"Now this was my very first job. I'd just graduated from school, and what an incredible opportunity to do all of the things that I'd been studying: Shakespeare, Moliere, Ibsen ... I was playing in all of those time periods." -- "Dark Shadows" actor Kathryn Leigh Scott
Kathryn Leigh Scott was 23, and working on "Dark Shadows" was an actor's dream. Susan Mason was 13, and the half-hour daily paranormal soap opera was a romantic refuge for a "weird" schoolgirl.
When we heard cast, crew, and fans of the groundbreaking ABC show, which ran from 1966 to 1971, are gathering in Hollywood Oct. 29 to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary, and that we could interview one of the stars, I asked Off-Ramp producer Kevin Ferguson if he knew any fans of the show we could bring in.
"My mom. She'd love to do that. I don’t even need to ask her."
And so, two women whose lives were changed by one of the oddest shows ever broadcast met at the Mohn Broadcast Center this week.
At its peak, 20-million people tuned in every weekday afternoon. Mason saw the promos on ABC and knew she had to rush home from school to see it. "It was just different, and I was different. I was not a normal, cheerleader, rah-rah. I was weird." Scott says it wasn't just schoolkids watching. "A wide audience. Professors, nurses, housewives." And the show's short length and airtime made a difference: "People could take an afternoon coffee break at 3:30 or 4pm."
What drew them in? Both women agree: It wasn't a traditional soap opera about who is sleeping with who; nor was it a scary vampire story. It was an old fashioned Gothic romance, often based on classics of literature, like Jane Eyre. "Of all of the incarnations of these vampire stories, what so many people miss, and what (creator) Dan Curtis totally got, is that so much of this hinges on romance. It's not the gore and the horror. That's not the story. The central theme of Dark Shadows is that love triangle and unrequited love."
And for a young actor, it was perfect. "We were like a repertory company," Scott says. "There were about twenty of us on the show, and we all played different characters. I played four, and the thing is that Dan Curtis trusted the audience -- including 13-year-old Susan Mason -- not to get confused. Instead of hiring different actors to play different roles, we all got to play in different time periods."
Make sure to listen to the audio to hear a wonderful conversation between star and fan, and the tune of a music box that played a critical role in the series.
Next Saturday's "Dark Shadows" event at the Hollywood Women's Club includes actors Scott, Lara Parker, John Karlen, Roger Davis, Nancy Barrett, James Storm, and Lisa Richards, as well as composer Roger Cobert. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for kids, and they're available at the door on online.