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'Dark Shadows' is still in her blood

Kathryn Leigh Scott, who starred in the ABC vampire soap opera, has filmed an appearance in Tim Burton's film version starring Johnny Depp.

August 08, 2011|By Susan King, Los Angeles Times
  • Former "Dark Shadows" star Kathryn Leigh Scott in the dining room of her home in Beverly Hills.
Former "Dark Shadows" star Kathryn Leigh Scott in the dining… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Kathryn Leigh Scott describes her cameo in Tim Burton's feature version of the cult-favorite, 1966-71 ABC daytime soap-vampire romance "Dark Shadows" as the film's "ah-ha" moment.

Scott starred in four roles on the influential soap — the precursor of such popular vampire TV series as "True Blood" and the "Twilight" books and movies. She played the waitress from the wrong side of the tracks Maggie Evans, who falls in love with a tortured vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), as well as Josette du Pres, Lady Kitty Hampshire and Rachel Drummond.

Scott recently returned from London where she, Frid, Lara Parker (who played the vengeful witch Angelique) and David Selby (the ghost Quentin Collins) spent three days filming their cameos for the 2012 release.

"It was wonderful," enthused Scott, a vivacious 66, who landed the role of Maggie in the time-traveling soap straight out of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. "I think the thing that meant the most was as soon as we walked on the set, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp came over and were so welcoming."

Apparently, Depp and Burton have been obsessed with the show for many years, noted Scott. "I did an episode of '21 Jump Street' years ago, and the moment I walked into the trailer up in Vancouver [Canada], everybody said Johnny Depp is such a fan of 'Dark Shadows' and he wants to play Barnabas Collins."

The heart and soul of "Dark Shadows" was creator Dan Curtis. "He was a genius," said Scott. "He went back and forth in time. He told these universal stories. They were parables. We did stories based on 'The Picture of Dorian Gray,' 'Jane Eyre,' 'The Scarlet Letter' and 'The Turn of the Screw.' 'Dark Shadows' is as much a romance as it is a horror series."

Since "Dark Shadows" left the airwaves 40 years ago because of rising production costs, Scott has made several feature films, including Alain Resnais' 1977 drama, "Providence," appeared on stage in London and has guest starred on countless TV series.

But "Dark Shadows" has remained a big part of her career. She formed her own publishing company, Pomegranate Press, 25 years ago to publish books about the entertainment industry as well as guidebooks, biographies and coffee-table arts books. Several of the books she's written, including "My Scrapbook Memories of Dark Shadows," have revolved around the series.

And this week, she's releasing her first novel, "Dark Passages," which chronicles the life of a young actress named Meg Harrison, who is cast in a gothic vampire daytime serial called "Dark Passages." The twist is that Meg is secretly a vampire.

"I wrote 'Dark Passages' as a coming-of-age book without any paranormal elements," said Scott, relaxing in the comfortable living room of the Beverly Hills house she shared for two decades with husband Geoff Miller, the founder of Los Angeles magazine who died this year.

"The book was completely finished a year ago April," said Scott. "Geoff and I were in my office, and I was reading a part of it to him. Suddenly, I said, 'What if she is a vampire?' And Geoff said go with it. I rewrote the book. It added a whole new element to the story."

Because the show was shot live, all the gaffes and dialogue flubs were left in for broadcast. A fan favorite features Frid. "Over the closing credits they ran this beauty shot of the foyer" of the mansion Collinwood, said Scott. "The show is over so Jonathan goes into his little quick-change room in the foyer and comes out carrying hangers over his shoulder and you see him on camera."

While going to school in New York, Scott worked as a Playboy bunny, and she wrote about it in her book about the history of Hef's waitresses, "The Bunny Years." The rights to the book have purchased for use in episodes of the upcoming NBC series "The Playboy Club," and it's being republished in September.

Scott didn't quit her job as a bunny when she got "Dark Shadows." "I did the two things for six weeks," she said, laughing. "I was working as a bunny on the weekend when a group of people came in on a Saturday night and one of the women looked at me and said, 'What's Maggie Evans doing working as a Playboy bunny?' I went back in the service area and said, 'That's it. I'm turning in my ears tonight.'"

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