For those of you who don't know, Dark Shadows was a gothic soap opera in the late 1960s. It was heady if overblown stuff, centered around the ghosts and vampires and werewolves and such in Collinsport, Maine. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are supposed to be making a big screen version of the tale, which I regard as excellent news.
But the cast list is actually so large, and the story so convoluted I find myself wishing for a television adaptation. Being just a tiny bit of a perv, my preference would be for a cable series -- all that lovely sex and violence up front and out there for us to see.
And because I'm the sort to do this, here is my breakdown of who should play who...
To start with, Jonathan Rhys Myers (most recently of The Tudors) as the reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins. He is a fine actor, with plenty of dark charisma as well as sex appeal. One can pretty easily imagine him as a predator of beautiful women and trying to talk himself into justifying each act. Likewise, isn't it easy to imagine him in one of Barnabas' self-destructive rages, all stubborn and fatalistic?
And to be honest, I'm sad enough to have given this whole idea too much thought. In my Dark Shadows, Barnabas is already out of his chained prison, having escaped a generation earlier (with evidence of same found recently -- as in the broken coffin in the secret room and the mummified remains of Willie Loomis, his throat shredded) and now having returned to Collinwood...
Likewise my choice for Victoria Winters, the governess with the mysterious past, is Amber Benson (best known as Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Frankly, I think she should write for the show too -- she very multi-talented. In this scenario, the child who needs a private teacher is Daphne, Roger Collins' daughter with borderline autism and a tendency to "know" things others do not. Miss Winters is not the lookalike of Josette (which has become a cliche) and frankly probably has a dark side. Why not give her a juvie record? Yeah, and probably some disreputable friends who may eventually show up. It is she and Daphne who discover the Secret Room...
Roger Collins would be played by James Spader, late of Boston Legal but always in my mind the star of The Secretary. Borrowing a bit from the later seasons of the original series, let us put him in a wheelchair, still recovering from the terrible car accident that killed his wife Laura. He is the ne're do well of the Collins family, looking for some way to "make his mark" amidst the fact his sister really runs things. His motives are not simply vanity, but to personally insure the future of his daughter. Also, he is the one who chose Victoria Winters, and the reason why is one of many mysteries to explore.
Frankly one of the reasons for changing Roger's child from the budding sociopath David to the mildly autistic Daphne is to both justify a governess in this day and age, as well as making us more sympathetic. Plus that way she serves the plot more interestingly, and perhaps will remind Barnabas more obviously of his sister, Sarah. A resemblance there is more believable, given their relations, and frankly makes for a more interesting dynamic. As Daphne I would cast Ellen Page.
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is a major character, the true head of the Collins family. In the original series, she's a rather broken recluse. But isn't it more interesting if she has had to become the head of the family and become only-too-good at it? Enough to cause resentment, which has cost her emotionally? And maybe as our story begins, she's just beginning to come out of her shell following the desertion by her husband. Marcia Cross of Desperate Housewives is my casting choice for Liz. I would also have her, rather than Carolyn, ultimately become the devoted victim/servant of Barnabas.
Rachael Bella is who I would cast as Carolyn Stoddard. She's probably best known for a small but important part in the American remake of The Ring, as well as being Edward Furlong's ex-wife. Quite frankly, I'd like to see Carolyn as something other than a typical rebellious teen. Let us say that she was good friends with Roger's late wife, that she is someone deeply interested in unusual areas of knowledge. In other words, if there is anyone most likely to figure out something is very, very odd about Collinwood, it would be Carolyn.
I'd also frankly include Burke Devlin, played by Julian McMahon former of Charmed. He's a fine actor and would frankly make a fine foil for others, a businessman with a past interest in Collinsport and more than a passing interest in the Collins clan. I always liked the idea that he was a former suitor for Laura, and think it'd be cool if he felt protective of Daphne -- as well as intensely curious about the accident that claimed her mother's life. Besides, he could easily be a romantic interest for Vickoria, for Liz or for Carolyn.
Clearly, I'd like to see Dark Shadows re-imagined much as was Battlestar Galactica. And why not?