Remembering Jonathan Frid: TV’s Greatest Vampire (1924-2012)

Long before Buffy stalked the cemeteries of Sunnydale or a vampire, a ghost, and a werewolf moved into a flat together the choices for TV fans looking for episodic gothic horror with a tinge of humor were out of luck. The show that paved the way for many to follow was Dan Curtis’ soap opera, Dark Shadows, and the one factor most responsible for the show’s success was the introduction of the vampire, Barnabas Collins. The bloodsucker was brought to glorious undead life by the Canadian born actor Jonathan Frid.

Frid was a veteran of the stage having studied acting at the prestigious institutions of Yale University and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Frid was originally cast as Barnabas Collins as a stunt in the hopes that introducing a vampire would help stop the downward trend of the ratings. Not only did the character cause a gigantic boost to ratings but over the years Frid evolved from being a guest star into being the star of the show. With his immense talent as an actor Frid fleshed out the character of Barnabas departing from the standard bloodsucking fiend which had been popular with vampire fans and making the character more complex and emotional who fought with the moral dilemmas which would arise from being a vampire. This way of portraying a vampire has been mimicked by many other actors to follow but Frid did it first.

After the show ended Frid enjoyed a return to the stage where he had been missed. Performing in a series of plays in Canada and the US, including an acclaimed role in a Broadway revival of Arsenic and Old Lace. He even used his fame among horror lovers to further his career and connect with his fans from showing up at signings and parades to doing dramatic readings of Stephen King stories. Before passing away he was able to film a cameo alongside many of his Dark Shadows co-stars for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s upcoming adaptation. Jonathan Frid passed away on Friday April 13, 2012 and he will be missed by fans all over the world.