John Herbert “Jonathan” Frid (December 2, 1924 – April 14, 2012) was a Canadian theater, television, and film actor, known for having played the role of vampire Barnabas Collins on the gothic television soap opera Dark Shadows.
Frid was born of Scottish, English, German and Danish ancestry in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He was the youngest son of Isabella Flora (née McGregor) and Herbert Percival “H.P.” Frid, a construction executive. a construction company executive, and the former Isabella Flora McGregor, a homemaker.
He had two brothers, named Douglas and David (Kenneth), Ken followed their father into the construction business, while Douglas ran a ski lodge.
He served in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. He graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton in 1948, and the following year was accepted at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.
He moved to the United States in 1954, and received a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Directing from the Yale School of Drama in 1957.
As a student at Yale in 1956, Frid starred in the premiere of William Snyder’s play A True And Special Friend. He went on to star in the first productions at the Williamstown Theater in Williamstown, Massachusetts and stage productions in Canada, England and the United States.
He began using the stage name Jonathan Frid in 1962, and made his Broadway debut as an understudy in the 1964 play Roar Like a Dove.
Early television roles on the Canadian Broadcasting Company included parts in Julius Caesar, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Our Town, and The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Frid is widely known for the role of vampire Barnabas Collins on the original gothic cult television serial Dark Shadows, which ran from 1966-71.
He starred as Barnabas Collins in the 1970 movie House of Dark Shadows. In 1967, Frid had made plans to move to the U.S. West Coast to pursue a career as an acting teacher when he won the role that ultimately made him a household name. As Frid explained on his Web site, he had barely entered his apartment as the phone call from his agent came informing him that he had won the role of Barnabas Collins.
He agreed to accept it after being told it was a short-term one that would provide him with extra cash while he prepared to move. As the character’s popularity soared, Frid scrapped those plans.
After Dark Shadows ended in 1971, he returned to performing in live theater full-time with starring roles in the Broadway plays Murder in the Cathedral as Thomas Becket and Wait Until Dark as Harry Roat.
Frid had previously played the role of a psychiatrist on the CBS Television soap opera As the World Turns. In 1973, Frid appeared in the TV movie The Devil’s Daughter, starring Shelley Winters, and the following year starred in Oliver Stone’s directorial debut, Seizure. In 1978, he returned to Canada.
Frid began performing readings at Dark Shadows fan conventions in the 1980s, and while developing ideas for his one-man shows. He succeeded Abe Vigoda as Jonathan Brewster in the 1986-87 Broadway revival of Arsenic and Old Lace. In 1994, Frid retired and returned to Canada.
He continued to perform one-man shows for charities in both Canada and the United States. In 2000, he starred in the play Mass Appeal which enjoyed a successful, limited run in Hamilton and at the Stirling Festival Theatre in Stirling, Ontario.
Frid attended Dark Shadows conventions in New York in August 2007, Burbank, California, in July 2008, and Elizabeth, New Jersey, in August 2009. In 2010, he returned to the role of Barnabas for the first time in 39 years in a Dark Shadows audio drama, The Night Whispers.
Along with former Dark Shadows castmates Lara Parker, David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott, Frid spent three days at Pinewood Studios in June 2011 filming a cameo appearance as a guest in the ‘happening’ scene for the 2012 Tim Burton Dark Shadows film, which became his final film appearance.
Frid died at Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, of pneumonia and complications after a fall. While some sources at the time variously reported the date of his death as April 13 or April 14, Frid’s nephew, David Howitt, subsequently confirmed that Frid in fact died in the early hours of April 14, 2012. Howitt added that while Friday the 13th “makes for good press… it’s good to get it right.”