Topangas Lara Parker, who embodied the role of the beautiful Angelique in the original TV soap opera, Dark Shadows, muses on its transformation to film 40 years later and how she helped keep it alive in her books.
Its inaccurate to make the cliché statement that Dark Shadows, the 60s TV soap opera, is back from the dead because in many cases, it never really left.
While the iconic shows five-year run ended in 1971, the shows supernatural and dramatic aesthetic would ingrain itself in the minds of future iconic directors, such as Quentin Tarantino, and respected actors, such as Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer.
While the show achieved cult status over the years and has become known in pop culture for its low-grade special effects, it also has a reputation for groundbreaking storylines that, regardless of parallel universes, werewolves and vampires, was acted with total conviction.
In the run-up to the Tim Burton rendition of the gothic soap opera that opens May 11, time became a commodity for "Dark Shadows" star, Lara Parker. Between wrapping up her latest book (Wolf Moon Rising) and doing press for the upcoming film, Parker, a long-time resident of Topanga, was gracious enough to share a few minutes with the Messenger about writing, acting and the legacy of Dark Shadows.
Topanga Messenger: To say that youve been busy of late is certainly an understatement, but how busy were you ramping up to the release of Dark Shadows?
Lara Parker: To say Ive been busy is sort of an understatement. Everything has been Dark Shadows lately. Aside from the film coming out and the premiere, Ive spent the last two years writing the latest Dark Shadows book. I just sent it out to the editors so Im pretty happy about that. Also, because of the films release, TOR, my book publisher, has decided to re-release the first two I wrote: Angeliques Descent and The Salem Branch.
TM: With some people getting reacquainted through Dark Shadows, the movie, and some just introduced to it, which book would you hope readers pick up?
LP: Well, all of them obviously. I really do like Angeliques Descent though. It was the first Dark Shadows book I wrote and I really got to expand on the backstory of Angelique Martinique, the island that shes from and the connection between her and Barnabas. I really do love writing these books. Its like a third life for me. I did the show so long ago and then I became an adjunct instructor at Santa Monica College and Ive been writing these books as well. Its fantastic.
TM: In addition to the new book coming out, the old books being re-released, how do you feel about Dark Shadows coming back into the mainstream?
LP: Thrilled and a little humbled. I think if the film hadnt come out we would have faded real soon. There are conventions every other year and there hasnt been a drop-off, and there are a lot of faces that you remember. Its still pretty amazing that there are as many fans as there are for a show that was on 40 years ago.
TM: How would you describe being on set for the film? Was it like old times stepping into a world youre so familiar with?
LP: It was not overwhelming because I wasnt walking back on the old set. Not at all. The thing about the show was that we did one episode a day, five a week, that ran for 1,225 episodes and all were cut to air.
Being on the [movie] set [in London] was amazing. They built the entire town of Collinsport! They built a great house. The entrance hall to Collinwood is like a giant ballroom. The lighting and the effects Tim Burton used in Collinwood, very creative.
TM: Speaking of Tim Burton, what was it like working with him and Johnny Depp?
LP: It was a great experience. Tim is great at what he does. Depp is great too. Hes so clever with his scenes, in that hes able just to pull things out of the air the way he does. Hes so versatile and his performance was spot on.
TM: The film is a little different than the show. How do you think fans will react?
LP: They were very vocal on Facebook. With the trailer, they were initially upset. They thought it would be a Burton comedy and its not; it's Goth romance. There might be some unintentional campiness because of how the show was then compared to how things are now. I think fans were expecting the film to be where everyone is in on the joke but there is total conviction.
TM: Going back to Depp and Burton. Both are admitted fans of the series and worked on this film. How do you think this will impact or change the legacy of Dark Shadows?
LP: I think that it was a total fluke that Depp and Burton both loved "Dark Shadows." After Michelle Pfeiffer learned that the film was being made, she personally called to be in the film. When the show was introduced, it was something that just wasnt seen during daytime television. It just wasnt done before and it really hasnt been since.
The genre has definitely gone out of style, except for maybe the "Twilight" audience, but "Dark Shadows" is Dickens, it's Oscar Wilde. The concept is so rich. It was a vampire with guilt. Theres an interesting concept because Barnabas was so deeply emotional, but hes dead. I love that conflict of being immortal, which everyone wants, yet hes dead, which no one wants to deal with. And Jonathan Frid had so much to do with that; he really made that character his own.
What we were trying to do was reinterpret the classics in our show; there were so many concepts to pull and make our own.
To have Tim Burton reinterpret what we were doing out of all the great romantic classics, they treated it like a work of art.