*This piece is dedicated to my pals, Tricia P. and Chris M., both of whom share an appreciation for this particular episode as well as the entire “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” series.
Director: DJ MacHale
Writer: Louise Lamarre
Date: November 14, 1992
Season 1, Ep. 13 (season 1 finale)
Episode Synopsis: Ross is a teenage boy who loves to play pinball at the local mall. Short on cash, he asks his friend Mr. Olson for a job in his repair shop. While asking Mr. Olson for a job, Ross discovers a pinball machine in the back of the store. Mr. Olson asks Ross to watch after the store while he is at lunch and tells him specifically not to touch the pinball machine in the back. Despite Mr. Olson’s warning, Ross plays the game, loses track of time, and gets locked inside the mall after closing. Ross must now defeat a wicked witch, a group of zombies, and a terrifying man who wishes to be king in order to save Princess Sophie and himself.
In this new series I will be attempting to face and conquer some of my childhood fears (a kind of self-prescribed therapy) by taking a look at specific characters from the infamous Canadian anthology series, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” that left a lasting impression on me as a kid. As a diehard fan of the series, I’ve watched (and re-watched) plenty of the spooky characters that show has spawned since the early 1990s. But there are only a handful of characters, however, that left as strong an impression as the Witch character. I tracked down Nathalie Yves Gaulthier, the Canadian actress/talent agent/gymnast who played this mall-dwelling monstrosity, in the hopes of getting to know her a little bit while simultaneously coming to terms with a character that may or may not still haunt my dreams two decades later.
John Campopiano: How did you end up playing the Witch in “The Tale of the Pinball Wizard”?
Nathalie Yves Gaulthier: That’s a very funny question because I was actually a successful talent agent at that time and represented almost every single one of the lead characters in the Midnight Society–plus I was booking the guest star roles every week in this anthology series. The casting director knew I used to be a child actor and asked me to play some “character parts” for the writers & director (and “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” creator), DJ McHale. I went in to read (as a joke only) and they offered me a few scripts to pick from. I ended up selecting “The Tale of the Pinball Wizard” as it allowed me to play a few characters in the same episode. I also played the “Bag Lady” early in the episode–and was supposed to play a huge black spider as well, but budget cuts eliminated that role, sadly.
JC: What was your creative process like for bringing this (terrifying!) witch character to life?
NYG: I LOVED playing her! It took a while to really develop that crazy witch as I had to have prosthetic teeth made, numerous teeth fittings, costume fittings, but soon began to see the witch developing right in front of me over that ten day period. Once I was in costume and stuck on those horrendous long nails I no longer felt like myself and felt very powerful…MWAHAHAHA!
JC: What were some of the more challenging aspects for you when shooting this episode?
NYG: We shot this in a mall somewhere in Montreal and it took a few days. The all-night shoots were hard because the mall was only accessible to us from 9pm-6am. The most challenging aspect for me, however, was not being able to go to the bathroom by myself without the help from my awesome makeup artist, Annick Chartier. Thanks to the 2-inch glued on nails on my fingers and the whole costume get up and all, I could not go to the bathroom without help. Lastly, that was my REAL hair they teased, hair sprayed, and put green dye in and, well, it didn’t come out until ten days later! So, I had light green hair for awhile.
JC: …Sounds uncomfortable, to say the least! Were there some enjoyable aspects to making “The Tale of the Pinball Wizard” episode?
NYG: Working alongside my clients and the kids I represented (from the Midnight Society) as well as being directed by DJ McHale (who is now also a renowned author) were all highlights. Getting into the various characters and changing makeup, costumes, etc., was fun, too. I also got to do my own stunts! As a gymnast and circus artist, I had a lot of fun coordinating that back flip and fall onto those marbles. The beauty about being my own agent was that I was able to negotiate that “marble slip and tumble” fall into an additional stunt performance/stunt pay!