About Jonathan Frid
Born Dec. 2, 1924 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, John Herbert Frid began his acting career in school productions before joining the local Hamilton Players Guild and enrolling in McMaster University to study his craft. After serving in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II, Frid returned to McMaster University to head its drama society before graduating in 1948. The following year, he earned acceptance into London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. While in England, he also gained invaluable professional experience with multiple repertory companies, and upon his return to Canada, continued to tour in productions. Building an impressive reputation as a theatrical and radio performer in Canada, Frid moved to the United States in 1954 to enroll in the Yale School of Drama.
Although he earned his master's in directing, he found more success as an actor, performing in many of the school's productions and then in multiple regional productions, including the American Shakespearean Festival in Connecticut, where he played opposite Katharine Hepburn. Honing his craft in productions all around the United States, Frid became an actor-in-residence for Penn State University in 1965 before continuing his journeyman actor life and searching for a fulltime teaching position. Fate intervened, however, when he was cast in the star-making role of reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins on the quirky Gothic soap "Dark Shadows" (ABC, 1966-1971). Originally accepting the role on the conditions that it would be a brief turn that would finance Frid's trip to California to accept a teaching post, the actor made such an impression as the tormented Collins that he immediately achieved cult stardom and the role was not only extended but became the very heart of "Dark Shadows" and its most memorable element.
Masterfully playing both sides of Collins - vulnerable and damned as well as menacing and evil - Frid's portrayal revitalized the vampire ideal for a new generation, and it would be felt decades later in the genre's subsequent flashpoints, including the similarly brooding beauty Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) from the "Twilight" (2008) franchise. Such was the charisma of Frid's performance that even non-horror fans fell prey to the dark glamour of Barnabas Collins. The show even spun off a hit feature film, "House of Dark Shadows" (1970). After his run on the hit series ended, Frid returned to Broadway and theatrical productions, but made time to appear in a pair of horror-tinged projects: the made-for-TV movie "The Devil's Daughter" (ABC, 1972) and Oliver Stone's directorial debut, "Seizure" (1974), which cast him in the lead role as a horror novelist tormented by his own creations. As with many cult icons who become so identified with their characters in the public eye, Frid found it difficult to escape the long "Shadows" of Collins, and he attempted to retire from acting for good.
The lure of his trade was too strong, however, and he returned to theatrical productions as well as beginning his own series of touring workshops and one-man shows. He delighted fans by appearing at "Dark Shadows" conventions, embarked on a well-received national tour of "Arsenic and Old Lace," and finally made his directorial debut with a production of "The Lion in Winter," starring his "Dark Shadows" co-star Marie Wallace. He moved back to Canada in 1994 and retired from the public eye, but continued to perform locally and advocate for the theatrical arts, earning induction into his alma mater's hall of fame in 1998. So popular was the pull of "Dark Shadows," however, that over the years several reboots and re-imaginings had been attempted, with Ben Cross and then Alec Newman stepping into the formidable shoes of Barnabas Collins. The afterlife of the series received its biggest tip-of-the-hat with Tim Burton's lavish, campy valentine to the series, "Dark Shadows" (2012). Starring Johnny Depp as Collins, the delightfully shabby original series received the glossy big-screen treatment, as well as gifting Frid (and several of his former castmates) with a cameo.
Sadly, Jonathan Frid died of natural causes on April 13, 2012 in his hometown before the film was released, but his legacy lived on, both for his beloved Collins as work, as well as his lengthy and illustrious career in the theater. On her personal webpage, Frid's "Dark Shadows" co-star Kathryn Leigh Scott eulogized him beautifully: "I am so grateful to have worked with Jonathan and to have known him as the charismatic, entertaining, complex and plain spoken man that he was. What fun we had working together! He was irascible, irreverent, funny, caring, lovable and thoroughly professional, and in the end became the whole reason why kids ran home from school to watch 'Dark Shadows.'"
By Jonathan Riggs
|McMaster University, Hamilton , Ontario|
|School of Drama, Yale University, New Haven , Connecticut|
|Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London , England|
|Made a cameo in Tim Burton's feature remake of "Dark Shadows" opposite Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins; Frid passed away just weeks before the film's May 11 release|
|Featured in the documentary "Dark Shadows 30th Anniversary Tribute"|
|Made stage directorial debut with a production of "The Lion in Winter" at Georgia CollegeTheatre in Milledgeville, GA|
|Added two new programs to his reading theater presentations, "Jonathan Frid's Shakespearean Odyssey" and "Jonathan Frid's Fridiculousness"|
|Formed (with Mary O'Leary) production company Clunes Associates; company toured the college circuit with a series of staged readings, the first of which was "Jonathan Frid's Fools and Fiends"|
|Returned to films to play the leading role in Oliver Stone's feature directorial debut "Seizure"|
|Played a leading role in the TV-movie horror comedy "The Devil's Daughter" (ABC)|
|Made feature film debut recreating the role of Barnabas in "House of Dark Shadows"|
|Landed breakthrough role as vampire Barnabas Collins on the cult soap opera "Dark Shadows" (ABC)|
|Acted in the company with Katharine Hepburn in John Houseman's staging of "Much Ado About Nothing" for the American Shakespeare Festival in the early 1960s|
|Served as a seaman in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II|