For this writer one of the highlights of this past July’s San Diego Comic-Con was the chance to sit in on the “Dark Shadows” panel, which included actress turned author Kathryn Leigh Scott, whose first fiction novel, Dark Passages, was recently released by Pomegranate Press. To coincide with the release, Dread Central interviewed Ms. Scott about not only her new book but also the time she spent working both on the “Dark Shadows” TV series and in the Playboy Club during its heyday. We also managed to garner a tiny bit more info on what’s in store for fans of “Dark Shadows” in the upcoming Tim Burton film adaptation.
Dread Central: “Dark Shadows” began airing 45 years ago, and now all these years later there’s a major motion picture based on the series on its way. How do you account for its continuing appeal to so many generations?
Kathryn Leigh Scott: I think its appeal lies in the chemistry among the actors who originated the roles, the plots based on stories from classic literature, and the sheer inventiveness of the series. It was so ahead of its time, and now it’s become a classic.
DC: Can you recall a time over the last 45 years when it wasn’t as popular, and if so, what do you think caused that decline?
KLS: There’s never been a time when the show was not popular, largely because it remained on the air in reruns and then was available on VHS and DVD. Also, the continued interest in “Dark Shadows” has much to do with the response of the fans to our annual festivals and to all the books the various “Dark Shadows” actors have written about the show. We’ve really supported the series. As a result, we now see a fourth generation of new fans!
DC: Any regrets about leaving the show when you did, especially since it ended just a few months later?
KLS: No regrets. It was time to move on, and even Dan Curtis wanted to try his hand at new projects … and there’s no truth to the rumor that the show went off the air because I left!
DC: You played, if I counted them right, five different characters on the show: present day governess Maggie Evans, Josette DuPres (Barnabas’ lover circa 1795), governess Rachel Drummond (circa 1897), Kitty Soames (aka Lady Hampshire, also circa 1897), and Maggie Collins (Quentin’s wife in parallel time 1970). Was that at all confusing for you? I know I’m confused just writing about the roles! What methods did you use to differentiate each one?
KLS: The roles were all so entirely different, and the time periods alone helped keep the characters very individual. I was invested in each one and appreciated the challenge of defining and developing more than one character on the show. What a gift for a young actor! The confusing part was in keeping the storylines straight! To this day, the fans watching the reruns seem to have a better grasp of the plots.
DC: Getting off the horror track for a second, the rights to your book The Bunny Years, a firsthand account and recollections of the time you spent working in the New York City Playboy Club before joining the cast of “Dark Shadows”, have been acquired by Imagine Television as a potential source of episodes for the upcoming new NBC TV show “The Playboy Club”. Besides the obvious influence of the phenomenal success of “Mad Men”, what do you think is the reason for the public’s ongoing fascination with the 1960’s?
KLS: It was a time of explosive change in our society, especially for women … a time of redefining the roles and relationships of the sexes, particularly in the workplace, which is really what The Bunny Years is about. Bunnies, stewardesses, and secretaries are all very much a part of that 60’s story. It was also a time of glamour, sophistication, and romance … as soon as cigars, martinis, banquette seating, and smart cocktail dresses came back into vogue, I knew we were in the midst of rediscovering the era.
DC: What about how women’s roles have changes since the 1960’s? Are you ever nostalgic for those days, or do you feel much better off now?
KLS: Women’s Lib was about equal opportunity and equal pay in the workplace, and we have come a long way. There’s greater respect for everyone’s rights, and I think we’re all better off. I also have great nostalgia for that period and don’t necessarily think the changing roles of men and women robbed us of what was wonderful about that time. There is a coarsening of our culture, and I think many other factors are to blame for that.
DC: Aside from The Bunny Years, you’ve primarily written non-fiction books regarding your time on “Dark Shadows” such as My Scrapbook: Memories of Dark Shadows, The Dark Shadows Companion: 25th Anniversary Collection, and The Dark Shadows Almanac: Millennium Edition for Pomegranate Press, the publishing company you launched in 1986. What made you decide to try your hand at fiction after all these years?
KLS: I’ve always wanted to write fiction, but it’s harder to sell than nonfiction, where subject matter is the key. Also, it’s taken me a while to develop the skills to write fiction. I think it was a “now or never” proposition, and I just dived in. I also had stories I wanted to tell and could only do so with fiction.
DC: There’s been a huge resurgence in popularity for vampire-themed movie and TV projects that started out as books such as Twilight, “True Blood”, and “The Vampire Diaries”. What do you think sets your new book, Dark Passages, apart from the rest of the pack?
KLS: I didn’t start out to write a paranormal novel with a vampire theme. I wrote the entire book as a coming-of-age story set in the early 60’s. When I finished it, I suddenly thought, “What if?” and then completely rewrote the book. So Meg Harrison in Dark Passages was a fully defined character with a complete story before I added the vampire dimension and gave her the added challenge of living as an “other” among mortals, some of whom are even family members.
DC: What else can you tell us about Dark Passages (review here) that you think both your followers and fans of “Dark Shadows” will find interesting? How much of it is autobiographical?
KLS: Even one of my brothers wondered why I didn’t call Dark Passages a memoir … and the answer is: None of it is true! Only the setting is drawn from real life and my knowledge of that time and place. Readers of my nonfiction books about “Dark Shadows” and the Playboy Club know what really happened … Dark Passages is about what could have happened.
DC: Checking IMDB, it appears your last acting project was Parasomnia – as a fan of both you and horror films, I was glad to see you return to the genre. Aside from your cameo in Tim Burton’s upcoming Dark Shadows (which we’ll get to next), any other acting projects on the horizon? And are you yourself a horror fan? If so, what horror films are among your favorites?
KLS: Parasomnia was fun because the director actually named the nurse I played “Margaret Evans, RN” because he was a fan of “Dark Shadows”. I enjoy some horror classics but not the current blood and guts movies. I need a good story that’s character driven.
DC: Now, about that cameo. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to attend the “Dark Shadows” panel at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con and learn that you, Lara Parker, David Selby, and the great Jonathan Frid were all flown to Pinewood Studios in England to participate in the film. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
KLS: We’ve not only been sworn to secrecy, we had to sign confidentiality agreements! I can only tell you that it was a joy for all of us to be so wonderfully transported into this new era of “Dark Shadows” … and this sort of homage and inclusiveness is rare! Johnny [Depp], Tim [Burton], Helena [Bonham Carter], Michelle [Pfeiffer], and everyone else on the set of the new Warner Bros. film made us feel so welcome and honored. And they are making a darn good movie!
Our thanks to Kathryn Leigh Scott for her time and to her publicist Darlene Chan for facilitating the interview. To stay up-to-date on what Ms. Scott has going on, be sure to visit her official site KathrynLeighScott.com.
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