Lara Parker played the woman everybody loved to hate on ABC's classic 1966-71 gothic horror daytime drama "Dark Shadows." As Angelique, the powerful, vengeful witch, she kept fans on edge as she played out a love/hate relationship with the tormented vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid).
But, much like many of the show's characters, just because the series was killed didn't mean it was dead forever. Parker has made it her mission to carry on the "Dark Shadows" stories through her writing. With a master's of fine art in creative writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles, Parker released her first book, "Dark Shadows: Angelique's Legacy," in 1998. In it, she explored the early life of her character. In 2006, she wrote "The Salem Branch" and she has just published "Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising."
In this time-travel romance, David, the 16-year-old heir to the Collins fortune, has fallen in love with a young girl named Jacqueline, who is the reincarnation of Angelique. The two are transported back to the Prohibition Era where David uncovers deep, dark secrets about the Collins family.
Parker has been on a nationwide book tour, which took her to the famed Dragon Con expo in Atlanta. This Saturday, Parker will be signing copies of her book at the Dark Delicacies bookstore in Burbank. Parker chatted by phone about "Dark Shadows" during a break in the tour.
"Dark Shadows" has been part of pop culture for nearly 50 years. What is the secret of its longevity?
The show was unique. The tone of "Dark Shadows" was serious. It was contemplative. It made use of the great classics — not just "Dracula" or "Frankenstein," but "The Turn of the Screw," "Jane Eyre," "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and all of those wonderful Edgar Allan Poe horror stories.
What prompted you to write about the series?
An editor at Harper Collins took me to lunch and said we would like very much to do a series of "Dark Shadows" novels to continue the story for the fans and we would like for you to write a novel for us.
My first reaction was I could never write a novel. I was not presumptuous enough to think I knew how to do such a thing. She said we would like to use your name because it would be an added cache. We have real writers who would take whatever you did and improve it. I was horrified by that idea. So I went to reading novels. I read [Daphne du Maurier's] "Rebecca" and I thought this seems like a pretty good model. I told the editor and she said send me 50 pages. She said nothing to worry about it — just don't use so many adjectives.
You had a real visionary producer on the series in Dan Curtis.
He said many times, "This is not horror, this is gothic romance." There is a veneer of respectability and gentility over the evil that is lurking underneath. There is a curse that's attached to the family. Today there are vampires running around gnawing on people. On our show it was played on a much more mysterious level. He said, "This kind of horror is very hard to do. No one really knows how to do it but me."
Of course, everyone loved Barnabas.
Rather than make him a monster, Jonathan Frid chose to make him a guilt-ridden romantic vampire and consequently women across the country fell in love with him and wanted him to bite them.
The series was also unique because it traveled in time and the actors played multiple characters.
If your character died, we said, don't worry you will be back in a black wig! Time travel is one of the things I have incorporated into my books — going back to another area and exploring what would have happened at Collinwood in that period. That has been a lot of fun.
Angelique is one of the all-time great villainess characters and you played her with such conviction and gusto.
When I started, I had done a lot of summer stock, community theater and university theater. I had always played the heroine. I was the ingénue lead over and over and over. And I played Angelique the same way — crying, begging for Barnabas to love me and not desert me. Jonathan took me aside one day and said, "You're the heavy. You should stop crying; you're the villain of the piece. You have the plum role. You should start to chew the scenery." That made me realize I had a really good character to play who could be ruthless and strong and resilient. Nobody could mess with her or they would be sorry.
Could you talk about working with Joan Bennett, who had been a movie star during the Golden Age of Hollywood?
She had a fabulous career and a fabulous life. We were all in awe of her. She was also used to being able to stop in the middle of a take and start over. She was used to editing. It was difficult for her to do what we did, which was live on tape. We didn't have any editing and we didn't make any changes.
You, Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans) and David Selby (Quentin) had blink-and-you'll-miss-them cameos in Tim Burton's 2012 "Dark Shadows" movie with Johnny Depp.
I was disappointed. We thought we would get some kind of a scene. But it was still an incredible pleasure to go there. Jonathan only lived a few more months [after that]. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp were marvelous to us.
Lara Parker Book Signing
Where: Dark Delicacies, 3512 W. Magnolia Blvd. Burbank
When: Saturday at 2 p.m.
Information: (818) 556-6660