Jonathan Frid
Primary Series Role: Barnabas Collins 1967-1971
 

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Other Characters: Bramwell Collins 1841 Parallel Time, Barnabas Collins House of Dark Shadows

Cursed as a vampire by vengeful mistress Angélique Bouchard, Barnabas Collins is a character marked by his duality. At once callous and compassionate, lonely and furtive, his greatest conflict is with the darker forces his curse unleashes, and the struggle to maintain his personality in spite of them. Released from eternal imprisonment in 1967, he acquaints himself with the present day Collins family, beginning a journey towards personal freedom and redemption. He remains fiercely protective of his surrogate family, and haunted by the shadow his curse casts over the lives of all who live at Collinwood.

Jonathan Frid was born John Herbert Frid on 2 December 1924, in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada. Cast in a prep school play, the shy youth found new presence, delivering a powerful performance. Spurred by this success, he continued to act, showing great range and an affinity for older characters and villains. His work for the Hamilton Players received critical attention, winning him an award for Best Actor.

Throughout World War II, Frid served in the Canadian Navy, later attending the Canadian McMaster University, where he was a prominent figure in the drama society. Following his graduation in 1948, he was accepted at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, in London. Relocating to Britain, he joined a national tour of The Third Man and spent a year in repertory theatre. He later studied at the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts, before earning an MFA in directing at the Yale School of Drama.

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Frid continued to work in the theatre, essaying roles in many plays, including The Merchant of Venice, Auntie Mame, The Rainmaker, As You Like It, Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, The Heiress, Much Ado About Nothing and the title role in Richard III, his favourite role. He also made appearances on television in both the States and Canada.

At this time, Frid's ambition was to become a professor of drama and direct professionally. However, the offer of a 13-week stint as 'guest' villain Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows was to intervene, cementing his place in cult television folklore.

Following Dark Shadows, Jonathan appeared in the films Seizure and The Devil's Daughter, along with more theatre work, including Murder in the Cathedral and Wait Until Dark. He spent the years that followed travelling, living in Canada and Mexico. Towards the end of the 1970s, Frid began experimenting with staged readings of classic texts, which came at the same time as the rising of the Dark Shadows convention circuit. Over the next few years, he would build on these experiments at events, homing his own unique brand of Reader's Theatre.

In 1986, Jonathan Frid formed Clunes Associates with Mary O'Leary, to properly market his Reader's Theatre productions, eventually building three distinct shows; Fridiculousness, Fools and Fiends and Jonathan Frid's Shakespearean Odyssey, which toured around the United States. This upshot in activity coincided with a starring role in the 1987 Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace, which proved a box office smash, eventually touring for 10 months.

In 1993, Jonathan realised his dream of directing, with a production of The Lion in Winter, which starred Dark Shadows cast-mate Marie Wallace. Soon afterwards, he entered semi-retirement, relocating from New York to his homeland of Ontario, Canada, where he continues to reside. In recent years, he has formed Charity Associates, through which he continues to perform his acclaimed 'Reader's Theatre' shows to raise money for worthy causes.

In 1999, he began collaboration with writer Malia Howard on a full career biography, Jonathan Frid, an Actor's Curious Journey, which was published in 2001. 1999 also saw him inducted into the McMaster Alumni Gallery for his continued devotion to acting. In 2000, he returned to the stage for a brief engagement in the play Mass Appeal.  He is currently involved in his official website, located at jonathanfrid.com, and continues to make Reader's Theatre appearances in both Canada and the USA.

Photographs · Click on the thumbnails to view the full-size image

Jonathan Frid takes a stroll in Central Park in a shoot for Paperback Library's 1969 book Jonathan Frid: A Personal Picture Album. Courtesy of Dean Wilson

To read a rare 1968 interview with Jonathan Frid click here.

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