"The world has lost a true original," says Depp, who plays Barnabas Collins in the upcoming movie

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated April 19, 2012 02:40 PM
ABC/Getty; Warner Bros.

Before True Blood, TV’s best-loved vampire was mortal actor Jonathan Frid, who played bloodsucking Barnabas Collins on ABC’s afternoon drama Dark Shadows from 1966 to 1971.

In news made public Thursday, Frid died April 14 in Ontario, Canada, where he was born and lived. He was 87.

He died from complications of a fall, said one of his Dark Shadows castmates, Kathryn Leigh Scott, reports The New York Times.

Frid’s passing comes just as a new Tim Burton movie version of Dark Shadows is set to open in theaters May 11.

In a statement Thursday, Johnny Depp, who stars as Collins in the movie, said: “Jonathan Frid was the reason I used to run home from school to watch Dark Shadows. His elegance and grace was an inspiration then and will continue to remain one forever more. When I had the honor to finally meet him, as he so generously passed the torch of Barnabas to me, he was as elegant and magical as i had always imagined. My deepest condolences to his family and friends. The world has lost a true original.”

A graduate of the Yale School of Drama and London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Frid was a theater actor before appearing on Dark Shadows, which at its peak attracted 20 million viewers and generated 6,000 fan letters a week to Frid. After the show ended, he returned to the stage. He also reportedly makes a cameo in the Tim Burton movie.

In 1991, on the 20th anniversary of the TV show’s demise, Frid told PEOPLE: “I only did the part for some pocket money to go teach on the West Coast. And, of course, because I didn’t particularly want the job, I got it. An audition room full of cadaverous-looking creeps, and I must have really looked the part.”

He added, “I always thought I looked like this damn silly ass. I couldn’t believe people were ever really scared.”

With additional reporting by JULIE JORDAN