Monday, October 13, 2014

An Interview with Dark Shadows' Kathryn Leigh Scott--Actress, Author, and Publisher

Best known for her roles on the classic TV series Dark Shadows, Kathryn Leigh Scott continues to find success in both the entertainment and publishing industries. She has remained in demand as an actress since she made her television debut as Maggie Evans in Dark Shadows in 1966. Over the next five decades, she appeared in numerous films and TV series--to include the theatrical film House of Dark Shadows, acting opposite John Wayne in Brannigan, and making memorable guest appearances in TV shows such as DallasStar Trek: The Next Generation, and Police Squad. She continues to be in demand today with a recurring role as George Segal's girlfriend on the hit sitcom The Goldbergs. In 1986, in honor of the 20th anniversary of Dark Shadows, she wrote the book Dark Shadows Memories. Its success inspired her to launch Pomegranate Press that same year. Pomegranate Press has published books about Dark Shadows, other TV series (e.g., The Fugitive Recaptured), a biography of Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Coya Knutson, and Ms. Scott's 2011 novel Dark Passages

Café:  In 1965, after graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in New York City, you were acting on stage and working at a Playboy Bunny Club. How did you get the role of Maggie Evans on Dark Shadows 

Kathryn Leigh Scott: Richard Bauman, a theatrical agent who had seen me in an AADA production, sent me to audition for Dark Shadows. I was brought back several times to read for Dan Curtis and the director, Lela Swift...but it was while I was in Hollywood for a screen test that I got word I was wanted for a camera test in New York. I took a red-eye back, found the script on my doorstep and managed to get to the camera test by 9 A.M. I think by then I already had the role because I auditioned with several different actors up for the role of Burke Devlin, including the wonderful Mitch Ryan, who was cast. Afterward, we went to Joe Allen (a NYC restaurant) to celebrate with breakfast! 

Café: You appeared in the very first episode of Dark Shadows, but Barnabas isn't mentioned until the 202nd episode. Was it always Dan Curtis' intention to bring a vampire to Collinsport? 

Jonathan Frid and Kathryn Leigh Scott.
KLS:  We started out as a Gothic romance "bodice ripper" that was contemporary but had the feeling of Jane Eyre and quite a departure from the usual soap opera fare of the time. There were paranormal elements from the beginning because Dan Curtis conceived of the story in a dream he had about the ghost of a young girl inhabiting a country home. Our first "ghosts" were a sea captain and young Sarah, who later was identified as the sister of Barnabas. The story goes that our ratings were down and to avoid cancellation, Dan pulled out the stops by introducing a vampire...the rest is history. I worked the first day Jonathan appeared on set in his Barnabas regalia and I remember that as charming as he was the cast members all thought we were going from Chekov to Boris Karloff. But, believe me, Barnabas was entirely the inspiration of Jonathan Frid...his charisma made Barnabas Collins into an iconic character. 

Café:  During your five years on Dark Shadows, you played four roles: waitress and later governess Maggie Evans; Barnabas's lover Josette DuPres; Rachel Drummond, another governess; and Lady Kitty Hampshire. Which was your favorite role and why? 

KLS:  I'm drawn to Maggie Evans because there was so much of myself in the role. I drew on a Carl Sandburg poem that begins "Maggie beat her hands against the bars of a small Indiana town . .. " that I completely understood. I'd met Carl Sandburg when I was 16 and knew his poetry and that particular poem had such resonance. I had my own dreams and catapulted out of Robbinsdale, Minnesota for New York City. Maggie came from the wrong side of the tracks, raised by a dissolute artist...she grew up without a mother and ached to make something of herself. My favorite scene in Dark Shadows is my very first encounter with Barnabas Collins in the Collinsport Diner. It's such a defining scene: two outsiders drawn to each other, reaching out. If Maggie was looking for her knight in shining armor, she found him in a 200-year-old vampire! I think Dan Curtis saw that scene and created the relationship between Josette and Barnabas. Of course, I loved playing Josette...such a romantic, tragic character. I was newly out of drama school and there I was utilizing all I'd learned doing the classics. 

Café:  You seem to have kept in touch with several other Dark Shadows cast members (e.g., you've published several books written by Lara Parker). What was it like working with the other "residents" of Collinsport on the Dark Shadows set? 

KLS:  I love writing and have thoroughly enjoyed running Pomegranate Press. I've encouraged all my colleagues on Dark Shadows to write books and many have: Lara, David Selby, Chris Pennock, Marie Wallace, Sy Tomashoff, among others, and they've all found their own publishers. Needless to say, we're all still close friends. I see Lara, David, Jerry Lacy and many of the others when we record the Big Finish original dramas on CD and when we attend the annual festivals. We became a close-knit family working in our own little studio on West 54th Street, isolated from the other soaps...honestly, it felt like we were hanging out together in Collinsport! 

Café:  It's a tribute to the immense popularity of Dark Shadows that a big screen version (and a sequel) were made while it was still on the air. How did making the movie differ from doing the TV series? And given the TV series' tight production schedule, how was a movie made concurrently

With Frid on the set of House
of Dark Shadows
KLS:  Filming House of Dark Shadows on location while continuing to tape the series in New York City was a logistical nightmare. Jonathan and I were put on hiatus from the series because we were required on set almost every day, but several of the other actors were doing both. For Joan Bennett, a legendary Hollywood movie star, and Grayson Hall, an Academy Award nominee, filming a feature version of Dark Shadows was an easy transition, but for me and the other younger actors, it was a new process, a different sort of intimacy with the big screen. We were accustomed to doing a “live” show with one take, mistakes and all...learning to do a master shot and closeups with a lot of time in between for setups took some getting used to. You have to remember that when we did the series live, it never occurred to us that anyone would see an episode a second time. All of it was new to me. In fact, I didn't realize until I watched the film many years later that I had a starring role in it! 

Café:  It sounds like writing has always been a part of your life. What inspired you to start a dual professional career as an author with Dark Shadows Memories

KLS:  Sixteen is a magical certainly was a huge transitional time for me. At sixteen, I met and interviewed Carl Sandburg and I wrote a newspaper article that won a state journalism award. In that same year, I won a state drama award and it made me realize that acting and writing were twin pursuits that complemented each other in my life. I then applied to a Northwestern University summer program in both journalism and drama and got a scholarship to their drama program, which really opened me up to the possibilities of pursuing both. I later got a drama scholarship to the American Academy in New York, which meant acting was the dominant career path for a while...but throughout my life I've pursued both. I also love business and launched Pomegranate Press, a book publishing company, 29 years ago that specializes in nonfiction entertainment subjects, a perfect blending of both writing and acting. 

Café:  How did you go from author to publisher when you co-founded Pomegranate Press? 

KLS:  I was asked to do a magazine article on Joel Crothers, who had played my boyfriend, Joe Haskell, on Dark Shadows. He was a dear friend and his death in 1985 was a profound shock. I wrote the article, reminiscing about our days on the series, and then just kept on writing until I realized I’d written a behind-the-scenes book about Dark Shadows, the show kids “ran home from school to watch.” Ben Martin, a Time magazine photographer I’d dated while doing the show, had become my husband and we had stacks of photos he’d taken on the set that had never been published...a gold mine! Rather than send my manuscript off to a New York book publisher, I decided to start my own company. My Scrapbook Memories of Dark Shadows sold 35,000 copies in both hardcover and tradepaper, earning enough for me to publish four books the following year, including a coffee table book and a Hollywood guide book. Pomegranate Press was launched. Today, my entire backlist is available as ebooks and everything is available on Amazon. All are also available on my website: 

Café:  As a publisher, what do you look for when you decide to publish a book? 

KLS:  Books become children that you conceive, nurture and watch grow to adulthood...yes, a long process! To carry the analogy further, you do not want to get into bed with just anyone without considering the consequences! If I like a manuscript but it doesn't suit my catalog, I've often helped an author find another publisher. But if I do take a book on, I want to work with an author who is cooperative and wants to be part of the process from editing through marketing. I certainly wouldn't want an adversarial book is worth the trouble and I like working closely and collaboratively with my authors. Frankly, I publish what I want to read. 

Café:  In your book The Bunny Years, you interviewed over 250 women who worked at Playboy Bunny Clubs, to include Lauren Hutton and Deborah Harry. Did the majority of your ex-colleagues feel it was a positive or negative experience? And if you could go back in time, would you work there again? 

KLS:  The joy of writing The Bunny Years was re-connecting with the amazing women I worked with at the New York Playboy Club when I was a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I was in Bunny Training with Gloria Steinem, who wrote about me in her magazine article, a negative, misrepresentative piece compared to my own experiences and those of the other young women working at the club at the time. My book was a direct response to her article. I wanted to give voice to the many women who worked as Bunnies during the 25-year history of the Clubs. Read the book, which was also the basis for the A&E documentary The Bunny Years, and make up your own mind.  Lauren Hutton and I were hired as Bunnies at the same time...and Susan Sullivan and I became lifelong best friends after working as Bunnies. For me, it was a wholly great experience and I would do it again were I to go back to that wonderful period of time. 

Café:  You've hinted that you're working on a sequel to your 2013 novel Down and Out in Beverly Heels. You continue to appear at conventions and we assume you'll be back on The Goldbergs this season. That's a packed schedule! Are there any events or projects you'd like to highlight for Cafe readers? 

KLS:  I adore working with George Segal, playing his girlfriend Miriam on The Goldbergs and hope I’ll be invited back again and again. I've also completed Take Two, the sequel to Down and Out in Beverly Heels, and Last Dance at the Savoy: A Caregivers Journey, a memoir about my husband’s long bout with PSP, a neurological disease that claimed his life in 2011. I’m also completing another novel, May to September. I hope to keep doing what I’ve always done: writing and acting. I’m thrilled that I will be joining my other Dark Shadows castmates on a January 2015 cruise (January 10-17) in the Caribbean . . . please come along! Call (800) 828-4813 to book the cruise. Lara Parker and I will be visiting Martinique, the birthplaces of Josette and Angelique!

You can learn more about Kathryn Leigh Scott on her website: You can also follow her on Twitter as @kathleighscott.


  1. Thanks for this fascinating, informative interview with a fine actress. I was an avid viewer of DS back in the day, along with my mother, who bought and read every DS paperback tie-in.

  2. Have always been a huge DS fan. Kathryn always struck me as a smart cookie. Her success in other fields is not surprising.

  3. Rick, I was one of those kids who hurried home from school to see "Dark Shadows" and when my dad would get home from work he would ask us how things were with Barnabus that day! When I studied television production I was frankly amazed at the complexities of filming using a single take. It is amazing how talented Kathryn Leigh Scott and her co stars had to be to successfully do this, day in and day out!

    I really enjoyed reading about Miss Scott's writing and publishing pursuits as well. Congratulations to her on all of her success and a heartfelt thank you to her for sharing her encouraging story with everyone at the Cafe!