Jonathan Frid,who died yesterday of natural causes at the age of 87, was a Canadian actor best known for playing Barnabas Collins in the 1960s original vampire soap opera Dark Shadows.
His death comes weeks before a Tim Burton-directed version of Dark Shadows is due to be released, starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins. Frid has a cameo role in which he meets Depp's character in a party scene with two other original actors from the show.
Frid starred in the 1960s gothic-flavoured soap opera about supernatural goings-on at a family estate in Maine. Jim Pierson, a friend and spokesman for Dan Curtis Productions, the creator of Dark Shadows, said Burton and Depp were fans of Frid, who played a vulnerable vampire in one of the first sympathetic portrayal of the immortal creatures. "Twenty million people saw the show at its peak in 1969," Pierson said. "Kids ran home from school and housewives watched it. It had a huge pop culture impact,"
Pierson said Frid, whose character was added in 1967, saved the show and stayed on until the end of its run in 1971. He said Frid was never into the fame and fortune and just wanted to be a working actor. He said he loved the drama and finding the flaws and the humanity in his characters.
Frid had been an accomplished stage actor before Dark Shadows. The youngest of three sons, he served in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War, later gaining a degree in directing at the Yale School of Drama and studying at Rada in London.
He went on to star in various theatre productions with illustrious actors including Katharine Hepburn, but it was his turn in Dark Shadows and its first feature-film adaptation, House of Dark Shadows, that made him a commercial success and kept him busy throughout his career with reunions, fan events and dramatic readings. Stuart Manning, editor of the online Dark Shadows News Page, said Frid had brought a new dimension to the role of the vampire by injecting the role with depth and a sense of regret for his immortal existence.
"That idea has been taken many times since," said Manning, who worked with Frid as a writer on the 2010 Dark Shadows audio drama spin-off, The Night Whispers. "Twilight uses it, and shows like True Blood and Buffy – which again I think shows the influence Dark Shadows has had."
Frid's other credits include the 1973 TV film The Devil's Daughter, co-starring Shelley Winters, and Oliver Stone's directorial debut, Seizure.