Kathryn Leigh Scott is a true icon of cult television. Her career has been as varied as the roles she’s played, but for lovers of daytime TV she will be remembered for one television show in particular, Dark Shadows. Now, as audio drama specialist Big Finish release new Dark Shadows plays onto CD we decided that we should catch up with this charming actress and discover what it was like to return to a character she’d played decades before and how she started her own publishing company.
ZH: Kathryn, you’ve had a prolific acting career appearing in many cult shows such as The Incredible Hulk, Police Squad and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but why did you go into the acting profession in the first place?
KLS: Yes, lots of cult TV . . . and don’t forget Space 1999! I have always had twin career goals: acting and writing. I wrote my first story in second grade, and wrote a school play about George Washington. I played Martha, of course. When I was 16, I applied for the Cherub program in both the Journalism and Theatre Departments at North-western University, and got a scholarship in the Theatre. Later I go got a scholarship at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Obviously, one follows the career path that comes naturally, although I still kept writing. Dark Shadows came along soon after I graduated from AADA, and was really a huge break. I was thrilled to be working, but soon realized what an exceptional opportunity Dan Curtis had given me
ZH: Is it true you got your big break on Dark Shadows?
KLS: I loved working on Dark Shadows. There wasn’t a day that I couldn’t wait to get to the studio. I even dropped in on my days off . . . and the fact that I was at the studio the day Producer Bob Costello was filming a taped segment involving the ghost of Josette is how I came to play that character. What luck!
ZH: So what was the original outline for your character of Maggie Evans? Did you have any input?
KLS: I read several times for the role of Victoria Winters, and screen tested only once for Maggie I think Dan wanted me in the series and gave me that role even though it wasn’t a natural fit. Maggie was originally a wise-cracking, wrong-side-of-the-tracks waitress in the Collinsport Diner, and I had a tough time developing that character. Lela Swift, our director, worked with me, but the role did not come easily. In some ways I’m sorry, but then the direction I took that character made me a natural to replace Alexandra when she left the show. I’ve always been mystified what qualifications a waitress brought to the job of governess!
ZH: What was it like working on a daytime show that relied on special effects? Was there much pressure on the cast and crew?
KLS: There was huge pressure to make all the special effects on the show work, and sometimes scene rehearsal was sacrificed to give the crew more time. For the younger actors, it was fun and exciting. I think some of the more seasoned actors found it gruelling and quite scary to perform live with little rehearsal.
ZH: What did it feel like when the show came to an end in1971?
KLS: I had been living in Paris six months when the show was cancelled. I was shocked when I read about it in a fan magazine. I think I always thought when I tired of Paris; I’d be brought home from Windcliff!
ZH: Have you ever tired of being associated with Dark Shadows?
KLS: I made it a point in my eulogy for Dan Curtis to mention that ALL of us wondered (like poor Superman) if we weren’t doomed to always be associated with Dark Shadows rather than some of our other accomplishments. Eventually all of us, including Dan, came to terms with it . . . . and relished it! There was a time when I didn’t want to be known as a former Playboy Bunny, too . . . but at a certain age it’s quite wonderful to think back on.
ZH: How were you approached by Big Finish for Dark Shadows Reborn and were you reluctant to return to such a famous acting role from your past? Did you feel that you’d “moved on” as an actor?
KLS: All of the Dark Shadows actors were thrilled to work together again. I agreed immediately, without having the least idea what we would be doing. I know Stuart Manning and trust his taste . . . and Jim Pierson had vetted the project. That is all I needed to know. Lara and I were both sitting in front of microphones ready to do our first scene together when we whispered to each other: are we getting paid for this? I think we’d all like to see these audio stories become a big success and record more. I’m sure Dan would have got a kick out of hearing these stories . . . they really are good!
ZH: How did your publishing firm, Pomegranate Press come about?
KLS: I started publishing in 1986 when I wrote My Scrapbook Memories of Dark Shadows. Dear friends Joel Crothers and Grayson Hall died within months of each other and I was asked to write a magazine piece . . . . I just kept writing. I loved doing the book, and I really took to publishing. I named the company after the tree in our garden, and just kept signing up more authors, more books.
ZH: Tell us about “Murder in Primetime”, what’s it all about?
KLS: I’ve always wanted to write mysteries and was nearing the end of Murder in Prime Time when I realized how fun it would to introduce it at the 40th Anniversary of Dark Shadows Festival. I certainly did not want to publish another book about vampires . . . been there, done that . . . and I was sure the Dark Shadows fans would embrace something new. They’ve always been so supportive of all of us! SYNOPSIS: MURDER IN PRIME TIME - Actress Meg Harrison, best known as TV detective Jinx Fogarty, faces a real-life mystery over the disappearance of her newly-wed husband Paul. Fearing he's been kidnapped on a business trip, she's horrified to discover that Paul is a lifelong con artist with ties to the Mafia. Worse, he's bilked many of her well-heeled Hollywood friends and colleagues. They, along with the FBI and the media, suspect she was in on the scam. Destitute and heartbroken, her own life in jeopardy, she sets about tracking down her husband using her experience as the intrepid sleuth, Jinx but without the benefit of a legion of TV writers. Along the way, she unleashes a string of betrayals and at least one unexpected romance.
ZH: What future plans do you have?
KLS: This is a lovely time of life . . . . one begins to see how things turn out! I intend to keep writing and acting, but won’t take on any new publishing ventures. I’m already at work on my second Jinx Fogarty mystery, and have two non-fiction projects on my desktop. I drop everything when an acting job comes up, and then get back to my laptop. I’m also travelling quite a lot . . . Dublin, London, Prague and Paris this summer. China next year. Check my website for further news . . . and to order any of my books, including Murder in Prime Time and the Dark Shadows books. I’m always happy to sign books . . .
ZH: Kathryn Leigh Scott, thank you very much.
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