tragic as it is grotesque.

The storyline also leans heavily into film noir, not only in the superficial elements (cops, shadows, lots of tobacco and lies) but also in the sense that there was no possible way for the plot to resolve itself in a happy ending. Along the way it expands the demon haunted world of Dark Shadows in a way that made the inclusion of a vampire not only make sense, but feel almost like a relief.

If you want to give this storyline a spin, it takes place across episode 123 (found on the Dark Shadows: The Beginning, Vol. 4 Disc 2) to episode 192 (The Beginning, Vol. 6 Disc 2). Go watch it!

Friday, January 8, 2021

Diana Millay (1935-2021)



The passing of Diana Millay has a poignance to it on many levels. For many fans, Dark Shadows was a part of their lives since its first episodes went on the air. It was a contemporary show rather than a piece of another generation’s nostalgia. As one of the first cast members, only 31 when she took the part, it is a wistful reminder that the show is on a steady course to becoming an animal that lives completely in memory. 

As Laura Collins, she followed Burke Devlin as a feared and much-talked-about piece of the recent past that refuses to be done with the Collins family. Is she a reminder of past sins? Given Roger’s cold and distant nature, it’s easy to assume that she is the victim of some sort, there to rescue David from a parental love so vacant that Liz is compelled to order carry-out in the form of Victoria Winters. Instead, she adds to Roger’s complexity when we find that she is the show’s first real female villain, causing us to think twice about who he was. Not only that, but she sets the stage as the first, real “outsider” female, creating a motif that balances Vicki. Vicki is also an outsider, but one who seeks only meaning and identity. Like Angelique after her, she represents the danger of women from the larger world. Laura allows us to appreciate the positive nature of the women on the show we’ve so far met. A primarily female audience was given a band of surrogate sisters, and now they and we have to close ranks against the interloper.

As that, her greatest legacy was as the first supernatural villain on the show. Ghosts are fine, but can they truly stack up against a living creature with an agenda? Not in the drama department. The introduction of Laura is the program’s first, longrunning risk into the personified paranormal. Yes, there was the ghost of Josette, but she’s expected in a spooky house, and exists at this point as a special-effect more than a truly interactive character. For all of the credit given to Jonathan Frid as the show’s first great supernatural foe, Laura has him beat. Not only that, but as a type of monster with no heritage nor blueprint. I’m still not sure what a Phoenix is, but Millay certainly was. The cool confidence of her performance successfully charted that new frontier for the show and made safe every choice they tried afterwards. 

Interview after interview gave Millay the platform to describe the joy of helping to create that character. She identified strongly with the mystical, alluring creature, both lustfully of this earth and empowered by primal forces beyond time. In her hands, the novel nature of the threat was an invitation for ownership and creativity. That self-assuredness cemented a character that is as credible as it as fantastic, and Millay gives Laura a set of missions that should contradict each other, but don’t. She is ancient-but-contemporary, tied to the past of Roger, his ancestors, and countless fathers before. But she is decidedly contemporary, also, existing on her own with no need for the Collins material resources or status. Yes, she needs something, but it’s the most unjustly ignored element of the Collins wealth: David. 

Millay relishes her performance like few on the show, and like the concept of the Phoenix itself, is a study in contradiction and balance. She convinces us that she is a loving mother and a ruthless force of hellish consumption. Few performers can maintain both of those impressions, but Millay had to and did. She was impossible to pigeonhole as someone with only one dimension. Thanks to the delicate nature of her acting, we experienced David’s twin senses of total fear and total need. She had to bring both of those elements out in David Henesy so that we could experience genuine sympathy toward his plight from her first moments until the end. I’m still undecided about the fate he faced beyond the flame. It’s a totally irrational curiosity, but Millay’s dedicated sincerity is impossible to ignore.  

The adage in performance is that every character is the hero in their own eyes. With Diana Millay, we never doubt it. When she returns as the character, it’s a harder sale to pitch, but she manages to do so again… with a twist. Now, undeniably a villain, Millay repeats her mission, but with a more colorful bent for unapologetic evil. She’s no longer an unopposed god among mortals. The presence of Angelique, Barnabas, and even seasoned occultist Quentin gives her a reason to revel in her plans rather than coyly allude to them. It’s yet another dimension to a character of teasingly allusive possibilities.  

Millay delighted in her identification with the role, often insisting that she had worlds in common with her. As a cast member dedicated to mysticism, going so far as to write several books on the subject, she was both an ensemble member and a committed fan of the show’s subject matter. She was an actor, reveler, and even thematic ambassador. Of course, she wrote about the supernatural.  Of course, she wrote and performed motivational lectures. Put the two together and you have Laura, and the Phoenix, and Millay and the ebullient sense of mischief that made us believe that Collinsport was a world of possibility for everything that followed.