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“What I’d like to do with him is maybe stretch him out a bit — in the extreme. Just ever-so-slightly take him a little further, beyond what may be considered… corny.”

Wait, corny?

That’s Johnny Depp talking about his upcoming role as centuries-old, lovelorn vampire Barnabas Collins in Tim Burton’s new take on Dark Shadows.

Remember Dark Shadows?

Maybe it was the original daytime version of the vampire saga. Maybe it was the early ‘90s prime-time reboot. Depp sure remembers it, and now that he’s about to begin work on the big-screen remake, he is reflecting on his boyhood days, running home to see the world’s most peculiar soap opera.

“Barnabas Collins… ” Depp says, wistfully speaking the name of his character. “I do remember, very vividly, practically sprinting home from school in the afternoon to see Jonathan Frid play Barnabas Collins. Even then, at that age, I knew — this has got to be weird.

The show ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971 with Canadian actor Frid in the lead role. Depp would have been between 3 and 8 years old when it aired. Dark Shadows was known for its cheap, campy effects, and bizarre, supernatural storylines – including ghosts, monsters, and other creatures of the night, beyond vampires — which set it far apart from its rival romance-based daytime dramas.

Then they rebooted it in the early ’90s featuring Ben Cross (and a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt), though that venture was far more short-lived than Barnabas, enduring only one season.

Depp says his inspiration comes from the original, which had a hand in warping his young mind. “I loved it. I loved the show,” he says. “This soap opera with gothic vampires. I knew, ‘This is not All My Children.’

He even intends to incorporate the show’s goofier aspects. “As naïve as the early, early episodes are, in his approach to Barnabas, Frid was such a striking presence, there’s definitely a sliver of him [in the new version.]” That’s when Depp says those immortal words: “What I’d like to do with him is maybe stretch him out a bit — in the extreme. Just ever so slightly take him a little further, beyond what may be considered … corny.”

Depp explains, laughing: “I’ve always sort of liked that. The idea that maybe you’ve got to go through bad acting to get to what may be really bad acting or — something interesting.”

Hey, it worked for Jack Sparrow, a performance the studio originally hated… until it started making them billions of dollars.

Dark Shadows starts shooting in London next month. It’s expected to hit theaters next year.

For more on Johnny Depp, check out this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands now. And for more movie news, follow Anthony Breznican on Twitter @Breznican

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