MonsterGirl Asks: Kathryn Leigh Scott

A Happy Valentine’s to Kathryn Leigh Scott and the legacy of the romantic, tragic figure of Maggie Evans & Josette Dupree 🧡

Kathryn Leigh Scott, 1967. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

“I know that you are dead, but still you are alive. I’m not afraid of you, only of living without you.” -Josette to Barnabas

One of the more recent primal rituals we find ourselves indulging in these days is the act of ‘binge watching’ a series in order to escape what ever it is any of us might feel the need to break free from. Though, I grew up in the 1960s and can remember sitting close to our large Magnavox television console when Dark Shadows would come into view on the tv screen, I’d be instantly drawn to composer Robert Colbert‘s evocative score and that symbolic opening with the tumultuous waves crashing beneath the titles. I was lucky enough to watch the show unfold on air in reel time in 1966. It originally aired weekdays on the ABC television network, from June 27, 1966, to April 2, 1971 before the series went into syndication.

It is significant to note that Dark Shadows is one of the few classic television soap operas to have all of its episodes survive intact except one.

In 1966 on June 27th, the prolific master of the macabre Dan Curtis debuted his Gothic soap opera series Dark Shadows – the show still has it’s faithful cult following and had started a mania and love affair with it’s viewers. Dark Shadows was saluted as the first daytime drama styled in the Gothic novel tradition. A spooky, cultivated, suspenseful weekly half hour chamber pieces, that reverberated with Gothic fable like overtones becoming a pop culture phenomenon. The premise centered around the wealthy and tormented inhabitants of the mysterious Collinwood that had a pall that hung over the great estate besieged by curses and dark forces and supernatural narratives. The powerful and self indulgent Collins family, whose ancestors founded Collinsport Maine a small fishing village are seemingly haunted and always on the brink of destruction by scandal and supernatural scourge. Throughout the centuries, generations of the Collins family have their very own built in vengeful spirits and malefic curses. In 1967, when the series faced cancellation, Jonathan Frid joins the cast as the sympathetic vampire Barnabas Collins and revives the show. With it’s 1897 storyline featuring David Selby, as Quentin Collins draws a viewership of 20 million fans. In 1970 MGM released a feature motion picture Night of Dark Shadows. The show became syndicated in 1975 and in 1982 reruns began airing for the first time on PBS. In 1992 reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel ran until 2001, airing the entire run of 1,225 episodes.

Kathryn Leigh Scott and Dan Curtis on the set of House of Dark Shadows (1970)

On the set of the major motion picture spinoff of Dark Shadows-House of Dark Shadows (1970) Kathryn Leigh Scott, Roger Davis and Grayson Hall.

Down the road, I intend on covering in depth all the mythos and classical literary allusions to the groundbreaking show itself here at The Last Drive In. The marvelous cast and crew, the prolific elements of mystery, the supernatural and fantasy, that threaded the show with frightening motifs, melodramatic dread and tragic narratives, tributes to legendary nightmarish tales of the occult, Gothic romantic novels and the paranormal, even Bill Baird’s little bat puppet that made up the shadowy world of Dark Shadows!

For now, like Barnabas Collins I long to show some love for the beautiful woman who captured his heart and ours, Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans & Josette DuPrés.

I’ve been binge watching Dark Shadows for the past few months. I am not only riveted by the show for all the obvious reasons (nostalgia is such a gratifying emotion), the set design, the funky and elegant fashions and the overall groovy eerie atmosphere I became enthralled with Kathryn Leigh Scott’s gentle and loving persona. No matter whether she’s playing Maggie Evans, or Rachel Drummond, or the piteously tragic Josette DuPrés, with each performance Kathryn Leigh Scott becomes more endeared as a tragic character who must perpetually suffer within the cursed landscape of Collinwood. Kathryn depicts my favorite and most empathetic and complex characters of the show. Her acting is nuanced and heart felt, and perhaps– dare I say– she IS the very heart of the show.

Though Jonathan Frid’s presence as the sympathetic vampire Barnabas Collins infused the show with something day time television hadn’t seen yet, something provocative which saved Dark Shadows from cancellation, for me Kathryn’s characters were collectively the constant heroine of the show.

Kathryn Leigh Scott on Jonathan Frid- “It wasn’t until we brought in the vampire, that changed everything. The day that Jonathan Frid showed up wearing a cape and holding a wolf head cane and I was there that day and I remember we all looked at him and… he was so divine. And he was so sweet. And he knew from the beginning how he wanted to play that character. But I remember we looked at that get up and we thought oh my god what are we doing now, we’re in a different show.”

Kathryn’s first character, Maggie Evans, has never a blemish on her moral character. Submerged in the developing otherworldly mythos of the show, she is always accessible for us to identify with. Over the course of the series Kathryn played Maggie Evans, Josette DuPrés, Lady Kitty (Soames) Hampshire who is the reincarnation of Josette…

“I am Josette DuPres! I remember everything now… I am Josette DuPres…But I’m also Kitty Soames!”

And Governess Rachel Drummond whose character bares a subtle reflection of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. No matter which incarnation she is performing, she is a likable and welcoming person.

Don Briscoe as Tim Shaw with Kathryn Leigh Scott as governess Rachel Drummond daunted and driven to the brink by the lecherous/murderous religious fanatic Reverand Trask played to the hilt by Jerry Lacy

The constant heroine— Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans.

As an actress Kathryn is comfortable, endearingly beautiful. A real person. A natural. Even her speaking voice is warmhearted. Within all her characterizations she conveys layers of subtle and graceful poise from within. All her characters intersect because of the way the show developed it’s framework for it’s story telling. But still somehow after manifesting four separate versions of the archetypal nurturer/martyr/the girl next door heroine, Kathryn manages to add something different enough to each character that compels them to stand alone while she shifts her consciousness all the while evoking our sympathy. Maggie Evans throughout her tenure on Dark Shadows explores a Sisyphean journey through a labyrinth of deceit, supernatural disturbances, and mortal danger, never losing her kindness or her innocence. She is a beloved recurring tragic heroine, reappearing for us in order for the series to pinion the Gothic themes of love, longing, and loss on a character in consort with our suffering anti-hero Barnabas Collins.

There is even a motif that signifies Maggie/Josette’s benevolent gentle quality. The music box, a gift from Barnabas to Josette, and once again given to Maggie, plays a melodic theme throughout a good deal of the earlier part of the show. And whether we are watching Maggie Evans as the ‘fast talking’ hard working waitress who is the sole supporter of her alcoholic pop, or witnessing her transform into the visage of Josette, we willingly take the journey with her. Maggie reminds Barnabas so much of his lost love Josette that he holds Maggie captive until his cruelty drives her out of her mind and into a fugue state. As Josette DuPrés, Kathryn inhabits the gentlewoman who lived in the 18th century engaged to marry Barnabas Collins. Once at Collinwood, Josette is suddenly tormented and beset upon by her handmaid the vengeful witch Angelique (Lara Parker) who once had a fling with our anti-hero and now wants Barnabas all to herself. Angelique is so enraged by Barnabas’ love for Josette that it is she who places the immortal curse which turns Barnabas into one of the undead. Kathryn’s performance elicits tears, and shivers of panic for her safety as she is an ‘every woman’ with a heart of gold and open for any assault the dark forces of Collinwood desire to inflict on her.

“I love him. His death cannot change that. He will come back to me… He will come back.”Josette speaks of Barnabas Collins

In the 1795 story line, Kathryn plays Josette DuPrés, a beautiful young woman who lived on a plantation in the island of Martinique a colonialist Isle of France with her father, Andre, and her maid, Angelique Bouchard. Josette travels to Collinwood to marry her gentleman suitor Barnabas Collins heir to the shipping and canning fortune.

Josette’s aunt the Countess Natalie DuPrés (Grayson Hall) and her maid Angelique arrive a few days earlier. Unbeknownst to Josette and the Countess, Angelique practices the black arts and is a masterful witch. Angelique is filled with jealousy, revenge and rage for having been thrown over by Barnabas so he could marry Josette. Angelique driven by her possessive love for Barnabas will stop at nothing to destroy the young couple’s relationship and gain back the man that she has chosen as to be hers alone.

 “A large oil portrait of Josette in happier days had appeared over the Old House mantel and she looked a lot like me. It was a subtle transition, but eventually I beat out the dummy (they originally intended to use as the ghost of Josette) and finally became the official Josette—and got paid for it.”

“Josette DuPrés in appearance and character could not have been more different from Maggie Evans.” In another interview Kathryn with obvious great affection for her simultaneous roles as four different characters on Dark Shadows says “And all four of these characters, they were very different but they all were versions of the same core person. In other words I was always the ingénue it seemed. But I was facing different kind of jeopardy. And I think that most of the time of course I was being harassed by Angelique. I seemed always to be playing opposite Lara Parker in some version of my character… {…} it kept the show very fresh for all of us and was really exciting to have this opportunity to develop several different characters over the run of the show.” [SOURCE]

Kathryn Leigh Scott is an actress, prolific writer, and influential publishing executive. Born Marlene Kathryn Kringstad to parents of Norwegian descent, Kathryn Leigh Scott grew up on a farm in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. There is an amusing back story in Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood written by Kathryn Leigh Scott and Jim Pierson, where Kathryn talks about the origin of her name change. A must read, I don’t want to give too much away so I’ll leave you to purchase this very entertaining book and read these wonderful anecdotes yourself!

LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 16: Actress Kathryn Leigh Scott poses before signing copies of her book “Dark Shadows: Return To Collinwood” at Barnes & Noble bookstore at The Grove on May 16, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood is a well-written, wonderfully laid out companion reader that’s perfect for fans of the show. It contains humorously descriptive back stories as Kathryn is a wonderful story teller. Other members of the cast reminisce about their experiences back when Dark Shadows began it’s first foray, its unusual pathway into daytime television. It became a pop culture hit that would last over 5 decades and still going strong. Kathryn Leigh Scott is as lovely as ever, and thanks to her talent as a writer and her keen business savvy she’s put together a publishing empire that offers vintage television nerds like myself the opportunity to re-explore all the thrills and fascination presented with gorgeous stills, entertaining background stories and anecdotes told with great heart and humor. It not only covers the series that ran from 1966-1971 but includes the two feature motion pictures and even a section on Tim Burton’s redux in 2012.

In Kathryn’s book reminiscing about the grand days and future influences of Dark Shadows, she looks back over photographs with her parents almost 20 years from the time she first auditioned and screen tested for Dan Curtis:

“Several readings and camera tests later, I’d been signed for the role of Maggie Evans in the ABC afternoon Gothic romance serial, which aired its first show on June 27, 1966. Dark Shadows was her first role since she graduated from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. That day, I spoke my first words, “You’re a jerk, J..E..R..K..!” To Victoria Winters, the newly arrived governess at Collinwood, played by Alexandra Moltke.” — From Return to Collinwood

Kathryn was one of the original cast members who landed a leading role as ingénue fast talking wise cracking working class waitress Maggie Evans in the groundbreaking Gothic daytime drama Dark Shadows after graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York where she won a scholarship, having moved to NYC in 1962 the year I was born. There she worked as a Playboy Bunny in the original Playboy Club at 59th and Fifth Avenue. In between episodes of Dark Shadows when she was not on screen, she would perform off-off Broadway, do Summer Stock theater and appear in commercials.

Waitress Maggie Evans- Kathryn’s short blonde wig only lasted a few episodes before Dan Curtis agreed that she should use her own beautiful long brown hair.

My first impressions of Maggie Evans were that she was a down to earth small town girl who looks like she’d make someone a very good friend. Honest and straight to the point with a wise crack and a cup of coffee at the ready. I was also immediately sucked into the melodrama and the mystery of the show itself.

On the set & behind the scenes Joan Bennett, Mitchell Ryan, Louis Edmunds and Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans.

Something eerie was going on in that huge spooky house up on the hill, and I was surely going to invest my days trying to find out what that was. Little did I know that Dark Shadows unlike other substances that I cannot consume as a) I do not have an addictive personality and b) I am a light weight and can’t take drugs nor alcohol. Yet this odd little show that isn’t quite a soap opera and not a full feature length horror/thriller sucks you into it’s vortex, it’s uncanny disposition, it’s quirky order of things. Dark Shadows is an atmospheric intoxicant and as my partner Wendy can tell you, I can be found enrapt at 3am because I have to watch just one more episode in order to feel like I’ve had my fix and can allow myself to go to bed until tomorrows installments. And once I’ve finished this re-watching of the show, (which is coming soon) I’ll most likely start it all over again, as I am apt to do with shows I love this much.

Kathryn Leigh Scott, Joan Bennett and Grayson Hall out for a rainy stroll in NYC

Even with the well known bloopers, forgotten lines, noises off set, the occasional crew member in the scene, boom mic shadows or literally dropped down in the middle of the scene, and other hilarious stories that Kathryn shares in her insightful, delightful tribute to the show, with all it’s challenges, it makes the allure of Dark Shadows all the more endearing and considering it’s time period, what the entire cast and crew pulled off with only one take is astounding! Of course Dark Shadows is cemented in our collective consciousness and our appetite for pop cultural symbology and there’s been nothing like it since, and never will be again.

We Dark Shadows fans have a fixation with the show and it’s actors, characters and even crew. Fixation is a great word for why there has been over 53 years of undying (perfect placement for a pun don’t you think!) devotion to the series. Two motion pictures, novels, a comic strip, bubble gum cards, music on the charts, records, and Dark Shadows festivals. Consider me one of those fans who will permanently be ever-changed for spending time at cursed Collinwood. A house almost born bad as in novelist Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, where again the history of a place seems to summon all the sins and ills of the world upon itself.

Josette’s MUSIC BOX replica beautiful and now iconic. Originally the mail order plastic music box cost around $5 bucks via the ad in the back of the soap opera magazines and in two issues of teen magazines as well. Now being so rare this original music box with it’s cardboard container can fetch from $400 to $500.00 bucks on eBay. They were real fragile plastic and most of them would get bad stress cracks on the bottom from the winding key.

Kathryn talks about going to auditions and casting calls, in particular a little show created by genius Dan Curtis.

“I stood in the melting sun surrounded by cavernous gray-cement sound stages with wardrobe slung over my arm and nowhere to go. With a sinking feeling in my stomach and an overwhelming desire to flee back to New York City, I finally found a phone and called my agent. “Come on home.” He said. “You’ve got another camera test for Dan Curtis Monday morning. You’ll find a script for Dark Shadows on your doorstep.” Kathryn has held onto that script with memo notes from, Richard Bauman with notes about the camera tests on May 2 and 3, 1966.

“I called my parents in Robbinsdale (Minnesota) from a noisy phone booth on Broadway near Times Square to tell them the good news. I was bubbling with excitement, while my mother kept asking, “Are you sure they really want you?” Have you signed anything?”In the end, finally believing my good luck, my mother said, “just don’t get carried away now and give up your part-time job.” My ‘bread and butter’ job at the time was working as a Bunny at the Playboy Club!”.

From an interview by Mark Voger in NJ.Com True Jersey Kathryn writes in regards to her book The Bunny Years-

”I think in order to have even auditioned to be a bunny back then,” she says, “women were really on the cutting edge. It was a daring thing to do.”

“What I’ve discovered is that most of the women — whether they’ve gone on to become supermodels or opera singers or famous actresses or lawyers or nurses or schoolteachers — they are self-starters, determined women. They know how to express themselves.”

In her book Dark Shadows Return to Collinwood, Kathryn candidly speaks about her “prominent front teeth”. For me, it’s Kathryn’s wonderful sleight over bite that lends a certain appeal the way it pushes up her beautifully chiseled and pouty upper lip. She has such a natural beauty and her smile that exudes warmth is one of the first things that drew me to the actress and her iconically tragic heroine Maggie Evans/Josette DuPrés. Her likeable sympathetic beauty that had the tenacity to bare a lot of the sins structured into the show’s storylines with it’s many curses and free-floating malevolence. Kathryn wore the burden well, too well. She made so many of us care for her in those Dark Shadowy days where she suffered with the grace and pathos of a Tennessee William’s heroine.

Kathryn gives much credit to first director Lela Swift who spent years working in early live television and got on well with all the actors and had tremendous technical skill. She remained directing throughout the show during it’s entire run. It was Lela who spent time working with Kathryn, helping develop Maggie Evans “edgy streak”, “fast-talking” character, a waitress at the Collinsport Diner. Lela saw Maggie as “a crackling young Eve Arden.”“Sling those words out like hash!” Lela told Kathryn. And “Where’s that chip on your shoulder.”

Kathryn Leigh Scott as dependable Maggie and her pop Sam Evans local drunk and painter played by (David Ford).

What might have began as a fast talking waitress resenting working to support her alcoholic brooding artistic father, she called pop (as I called my own father), evolved into a caring, loyal warm-hearted young woman. I didn’t see the chip on her shoulder, I saw an easy gentility. Maybe Kathryn’s authentic inner warmth eclipsed Lela Swift’s vision of a “good girl” who was supposed to be rough around the edges. I believe Kathryn made the right choice in allowing herself to sling out her obviously inner kindness like hash. A working class daughter trying to keep what was left of her family afloat by being the sole breadwinner. Always a cup of coffee or a kind word, and none of the snooty airs the Collins family possessed in spades. The Collins’ were bourgeois and beleaguered, each one had secrets, and there was always a lot of brandy to go around. But Maggie Evans had a semi-divine quality that set her against their crumbling aristocratic intrigue.

Kathryn and Joan Bennett as Maggie Evans and Elizabeth Stoddard Collins

“Lela instinctively knew how to give everyone that little something extra to go for, so we wouldn’t settle in. With all the special effects and only one chance for a clean take, how tempting it was to play it safe. Yet the most inspired and satisfying moments always happened when things went desperately wrong and one had to rely on wit and instinct to put things right. Dark Shadows provided plenty of challenging opportunities.”

Kathryn tells a funny story about stumbling onto the crew working on a dummy draped in scarfs with a fan blowing, trying to simulate the ghostly vision of Josette. No matter how they tried to make this dummy look authentically spooky it just wasn’t working, so Kathryn volunteered to dress up like the ghost herself.

On Kathryn playing the ghost of Josette- “What happened to this woman?” I asked. “She jumped to her death off Widow’s Hill,” I was told. “I was positioned in front of a camera in a greenish light, and a fan blew against my face causing my eye to tear up and weep. Poor Josette! I was practically sobbing and couldn’t help myself. I lifted my weary arms as instructed, opened my mouth and soundlessly entreated my lover tocome to me, come to me’… I was there for hours having a wonderful time… I continued to play the ghost of Josette for no pay, and volunteered to do her scream as well. They’d hired a girl to do the scream, but it was a weak-kneed, elegant little sound that infuriated Lela. It had no guts. Lela asked me to scream and I let out a blood curdling roof-raiser that pleased her. I screamed for no pay too.”

One of the unique things about Dark Shadows is that all the actors played several different characters within the run of the show. As Kathryn explains.

“All of us wondered if it wouldn’t be confusing to the audience to have me play two entirely different, unrelated characters. Could we get away with it? We did, and to great effect. Dan never stopped experimenting and, once Josette was established, we moved back in time, and other actors on the show assumed various 1790s roles. From then on we functioned like a stock company, each with our own repertoire of characters.”

Maggie meets Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke) for the first time.Maggie, fresh scrubbed and naturally pretty is trying to warn Victoria that she should leave Collinsport and go back to NYC, rather than get involved with that mysterious old house on the hill and the powerful and affluent Collins family and their matriarch Elizabeth played by screen legend Joan Bennett, who hired her from a foundling home to be governess to the disturbed young David Collins (David Henesy).

As the show starts out with Victoria’s reflexive soliloquy, it feels more like a moody crime melodrama and eventually embarks on a dark mysterious world of the supernatural, pivoting on more and more macabre scenarios as the show progresses.

“My name is Victoria Winters. I am going on a journey that will bring me to a strange, dark house on the edge of the sea at Widow’s Hill. There, I am going to be a governess to a young boy and the companion of a mysterious woman… A journey to link my past with my future… a journey that is bringing me closer to a world I’ve never known… to darkness and strangeness that I hope will open the doors of life to me. A journey to people I’ve never met… people who, tonight, are still only shadows in my mind, but who will soon fill the days and nights of my tomorrows…”

Once the ghost of Bill Malloy (Frank Schofield) dripping with wet unearthly seaweed appears to Victoria who’s been locked in a room in the closed off West Wing of Collinwood by young deranged David, the show officially becomes a spook fest!

“Lela stopped the read-through rehearsal and said, “We’ve crossed over. I wonder if Dan knows we’re doing a ghost story here? But there was no turning back. Soon we welcomed the ghost of Josette and the mysterious Phoenix creature, Laura Collins.” (David’s menacing mother played by Diana Millay.)

Kathryn as Maggie Evans with Alexandra Moltke as Victoria Winters

Kathryn as Maggie Evans with boyfriend Joe Haskell played by Joel Crothers.

Kathryn jokes around about being the only one who didn’t get to wear fangs.

“I was heartbroken when my turn came to wear fangs and I wasn’t given any. I did become a vampire (once bitten and all that) but I wasn’t fitted with proper fangs—bridgework that I could pop in and out like Jonathan and Lara did.”

“What I did manage to keep is a latex patch with two fang holes that makeup artist Dick Smith (The Exorcist) applied to my neck after Barnabas bit me in House of Dark Shadows (1970)… I’d never part with my precious vintage scar. It resides in a box with the Mintakan pointy ears and forehead made for me by Michael Westmore to wear in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Here is a clip of Kathryn Leigh Scott’s poignant portrayal of Nuria on Star Trek The Next Generation episode Who Watches the Watchers opposite Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard.

Kathryn went on to appear in 635 of the 1225 episodes spanning five years between 1966-1971. To me Kathryn Leigh Scott’s presence is one of the major thrusts of the Dark Shadows story, even in all her various incarnations. As Maggie Evans, the waitress who lives in a bucolic little cottage with her alcoholic father Sam Evans (David Ford), a local artist. As Josette DuPrés, Barnabas Collins’ tragic ill-fated and beloved bride to be in 1795.

Barnabas and Josette so much in love…

The most maniacal of all the evil fiends who graced Dark Shadows is Thayer David’s portrayal of Count Petofi who possesses the vast & inexplicable powers, shown here taunting Lady Kitty (Soames) Hampshire.

Kathryn as Lady Kitty with Quentin Collins played by the absolutely gorgeous David Selby.

As Lady Kitty Hampshire, an English aristocrat who’s husband has recently died under strange circumstances related to the malevolent Count Petofi (Thayer David), and in the vein of Jane Eyre she plays poor bedeviled Rachel Drummond, hired as Governess in the 1897 selection of the series. Maggie Evans also appears in the 1970’s parallel world that can be entered through a room in the East Wing, that Barnabas discovers. In this world she is married to Quentin Collins (David Selby) and is still besieged upon by Angelique. Lara Parker is another powerful character that the series revolves around significantly. There isn’t another soul who could have manifested such pure diabolical wickedness than Lara Parker and her wonderfully vicious laugh!

Kathryn is the warm heart of the show, while Angelique and her fiendish laughter is the cold consuming Id simultaneously and as counterbalance.

I love one particular story of how Kathryn discovered screen legend Gale Sondergaard (one of my all time favorite character actors) upstairs watching the taping of an episode. “I could hear her soft and measured voice say ‘That was a very nice job.” She said to me, ‘You reminded me of the roles I used to play when I was your age.’ I grinned with pleasure and thanked her very much. She had been among Hollywood’s Black Listed and had not worked as an actress for many years. I’m sure she was at the studio for an audition, and I would have loved to see her join the company.” How marvelous would that have been. There must have been a character Dan Curtis could of dreamed up for the brilliant Gale Sondergaard.

From a wonderful interview by Rod Labbe for Scary Monsters Fifty Fifth issue Rod asks “When a story line began, were you given a general overview of how that plot would resolve itself?” Kathryn (laughing) “Truthfully, we never had the foggiest idea where the story was going! The writers didn’t share any overview with us, primarily because they were developing the plot on a day to day basis!”
Rod-“Dark Shadows has achieved something that no soap in TV history has: An everlasting cult status. What’s the secret of its appeal? After all, we’re not watching repeats of The Edge of Night 30 years after cancellation.”
Kathryn- “Dark Shadows was and is unique. We had a marvelous company of actors and, in Dan Curtis, a creator of genius and bravery who was unafraid to blaze a new trail in daytime television. Like Gene Roddenberry, of Star Trek, who went into the future to tell universal morality tales, Dan Curtis went back and forth in time to tell morality tales that combined sci-fi, horror and fantasy.”

Dan Curtis is a maestro producer/director who clearly had a staggering original vision of horror and fantasy which would lead to so many groundbreaking atmospheric feature horror films Burnt Offerings (1976) and tv movies re-tellings based on classical horror tropes, to name a few- The Night Stalker (1972), The Night Strangler (1973), The Norliss Tapes (1973), The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973), Scream of the Wolf (1974), Dracula (1974) starring Jack Palance The Turn of the Screw (1974) co-starring Kathryn Leigh Scott as Miss Jessel. Trilogy of Terror (1975) starring Karen Black in 3 separate roles, Dead of Night (1977) and Curse of the Black Widow (1977). Both Kolchak films were the inspiration for one of my favorite television series, the brilliant yet short lived Kolchak: The Night Stalker starring Darren McGavin!

Aside from Jonathan Frid’s enduring contribution with his vast complexities poured into the character of Barnabas and the idiosyncratic Grayson Hall in all her incarnations (the most popular of course is as Dr. Julia Hoffman the unwavering heart struck companion of Barnabas Collins. Dr. Hoffman who runs Windcliff Sanitarium, and hypnotizes Maggie after she escapes captivity at Barnabas’ Old House, in order to wipe out any memory of trauma from Maggie’s consciousness. Barnabas tries to compel Maggie into believing that she is his lost love Josette. With the aide of his unwilling servant the scrappy yet somehow lovable Willie Loomis (John Karlen) who unwittingly unleashes Barnabas from his chained coffin, he exacts cruel punishments on the hapless Maggie who finally suffers a mental breakdown from the torture, at the minimum is being forced to listen to that music box over and over again.

“I’ve been recognized as Maggie Evans on safari in Kenya, in a pub in Dublin, at a flea market in Paris , and jogging along the beach in Malibu. Even when I was playing Nurse Kelly opposite James Stewart in the London production of Harvey, fans came backstage to talk to me about Dark Shadows. No matter how many plays, films and television shows I’ve appeared in over the years, I will always be associated with the roles I played on Dark Shadows.”

As a fan of the series you develop a connection with your favorite characters after a while, and as Kathryn writes with a fondness, gratitude and a reverence she tells a story of a fan she encountered while having lunch in the 1980s with Lara Parker in an old Hollywood haunt. The waitress did a double take amidst many other well known famous faces, she couldn’t believe that Angelique and Maggie Evans were having lunch at the same table!

“Audiences develop such an intimate relationship with the characters they watch every day that they find the real-life actors portraying them very approachable. Our waitress recognized Lara and me as Angelique and Josette despite the fact she’d last seen us together on television some two decades earlier wearing 1790s wigs and costumes.”

Questions I would never have thought to ask Kathryn, but other fans did. “Do you ever see Barnabas?” What was Widows Hill Like? But a lovable statement in her book was this from one of her fans telling her “I named my kitten Josette.” Considering my partner Wendy and I do a lot of cat rescue there will be an opportunity for us to name a kitten or cat Josette, Maggie and just for kicks, I’d love to see a cat named Dr. Hoffman!

Kathryn is beloved by her fans receiving letters and being sought after at Festivals and events. And as I’ve delved into Kathryn’s experiences from reading her marvelous books and watching rare interviews these past several days, I find myself laughing out loud when she reflects on so many devotees to the show who write in to ask her questions about certain plot developments like mementos, seeking answers about story lines that the actors themselves weren’t really following from the same vantage point that the audience was.

With scripts written up to second with changes not shown to the actors until the last second, the entire cast and crew actually worked moment to moment aiming for that one and only take. With such complex constraints to work within, it’s no wonder that cast members didn’t necessarily absorb the entire story line as a whole. There were so many twists and turns and time periods that overlapped, how could anyone remember the show as a detailed body of work while focusing their individual performances in an instant. Perhaps there were certain memorable moments they might have taken away with them after these many years, but it’s the fans who know the series through and through.

Dan Curtis with Kathryn Leigh Scott on the set of Dark Shadows

There is a story of how Dan Curtis had to run down to the street where the fans were waiting outside the studio anxiously to catch a glimpse of their beloved Dark Shadow idols. One of the writer’s forgot something during the shoot, and Dan Curtis had to run and ask the fans what the story line was. Of course they had the answer.

I know even I had a hard time trying to follow the HP Lovecraft Leviathan narrative. It was like tracing one of M.C. Escher’s drawings. The story line was even a bit too far out there for me to try and follow, let alone imagine being the cast who had to work with the idea from within —trying to navigate their motivation on a plot course around a bizarre story of an ancient group of Old Ones who want to revive their nefarious cult with a leader who ages within weeks from a creepy unseen infant to a full grown man named Jeb Hawkes (Christopher Pennock) It was The Dunwich Horror for daytime television.

The Leviathan story line was less literary than the usual dark romantic narratives inspired by novelists like the Brontë sisters or Daphne Du Maurier. It’s nearly impossible to screen HP Lovecraft let alone follow his work on an unedited whim for 25 minutes without benefit of re-takes. No matter what the scenario, the cast brought to life something engaging to watch, and along with Jonathan Frid as the brooding yet sympathetic vampire, Kathryn Leigh Scott the series heroine was very often at the center of the melodramatic-horror who brought the poignancy to the show.

Roger Davis and Kathryn Leigh Scott in House of Dark Shadows (1970)
Kathryn Leigh Scott Dan Curtis and Jonathan Frid out filming on the set of House of Dark Shadows (1970)

Kathryn Leigh Scott left the series in 1970. She also starred in the full feature film as Maggie Evans in House of Dark Shadows (MGM 1970)

When House of Dark Shadows was about to be featured in theaters in (1971 she moved to Paris, France with her fiancé Time/Life photojournalist Ben Martin. While living in France and England Kathryn Leigh Scott continued to act in French and English films for another 7 years. She starred in the French language film L’alfomega playing twins. They moved to London where she worked in theatre and in several television films. She was homesick and did think about returning back home to New York, her friends and her old colleagues on Dark Shadows when she heard from Dan Curtis that the show had been cancelled. In 1978 she moved to Los Angeles to continue working on another television series, act on stage and appear in feature films.

She appeared in several television films including Crime of Passion (1973) Harriet’s Back In Town (1973) The Turn of the Screw (1974), Marked Personal (1974) The Wide World of Mystery “Come Die With Me” (1974) Dial M For Murder (1974), and the miniseries Late Call (1975), Edward The King (1975) and BBC2 Play of the Week “The Exiles” (1977).

Kathryn also appeared in other television series and mini-series, including Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Voice of the Heart co-starring James Brolin, playing Dan Travanti’s wife in Murrow, George C. Scott’s mistress in The Last Days of Patton tv movie (1986), Philip Marlowe’s girlfriend in Chandlertown with Powers Boothe, and starred as a series regular with Brian Dennehy in CBS’ Big Shamus, Little Shamus.

And in addition to Dark Shadows, she was in a slew of popular television series over the years: The Wide World of Mystery (1974), Space 1999 (1977), Hawaii Five-O (1978), Baretta (1978), Return of the Saint (1978), Little House on the Prairie (1979), Quincy M.E. (1979), The Incredible Hulk (1979), Hammer House of Horror (1980), Dynasty (1981), Magnum P.I. (1981), Police Squard (1982), co-starred with Powers Boothe in HBO’s Phillip Marlow, Private Eye (1983-1986), Hardcastle and McCormick (1984), Cagney and Lacey (1985), Hotel (1987), Knots Landing (1988), Dallas (1989), Star Trek: The Next Generation (1989), Matlock 1989-90 just to name a few!

Kathryn Leigh Scott in Hammer House of Horror (1980) episode Visitor from the Grave.

Kathryn Leigh Scott as Sally Decker in the television series Police Squad! (1982) starring Leslie Nielsen and Alan North.

Her feature films include House of Dark Shadows (1970), The Great Gatsby (1974) directed by the great Jack Clayton, Brannigan (1975) with John Wayne, Providence (1977) with Dirk Bogarde directed by Alain Resnais The Greek Tycoon (1978), Assassination (1987), Parasomnia (2008), The Rising Light (2013), Kathryn plays Madame Von Harbau in Dr. Mabuse 2013 & Doctor Mabuse: Etiopomar (2014) Inspired by the character created by Norbert Jacques. Directed by Ansel Faraj both films re-unite Dark Shadows icons Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, Jerry Lacy as Mabuse and Christopher Pennock. I recently got my copy of the Dr. Mabuse double feature and cannot wait to see it as I am a fan of the Mabuse mythology and spending time with the gang from Dark Shadows I expect will be a titillating treat for me!

In 1985 Kathryn Leigh Scott founded Pomegranate Press, Ltd., to publish books on the entertainment industry. For the 20th anniversary of Dark Shadows she wrote the first commemorative book issued by her independent publishing company and called it My Scrapbook: Memories of Dark Shadows Memories (1986).

My Scrapbook: Memories of Dark Shadows essentially launched Pomegranate Press Ltd. it originated as a way for Kathryn to pen a tribute to both actors Joel Crothers (who played Maggie’s boyfriend Joe Haskell) who died on November 6, 1985 and classic film and cult actress Grayson Hall who passed away on August 7, 1985 both died within months of each other.

Pomegranate has published many non-fiction entertainment books -companions to classic television shows like Charlie’s Angels, The Night Stalker, Rockford Files, The Fugitive and Maverick.

The Dark Shadows Companion was released as a 25th anniversary tribute. Kathryn and Ben Martin divorced in 1990, but continued as partners at Pomegranate Press and remained close until his death in 2017. Pomegranate Press Ltd. has published over 50 nonfiction titles over the years, including Scott’s books, Lobby Cards: The Classic Films (Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Coffee Table
Book) and Lobby Cards: The Classic Comedies, both of which were published in the U.K. by Bloomsbury. She published a Tradepaper edition of the hardcover biography, Coya Come Home, with a Foreword by Walter F. Mondale (2012).

She also wrote The Bunny Years, a 25-year history of Playboy Clubs and the women who inhabited that world. The Bunny Years traces the 25 year period surrounding the Playboy Clubs’ urban nightlife as seen though her own experiences and her fellow Bunny’s at the New York Club, the book includes reflections by actresses Susan Sullivan, Lauren Hutton and feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem.

Kathryn also co-produced two documentaries with A&E and BBC based on the book. Most recently, Scott has written three novels (with Cumberland Press) and a trilogy of books on caregiving (Grand Harbor Press). She married Geoff Miller founder of Los Angeles Magazine in 1991. Miller died of progressive supra-nuclear palsy in 2011. Kathryn is now a national volunteer spokesperson for CurePSP.

She continues to work as an actress in films and as a writer, co-writing Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood in 2012. She appeared in a cameo role of the remake of Dark Shadows with Johnny Depp as the hapless vampire directed by Tim Burton both lifelong fans of the series.

Writing and acting have always been Kathryn’s twin careers. She has written three novels, Dark Passages (2012), Down and Out in Beverly Heels (2013), Jinxed (2015); a memoir, Last Dance at the Savoy (Cumberland Press, 2016) and a trilogy of books on care giving: Now With You, Now Without, The Happy Hours and A Welcome Respite (Grand Harbor 2017).

Kathryn Leigh Scott has reprised her Dark Shadows role of Maggie Evans in four new CD Dark Shadows audio dramas produced by Big Finish Productions. [May 2006] and as Josette in the audio dramas Final Judgement and The Lost Girl.

Kathryn’s theatrical credits include a lengthy run with James Stewart in Harvey in London’s West End playing “Nurse Kelly” directed by Sir Anthony Quayle, at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London. The following year she was in the new play, “Le Weekend” at the Bristol Old Vic, Bistol, England.

— Kathryn Leigh Scott Online-The Online Home for Author and Actress Kathryn Leigh Scott

Most recently, she co-starred in Three Christs (2018) directed by Jon Avnet with Richard Gere and she appears in Woody Allen’s A Rainy Day in New York (2018). Kathryn Leigh Scott also starred in Hallmark Channel’s Broadcasting Christmas (2016), Lifetime’s A Wedding to Die For (2017), has a recurring role as George Segal’s girlfriend Miriam in The Goldbergs. Kathryn Leigh Scott will appear as Mamie Eisenhower in the feature film The Eleventh Green (2019) with Campbell Scott.

I have the great honor of Kathryn Leigh Scott graciously answering a few questions for me. I hope my feature has made up even just a little, for all the suffering Maggie, Josette  Rachel and Kitty had to go through on the show!

Jo: Maggie Evans, Governess Rachel Drummond and of course Josette DuPrés, all seem to be the archetypal tragic figure. Each time I watch you inhabit a character that meant reinventing a gentle innocent soul, you were put through horrifying trials (tortured emotionally, mentally, spiritually and ultimately physically) only to eventually meet with a tragic end. You made it so authentic, I ached along with you. The Sisyphean journey your characters took must have been a challenge as an actress, and I get a sense you put a lot of your true gentle spirit into each incarnation on screen. How did this work effect you after a while? You managed to elicit great sympathy from me, and I am certain– all the fanatics of the show rallied for you, as I did. Once the filming for each episode was over, did you feel drained and effected by Maggie/Rachel/Josette/Kitty’s ordeal?

Kathryn: Hi Jo, I was cast in Dark Shadows straight out of drama school, playing Maggie Evans, a character that was originally a hard-bitten waitress from the wrong side of the tracks. Within a year, Maggie evolved into a caring, responsible governess, but with all the back story and vulnerability of her former life growing up motherless, in poverty, the daughter of an alcoholic father. Despite falling for a vampire, Maggie in all her incarnations (Josette, Rachel, Kitty) was a character viewers could readily identify with, the outsider struggling to belong. I was therefore blessed with emotionally demanding story lines and gifted writers who wrote to my strengths . . . I couldn’t have asked for more as a young actress. But whatever the emotional and physical challenges of playing Maggie and Josette, I set them aside at the end of the day to start fresh with a new script the following day.

Jo: You have quite a long career and many appearances in popular television series, TV movies, and feature films. You are obviously an actress with many layers and versatility and you left a tremendous legacy with your impassioned contribution to Dark Shadows.

With roles in Parasomnia (2008), Hammer House of Horror (1980), The Turn of the Screw (1974) (you make a perfect Miss Jessel), Petals in the Wind, Dr Mabuse, the Dark Shadows motion picture in 1970, and the groundbreaking Gothic story telling of the cursed Collinwood in 1960s, this all would give you the honorable rank of “scream queen.” How do you feel about that title?

Kathryn: I’ve done a handful of roles in the thriller/horror genre, but the bulk of my work is across the board. I’ve done my share of comedy (Police Squad, etc), historical figures (Janet Murrow, Mamie Eisenhower, Patton’s mistress Jean) and continuing roles in other series that are far afield from horror movies: Chandlertown, Big Shamus, Little Shamus, Dallas, etc. In other words,  I don’t relate to “scream queen” at all.
Jo: Is there a question about working on Dark Shadows or your acting career that followed that no one ever thought to ask you, that you wished they had?

Kathryn: Actors generally love their precious rehearsal time as much as performing, and much of it has to do with the research necessary in creating a character. For me, writing is much like the solitary preparatory work I do as an actor. I’ll go so far as to say, I write like an actor in developing character, creating dialogue, building scenes, remembering that we use all of our senses and that all of it is in service to telling a story. I consider myself primarily an actor and everything I’ve learned in that profession enriches my writing.

I think Kathryn Leigh Scott is pretty special to be so gracious with her fans who remain in awe of what she and essentially her theater troupe accomplished, along with the genius of Dan Curtis and the entire crew who actually managed to create something so memorable for us!

Thank you Kathryn for being so kind and willing to share your thoughts with me here at The Last Drive In. Aside from my general obsession with Dark Shadows now, and knowing your fate will not change with each re-viewing, I’ll still rally for you from the couch, and pray that Angelique will leave you the hell alone already, though I know that’s an impossibility…

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your wonderful fan books on Dark Shadows, your memories bringing to life the legacy of this immortal show and the fond reflections you and the cast members and crew shared. The friendships you forged on and off the set, and the gracious and open way you embrace all your fans is much appreciated. I look forward to your upcoming projects and wish you much peace.

Love, Joey

 

8 thoughts on “MonsterGirl Asks: Kathryn Leigh Scott

  1. What an incredible interview with Maggie! ah, I mean Kathryn! 😍 Ever since finishing DS, I’ve been reading all I can about the show and actors. Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie is a character that will stay with me for a long time. And I just got lost in your Drive In reading about Shelley Winters, another of my most beloved actresses. Your writing and scope of knowledge astound! Thank you for such a gift. 🙌

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I agree Kathryn’s portrayal of Maggie and Josette was so central to Dark Shadows. It remains with me as well. And Shelley is one of my all time favorites. I plan on doing a major feature on her life’s work very soon. So glad to have you stop by here at The Last Drive In… Cheers, Joey

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  2. I was excited to meet Kathryn at a Con a few years ago but was disappointed that I didn’t get to chat much with her at all,,, If you’ve loved Dark Shadows have you seen Peyton Place? I don’t think it’s easy to find bbut it’s a great show to watch after Dark Shadows!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I finally got to meet Kathryn at the Chiller Theater Expo a few weeks ago. She’s a lovely woman, but I too wish I could have spent more time with her. It’s funny that you mention Peyton Place. I just started watching the first DVD set with Barbara Parkins and Mia Farrow. I’m too excited. I needed something to ween me off of the intoxicating draw of Dark Shadows!

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