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April 19, 2012

Johnny Depp: ‘Shadows’ star Jonathan Frid was ‘elegant, magical’

Posted in: Movies,TV

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Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins and Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans in a scene from "Dark Shadows," which aired 1966 to 1971. (Ben Martin)

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Jonathan Frid, left, as Barnabas Collins and David Selby as Quentin Collins on the gothic soap opera "Dark Shadows." (ABC)

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In this 1971 photo, Lara Parker, who played Angelique on "Dark Shadows," poses with a painting of Barnabas Collins. (Dan Curtis Productions)

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Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins in 18th century garb, left, and aged to the vampire's true 175 years, right, in 1970 publicity images from the soap opera "Dark Shadows." (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Johnny Depp said the world has lost “a true original” with the passing of Jonathan Frid, the darkly debonair Canadian actor who played vampire Barnabas Collins in the melodramatic and macabre soap opera “Dark Shadows.”

Depp grew up as an ardent fan of “Dark Shadows” and that passion led to the film version remake, which reaches theaters May 11 with Depp as a key producer and also starring in the role made famous by Frid. Director Tim Burton also brought Frid and other original series cast members in for cameos in the movie, giving Depp a chance to share the screen with an idol of his youth.

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Johnny Depp at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011. (Getty)

So as news spread Thursday that Frid had died late last week — on Friday the 13th, no less  —  Depp was balancing the bittersweet subplots of a life that could last 87 long years but end one month shy of a final shining career moment.

In a conversation that stretched over a series of emails, Depp said it was clear last year on the London set of the “Dark Shadows” film that Frid had reached a fragile time in his health. “Very sad,” Depp said of the news of Frid’s passing in a hospital in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario.

“Jonathan Frid was the reason I used to run home from school to watch ‘Dark Shadows,'” Depp said in an email during a break on the set of Gore Verbinski’s “Lone Ranger” in Arizona. “His elegance and grace was an inspiration then and will continue to remain one forever more. When I had the honor to finally meet him … [he] generously passed the torch of Barnabas.”

Last year, on the set of “Shadows,” Depp talked about his youth in Miramar, Fla., and the influence of Frid on “this young kid” who had an outsider spirit and adored the way “Dark Shadows” transported him to “some other dimension I had never seen before.”

The show’s setting was Maine — pretty different from the sun-beaten suburb of South Florida — but Depp felt such an affinity for the forlorn Barnabas that he borrowed some of his gestures and phrases when he was young. That connection is intriguing considering the amount of  time that Depp would later spend inside the skulls of eccentric lost souls. Frid may have been the bright north star that led Depp into a career of spooky mansions and gothic superstardom, which would explain why Depp was giddy when he met Frid for the first time. Barnabas, Depp pointed out, did not disappoint that day.  “As elegant and magical,” Depp remembered, “as I had always imagined.”

– Geoff Boucher

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