Terry Morrow: Lara Parker of TV's 'Dark Shadows' reflects on Johnny Depp film

Knoxville native Lara Parker has made a side career out of her time on the 1960s daytime soap 'Dark Shadows.' On the series, she played the vengeful witch Angelique. Parker has a small cameo part in the new 'Dark Shadows' movie, out today.

Knoxville native Lara Parker has made a side career out of her time on the 1960s daytime soap "Dark Shadows." On the series, she played the vengeful witch Angelique. Parker has a small cameo part in the new "Dark Shadows" movie, out today.

In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. Two ...

Rating: PG-13 for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking

Length: 113 minutes

Released: May 11, 2012 Nationwide

Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Moretz, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer

Director: Tim Burton

Writer: Dan Curtis

More info and showtimes »

School children used to scream when they spotted Knoxville native Lara Parker on her way to work to do another episode of the daytime soap opera "Dark Shadows."

"Whenever I was recognized in public, it was hysterical," says Parker, who originated the role of vengeful witch Angelique Bouchard more than 40 years ago, "because people thought I was scary."

It was the late 1960s, and "Dark Shadows" was a soap opera transcending into a pop culture phenomenon. The series centered on the Collins family from a seaport village in Maine; their haunted house, Collinwood; and a mysterious man named Barnabas Collins, known to the Collinses as a distant cousin from England, though he was actually a vampire who was their ancestor.

Angelique chased after Barnabas for centuries, using her dark magic to punish him for spurning her.

Starting today, Parker, who was born in Knoxville but raised in Memphis, is back at Collinwood with a cameo role during a party scene in the big-budget feature film of the show, starring Johnny Depp and directed by Tim Burton.

When "Dark Shadows" originally began, its most ardent fans were schoolchildren, among them a tyke named Johnny Depp. He'd run home every day to catch the latest adventures of Barnabas, played by Jonathan Frid, and how Angelique would complicate matters. As one of Hollywood's most beloved actors, Depp has waited for his moment to bring back "Dark Shadows."

While the film was being made, Depp and Burton made sure Parker and other original cast members David Selby, Kathyrn Leigh Scott and Frid had cameo roles.

"The scale was so completely different," Parker says when comparing her TV show to the movie. "It wasn't like walking back into our show. It was a completely different interpretation.

"It was so realistic. The sets were very spectacular; so were the costumes. We were totally amazed."

Production values between the two were vastly different. The daytime version was played straight, though the on-the-fly schedule generated some campy moments. The Burton/ Depp version is dark but has whimsical elements to it.

The TV Barnabas was torn between his blood lust and doing the right thing. The cinematic Barnabas is a man out of time, yearning to get his 1970s descendants back in line while warding off the advances of Angelique.

In the new Johnny Depp/ Tim Burton film 'Dark Shadows,' Eva Green assumes the role of Angelique Bouchard, a witch who uses her powers to curse Barnabas Collins for spurning her.

Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture

In the new Johnny Depp/ Tim Burton film "Dark Shadows," Eva Green assumes the role of Angelique Bouchard, a witch who uses her powers to curse Barnabas Collins for spurning her.

In the film, Eva Green plays Angelique, who uses her sexuality as much as her spell-casting abilities to torture Barnabas. Helena Bonham Carter is Julia Hoffman, a doctor who is a live-in shrink for the crazy Collins clan. Michelle Pfeiffer heads the Collins family as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard.

Depp, Bonham Carter and Pfeiffer watched hours of footage from the series to get into character. Bonham Carter even manages to capture tiny vocal expressions from Grayson Hall, the late actress who played Julia in the series.

Longtime fans have concerns the movie will tarnish what they loved most about the series. The original actors have no such concerns.

"We're thrilled they wanted to make a movie out of our little show that we did more than 40 years ago," Parker says. "We were pleased they were intrigued and interested enough to do this."

The reunion of the original actors on the film set is now bittersweet. Frid died in April, making this new "Dark Shadows" his final on-screen appearance.

Feeble at age 87, Frid wasn't sure he should make the trek from Canada to England to shoot the cameo. Parker says Frid struggled during the few days he was around the set, still reluctant about being there.

"He seemed confused and irritable as older people tend to get," Parker says.

But Frid's importance to the film was never diminished. Like the fan he was as a boy, Depp took time from the party scene to remind everyone why they were there in the place.

Playing Barnabas Collins from 'Dark Shadows' is a lifelong dream of actor Johnny Depp. He was such a fan he made sure original cast members of the soap had cameo roles in his movie.

Photo by Peter Mountain

Playing Barnabas Collins from "Dark Shadows" is a lifelong dream of actor Johnny Depp. He was such a fan he made sure original cast members of the soap had cameo roles in his movie.

Depp turned to Frid on-set at one point and declared, "None of us would be (making this movie) if not for you," Parker recollected.

A wife and mother, Parker, now 74 and living in Southern California, has worked at Santa Monica College in recent years.

Her piece of "Dark Shadows" remains a cottage industry for her.

She starred in the 1971 feature film "Night of Dark Shadows," has written three books based on Angelique and appears at the annual "Dark Shadows" fan events.

Looking back now, Parker saw "Dark Shadows" exploding in popularity as she made her way to work on the original series.

"I'd walk out to the subway platform, getting ready to go into work, and there'd be dozens of school kids looking at me, screaming, running to the end of the platform and then running up the stairs," Parker says of those early days.

All these years later, "Dark Shadows" has found another way to fascinate Parker. Seeing the series as a major summer picture is a personal hallmark for her.

"It was certainly one of my life's best memories," she says.

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