Unless you were originally there, it’s probably a little bit difficult to realize just how big the Dark Shadows cast 1966 was, and what a phenomenon the show became. Of course, if you are familiar with the phrase “I ran home from school every day to watch it,” then you know exactly what we’re talking about.
The brainchild of producer Dan Curtis, Dark Shadows was a Gothic romance mystery soap opera that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971, but whereas other soaps were dealing with doctors and nurses in love, DS (as its fans refer to it) was exploring things that went bump in the night, in Collinwood mansion while exploring the mystery of the Collins family and those connected to it.
Early on, the Dark Shadows cast 1966 focused on governess Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke), the search for her own past and how it related to sister and brother Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Joan Bennett) and Roger Collins (Louis Edmonds). While interesting, and definitely atmospheric, DS didn’t connect with the audience and was six months away from cancellation when Curtis decided to pull out all the stops — instead of suggesting the supernatural, he would fully embrace it by introducing vampire Barnabas Collins, masterfully played by Canadian actor Jonathan Frid.
Playing an angst-ridden, eventually sympathetic, member of the undead created an instant connection with the audience. Ratings started to rise and Barnabas, who was supposed to stick around for only six months, was spared the stake and quickly became the focus of the show.
The aforementioned phenomenon began, bringing in one heartthrob after another to take on other denizens of the horror world, including witches, werewolves, zombies, Frankenstein-monster like beings and much more. And beyond that, the writers really revolutionized things by introducing storylines taking place in the past to tell back stories (thus allowing the Dark Shadows 1966 cast to play their characters’ own ancestors) and in parallel worlds accessed through different areas of Collinwood.
And as if all of that wasn’t enough, it inspired the feature films House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971), a primetime reboot in 1991 and the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp feature film (2012).
For a soap opera, Dark Shadows‘ run was fairly short, but those five years and 1,225 episodes have lived on for all of these years, touching one generation after another. And what follows is a look at 13 of the show’s cast members (out of the dozens who would appear), looking at their start, what they went on to and how they, too, were impacted by Dark Shadows.
(Visit our sister site to read ‘Dark Shadows’ Remembered: 6 Surprising Facts About TV’s Only Horror Soap Opera)
Humbert Allen Astredo
Humbert Allen Astredo is best known on Dark Shadows as warlock Nicholas Blair. In real life, he was born April 4, 1929 in Pasadena, California, but would move with his family to San Francisco during his childhood. His parents encouraged him to play the piano and immerse himself in the arts. He studied law at the University of San Francisco, but, deciding it wasn’t for him, dropped out.
Becoming a door-to-door salesman for the Fuller Brush Company, one of his customers suggested, based on the way he sold the product, he should giving acting a shot. Ultimately he agreed and enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1950. Drafted into the army to fight in Korea, he ended up in Special Services, the entertainment unit of the Army, where he performed for the troops. When the war ended, he went to Los Angeles to study acting and co-founded the Hollywood Center Theatre, spending the early ‘60s managing the Los Angeles Repertory Theater Company.
Humbert appeared on Broadway in 1964 in Othello (which was starring James Earl Jones) and began studying at the Actors Studio. In June 1967 he achieved what was considered his breakthrough role of Sergius in Arms and the Man, a production of Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park. A year later he made his first appearance on Dark Shadows, playing warlock Nicolas Blair, to whom Lara Parker’s witch character, Angelique, was subservient.
He also played Charles Dawson in the 1840s storyline and Evan Hanley in the 1890s storyline. In the film House of Dark Shadows, he played Dr. Forbes. Following his stint on Dark Shadows, he appeared in various stage productions both here and abroad and had roles on a variety of other soap operas of the non-supernatural kind. He retired in 1990 and would die at the age of 86 on February 19, 2016.
“When you go into a show like Dark Shadows,” he told Craig Hamrick, author of Barnabas & Co., “it’s not like doing a play on Broadway. In that case you have one script to learn, with a beginning and an end … With Dark Shadows, it was more like summer stock, where you have one week to put on a good production of St. Joan and you do it.”
Like all of the main players of the Dark Shadows cast 1966, Nancy Barrett played a variety of characters, though she’s probably best known as Carolyn Stoddard, daughter of Paul Stoddard and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. She was born October 5, 1943 in Shreveport, Louisiana, though she called Bartiesville, Oklahoma home for much of her youth. A graduate of UCLA, she married Ralph Pine, her agent, and the two of them moved to New York City, where she found herself cast as Carolyn on Dark Shadows. Following the show and the two films based on it, she appeared in the soap operas The Doctors (1971 to 1972), One Life to Live (1974), Somerset (1975), One Life to Live (1974) and Ryan’s Hope (1976). There was also the PBS miniseries The Adams Chronicles (1976) and the film Belizaire the Cajun (1986).
Nancy, who has been married four times, told The Delaware County Daily Times in 1966, “Working in a serial, and meeting the same people day after day, is unlike anything in show business. It is hard to step in and out of character, because you begin to see them as friends, not actors. If the role I’m playing requires antagonism or even hate, I find it a very difficult thing to do.”
She played Carolyn in the main storyline, the film House of Dark Shadows and in the audio drama Curse of the Pharaoh. Additionally, she portrayed Millicent Collins in the 1795 flashback, Charity Trask in the 1897 flashback, Carolyn Loomis in 1970 Parallel Time, Leticia Faye in the 1840 flashback, Amanda Collins and Melanie Collins in 1841 Parallel Time
Joan Geraldine Bennett, who played Collinwood matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard and was part of the Dark Shadows cast 1966, was born February 27, 1910 in Fort Lee, New Jersey. She made her debut as a child in the 1916 silent film The Valley of Decision, and first appeared on Broadway in a 1928 production of Jarnegan. By the time Joan was 19, she had begun appearing in movies more regularly, making dozens of them between 1923’s The Eternal City and 1960’s Desire in the Dust. Her last film role was in 1977’s Suspiria.
Her film career was derailed by a 1951 scandal in which her husband at the time, producer Walter Wanger, shot and seriously wounded her agent, Jennings Lang, in the belief that the duo were having an affair. He then attempted to frame her for the murder by placing the gun in her car right after the incident, where the police found it.
Professionally, she never really recovered. She primarily took Dark Shadows as a source of work, so wasn’t much of a fan at first. As its popularity spiked, she was truly amazed. “A month ago,” she said in 1968, “I was in the Midwest, narrating a fashion show, and the teeny-boppers just inundated me. I felt positively like a Beatle.”
She was married four times and was the mother of four children. Joan died of heart failure on December 7, 1990 at age 80.
She played Elizabeth in the present day and 1970 parallel time storyline as well as the film House of Dark Shadows; Naomi Collins in the 1795 flashback, Judith Collins Trask in the 1897 flashback and Flora Collins in the 1840 flashback and 1841 parallel time.
Cecil Donald Briscoe was born March 20, 1940 in Yalobusha County, Mississippi. His earliest roles were on the New York stage in shows such as Come Back Little Sheba, The Tavern and Friends and Romans. He scored a role on the soap opera Days of Our Lives in 1966, and the following year appeared in an episode of I Dream of Jeannie. Then, in 1968, he joined Dark Shadows as vampire Tom Jennings, who tormented Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall).
Tom was ultimately staked, but Don had grown so popular that they brought him back as his twin brother, Chris, who suffered from lycanthropy (he was a werewolf). During his time on the show (a total of 95 episodes), Don also starred in the original run of the Off-Broadway play Boys in the Band. Suffering from bi-polar disorder (which wasn’t diagnosed until years later), he left the show and returned to his family home in Memphis, Tennessee. He died on October 31, 2004 of heart disease at age 64.
He played Tom and Chris Jennings in the present time storyline, Tim Shaw in the 1897 flashback, Chris Collins in 1970 parallel time and Todd Blake in House of Dark Shadows. As he related to Afternoon TV magazine in 1969, “[When I act], I try ideally to create a different person — with some attributes of Don Briscoe. But the more he is like Chris Jennings, the better I feel my work is … You have to believe in the part you play.”
Thayer David, probably the most diversified performer in the Dark Shadows cast 1966, had a career that saw him as an acclaimed character actor. Born David Thayer Hersey on March 4, 1927 in Medford, Massachusetts, he attended Harvard University during the 1940s, but did not graduate, choosing, instead, to be proactive in making his acting career a reality. To this end, and thanks to the fiscal support his father gave him, he was able to co-found Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Brattle Theater Company, which operated from 1948 to 1952, which he used to establish himself in the world of theater.
He appeared on stage in two dozen shows between 1950’s The Relapse and 1974’s The Dogs of Pavlov. On the big and small screen there would the same number of film roles between 1957’s Baby Face Nelson and 1979’s Nero Wolfe, with Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), Little Big Man (1970), Save the Tiger (1973), opposite Clint Eastwood in The Eiger Sanction (1959) and the original Rocky in 1976,
Thayer was part of Dark Shadows from almost the beginning, portraying Matthew Morgan in the present day storyline between August 17 and December 20, 1966. He was also different versions of Ben Stokes in the 1795 and 1840 flashbacks and 1841 parallel time; gypsy Sandor Rakosi in the 1897 flashback, Timothy Eliot Stokes in the present, 1840 flashback, 1995 flash-forward and 1970 parallel time; the evil Andreas Petofi in the 1897 flashback and Mordecai Grimes in the 1840 flashback. He portrayed Professor T. Eliot Stokes in House of Dark Shadows and Reverend Strack in Night of Dark Shadows.
Appearing on The Ron Barry Show in 1971, he said, “There’s a certain gravity in Stokes, due to the situations [he has] to handle. He believes the most reasonable thing — the only reasonable thing — would be to have a seance! I’m always giving practical advice, such as having a seance or exorcism.”
He was married to actress Valerie French from 1970 to 1975. He died on July 17, 1978 of a heart attack at age 51.
Born September 24, 1923 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Louis Stirling Edmonds appeared in a few films and on stage, but as an actor he was primarily known as one of the first Dark Shadows cast 1966 as well as for the soap opera All My Children. On Dark Shadows he played Roger Collins in the show’s present day storylines as well as 1970 parallel time; Joshua Collins in the 1795 and 1840 flashback storylines and 1970 parallel time; Edward Collins in 1897, Daniel Collins in 1840, Amadeus Collins in both 1840 and 1692, and Brutus Collins in 1841 parallel time. On the big screen, he played Roger Collins in House of Dark Shadows.
“I started out [on the show] as a villain,” he recalled during production, “which was great fun, but they made me nicer as time went along. 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.”
He joined the cast of All My Children in 1979, portraying Langley Wallingford/Lenny Wiasuk until 1992, then returning for special events between then and 1995. During the 1970s and 1980s he also toured in several national stage productions, including as Cervantes/Quixote in Man of La Mancha and as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady. He died on March 3, 2001 of respiratory failure at the age of 77.
Born John Herbert Frid on December 2, 1924 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, he served in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II, which is where the idea of acting first came to him, feeling inspired by a friend who had decided to do the same.
Frid would graduate from Hamilton’s McMaster University in 1948, enrolling the next year at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. By 1954 he had decided to move to the United States, where he would attend New York University and, in 1957, would receive a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from the Yale School of Drama. Beyond various university productions, he began appearing on stage in shows such as A True and Special Friend and, as an understudy on Broadway, the 1964 production of Roar Like a Dove. His roles varied, ranging from The Rival’s Sir Anthony the Absolute to Father Barrett of The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Dr. Sloper in The Heiress and Richard III among many Shakespeare parts.
In early 1966, Frid, at that point a resident of New York City, had plans to move to California to become a teacher. He had been on tour with actor Ray Milland in Hostile Witness and when it was over, he returned to Manhattan to find the phone ringing — in the days before answering machines — and ran in to answer. It was his agent, who he hadn’t told when he was returning. He was alerted about an audition for a soap opera, which would provide him with some extra money to go to the West Coast with. Needless to say, Frid was cast as Barnabas Collins and the results were seismic.
It’s not an understatement to say that Frid and Barnabas Collins — who were not part of the original Dark Shadows cast 1966 — turned things around, transforming a show that was struggling along ratings wise into a genuine pop culture phenomenon, as well as opening the floodgates for other supernatural beings to appear. Ironically, Frid thought the vampirism was the most boring part of the role.
“I love to play horror for horror’s sake,” he explained. “The inner horror. The fang business with Barnabas, I never thought I created fear. I always felt foolish doing that part of it. But the horror part I liked was ‘the lie’ — that he was pretending to be something he wasn’t. That was something the actor playing Barnabas had to remember all the time.
“He got the lust for blood every once in a while,” Frid added, “but what always preyed on his mind was the lie. And that played right into my own lie as an actor, pretending to be fully confident when I wasn’t. I was lying that I was calm and comfortable, just as Barnabas was lying that he was the calm and comfortable cousin from England. He wasn’t at all. He was a sick, unbelievable creep that the world didn’t know about. I don’t mean whether he was nice or bad. He was always nice, right from the beginning; he was never really bad. What was really bad was the lie.”
Through the course of Dark Shadows, Frid only played one different character —‚Bramwell Collins, in a parallel time take on Wuthering Heights — and brought a far darker version of Barnabas to the big screen in House of Dark Shadows. After the show, he only filmed a TV movie and appeared in Oliver Stone’s first film, Seizure, but he did undertake a series of one-man shows that he toured with quite extensively. Additionally, from 1986 to 1987 he co-starred with Jean Stapleton, Marion Ross, Larry Storch and Gary Sandy in the Broadway revival of Arsenic and Old Lace. He directed a production of The Lion in Winter in 1993 at the Georgia College and State University.
After he turned 70, Frid moved back to his native Canada, where he staged a number of his one-man shows and, in 2000, starred in the two-character play Mass Appeal. In 2010 he reprised the role of Barnabas in the Dark Shadows audio drama The Night Whispers. Two years after that, he had a very brief cameo in Tim Burton’s movie version of the soap opera. He would die on April 14, 2012 from a combination of pneumonia and complications following a fall. He was 87.
Grayson Hall was born Shirley Grossman on September 18, 1922 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Describing her childhood as painful, she pursued acting as a means of escape. Her first professional acting job came in 1942 as part of a summer stock company on Long Island, New York. The stage would become like a home to her with shows such as Six Characters in Search of an Author and The Balcony. There would be TV appearances in the 1950s and several films, including John Huston’s Night of the Iguana (1963).
She joined Dark Shadows in 1967 in the role of Dr. Julia Hoffman, which is the character she played primarily between then and the show’s end in 1971. Additionally, she was Natalie du Pres (mother of Barnabas’ love, Josette) in the 1979 flashback, gypsy Magda Rakosi in the 1897 flashback and Julia Collins in 1841 parallel time. She was Dr. Hoffman in House of Dark Shadows.
As she would tell Soap Opera Update, “I loved Magda! The only problem with Magda was the makeup, because I am very fair and there was all this dark makeup and the black wig. The hands had to be made up as well. It was a real annoyance, because I couldn’t leave the studio without scrubbing off all this grease, as compared to my other roles where I could simply leave the studio with my stage makeup. Thayer [David] and I had to sit down and work on our accents so that they coincided perfectly.”
After Dark Shadows there would be a number of TV movies, though in the 1980s she was back on stage in The Suicide and The Madwoman of Chaillot. From July 1982 to April 1983 she took on her final role, as Euphemia Ralston, on the soap opera One Life to Live. Married twice, she and second husband Sam Hall (head writer of Dark Shadows) had one child, son Matthew. Grayson died on August 7, 1985 at 82 from lung cancer.
The man who played Willie Loomis in the Dark Shadows 1966 cast was John Karlen, who later TV audiences would recognize as Harvey Lacey, husband of Sharon Gless‘ cop Christine, on the series Cagney & Lacey. Born John Adam Kariewicz on May 28, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York, prior to Dark Shadows he appeared on stage in seven shows between 1959’s Sweet Bird of Youth and 1966’s Monopoly. He would also eventually make dozens of television appearances as either a guest star or in TV movies, with recurring roles on The Doctors (1963), Another World (1971), and Mad About You (1994 to 1995). There would a dozen film roles between 1970’s House of Dark Shadows and 1993’s Surf Ninjas.
Besides playing caretaker Willie Loomis — the man who unwittingly frees Barnabas Collins from his chained coffin — Karlen’s Dark Shadows roles include Carl Collins in the 1897 flashback, Desmond Collins in the 1840 flashback and Kendrick Young in 1981 parallel time. Beyond Willie in House of Dark Shadows, he was Alex Jenkins in Night of Dark Shadows. Of joining the show, he pretty much said yes when his agent suggested it to him.
“I do the first show,” he explained in an interview accompanying the series’ DVD release, “and all of a sudden I’ve got this strange character, Willie Loomis — Southern white trash, coming from the bowels of nothing. It was great. It was a fun part. And I did it with this little bit of worthless southern accent. Willie was frightened to death half the time — crazed.”
Married to Betty Karlen from 1963 to 1998, they had one child. John died at age 86 on January 22, 2020 from heart failure.
If there was one character that the Dark Shadows cast 1966 was built around, it was Victoria Winters, a young woman who arrives at Collinwood in search of her true identity — that was the idea that originally came to series creator Dan Curtis in a dream that inspired the show. Hired to play Victoria was Alexandra Moltke, born February 11, 1946 in Uppsala, Sweden. Prior to the show, she’d only appeared in the touring stage production of Beekman Place, but it was enough for Curtis to recognize she had the inherent innocence he was looking for. Of course, what he called innocence, the actress eventually saw as the character’s stupidity.
“Victoria is so dumb,” she told the Saturday Evening Post in 1968. “All I do is stand around saying, ‘I don’t understand what’s happening.’ Barnabas has hypnotized me into eloping with him, tried to cut off my boyfriend’s head to stick on that goofy monster they made, even sent me hundreds of years into the past during a seance. And I still haven’t figured out that he may not quite be normal.”
That trip to the past, with Victoria traveling to 1795, was an opportunity to meet the pre-vampire Barnabas so as to humanize the character and more or less excuse the fact that they kept him around despite the fact he was a vampire.
Marrying Philip Henry Isles in 1967, Alexandra found herself pregnant and, having a difficult pregnancy, asked to be released from the show, which she was (replaced briefly by Betsy Durkin before the character was written out).
A bit of acting followed, but in 1985 she became a curator at the Museum of Television & Radio (now the Paley Center), before, in the early ’90s, becoming a director and producer of a series of documentaries. Most recently she was a Volunteer Educator at the Metropolitan Museum.
Divorcing Isles in 1976, she became mistress of Claus von Bulow and ended up testifying at his 1982 and 1985 trials for the attempted murder of his wife, Sunny (you can see a bit of that testimony above). In 1991 she married Alfred Jaretzki III and was with him until his death in 2014. Alexandra is 77.
Born Mary Lamar Rickey on October 27, 1937 in Knoxville, Tennessee, Lara Parker would go on to capture the hearts of audiences worldwide with her captivating performance in the supernatural soap opera. On that 1966 to 1971 show, she was a pivotal presence, her unrequited love for Barnabas Collins resulting in her placing the vampire curse on him.
Her road to acting started with a strong educational foundation, having attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, which is where she developed her acting skills, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy. That degree not withstanding, she was absolutely drawn to acting.
Moving to New York in the 1960s, she appeared in a number of off-Broadway productions, eventually catching the eye of Dark Shadows‘ casting director. Parker’s portrayal of Angelique Bouchard, a powerful witch with a complex and alluring personality, left an indelible mark on the series as well as the second feature film it spawned, 1971’s Night of Dark Shadows. Through it all, she played Angelique in the present, and the 1795, 1840 and 1897 flashbacks; Alexis Stokes in 1970 parallel time, and Catherine Collins in 1841 parallel time.
After Dark Shadows concluded its run, Lara continued to work in the entertainment industry. She appeared in several television series, including The Rockford Files, Quincy, M.E., Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Police Woman. In addition to acting, she enjoyed a secondary career as an author, writing a number of novels, including those set in the world of Dark Shadows.
Speaking to Radio Show magazine in 1970 of her audition for the role of Angelique, she said, “The audition was on camera with Jonathan Frid. I didn’t realize the part was a witch. I thought it was a simple little lady’s maid who had been jilted by the master of the house. Jonathan told me she was a witch, and I turned and stared into the camera. I thought to myself, ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ Then I zapped the camera with my eyes and put a spell on the lens.” Needless to say, she got the job.
Married twice, she was the mother of three and passed away on October 12, 2023 at the age of 84.
Kathryn Leigh Scott
Kathryn Leigh Scott was born Marlene Kringstad on January 26, 1943 in Robbinsale, Minnesota. Moving to New York City in 1962, she studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, while simultaneously working at the original New York Playboy Club as a Playboy Bunny (an experience she would eventually write about under the book title The Bunny Years).
One of the first Dark Shadows cast 1966 to be hired right at the start, she played waitress Maggie Evans, she played the character in the show’s present day storyline as well as 1970 parallel time; but her most popular role was as Barnabas’ one true love, Josette Dupres, in the 1795 flashback. Additionally, she was Rachel Drummond and Katharine Soames in the 1897 flashback. She brought Maggie to the big screen in House of Dark Shadows, though this Maggie was the governess of Collinwood, the role that Victoria Winters had previously served.
She described the character in a 1969 ABC press release this way: “Maggie Evans is flip and contemporary. She’s probably the closest to what I’m really like. I’m flighty, I love to do a lot of things. In the series, Maggie is trying to carve a new life for herself after having lost a boyfriend and father.”
Kathryn appeared in 18 movies between House of Dark Shadows and 2020’s The 11th Green. On television following the soap opera, she was in a wide variety of TV movies and made numerous guest star appearances, including as an alien on Star Trek: The Next Generation and three episodes of the original Dallas. With first husband Ben Martin she founded Pomegranate Press, whose titles included the aforementioned The Bunny Years as well as several companion books devoted to Dark Shadows as well as one on The Fugitive and The Night Stalker. Married twice, Kathryn is now 81.
If there was a character of the Dark Shadows cast 1966 that was a close runner up to Barnabas Collins in terms of popularity, it was undoubtedly David Selby’s Quentin Collins, who had quite a journey through his time on the show. He entered the Dark Shadows cast 1966 as a ghost, who would eventually become a zombie, then a werewolf — which is a perfect example of the wild ride the show was.
“The first three months on the show,” he recalled, “I didn’t say one word. They just played my theme music and I stood around wearing lots of eye shadow. They wanted to build a mystique, and sure enough the mail poured in. They finally had to let me speak.”
He was born David Lynn Selby on February 5, 1941 in Morganstown, West Virginia and earned his Master’s Degree in Theater from West Virginia University. Like most of his Dark Shadows co-stars, he got his start in a number of stage productions before he was brought on the show. Between 1968 and 1971, he would play Barnabas’ cousin Quentin Collins in the present day storyline, 1995 flash forward, 1840 and 1897 flashbacks and 1841 parallel time. He played a different Quentin in Night of Dark Shadows.
David’s post-Dark Shadows career has been a prolific one, appearing in dozens of movies (big screen and small), starring in the TV series Flamingo Road (1981 to 1982), Falcon Crest (1982 to 1990), nine episodes of Soldier of Fortune, Inc. (1997 to 1999), nine episodes of Tell Me You Love Me (2007) and four episodes of Legion (2017 to 2018). There have also been numerous stage performances, and he’s evolved into a writer of plays (Lincoln and James and Final Assault) and novels, such as Lincoln’s Better Angel and The Blue Door.
He’s been married to Claudeis “Chip” Newman since 1963 and they have three children. David is 83.
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