I just recently found out that James Hall, the first actor to play Willie Loomis on Dark Shadows, had attended the 50th anniversary Dark Shadows Festival in 2016, and he was also photographed alongside John Karlen -- the two Willies had at last finally met.
So, how about a Big Finish audio drama where you not only bring in James Hall, but also John Karlen? It could be a two-part audio drama called Two Shades of Darkness -- the title representing the two different personalities of Willie Loomis before and after his encounter with Barnabas Collins.
James Hall could play Willie in part 1, a sort of prequel where we get some life background on Willie and focus on the incident and circumstances that led him to travel into Collinsport with Jason McGuire. This Willie is the dangerous, impulsive, and menacing personality -- until, in search of the Collins family jewels, he opens the coffin of Barnabas Collins.
John Karlen takes over in part 2, where we find a different Willie, the other shade of darkness -- conscious-stricken, blood servant slave to a vampire, beholden to protect his master but hating himself for being unable to free himself from such an unwilling bond.
I would propose to play part 2, chronicling Barnabas' "arrival" in Collinsport, as originally intended -- where Dr. Woodard, as a Van Helsing type of character, hunts Barnabas down and destroys him, thus freeing Maggie and in the process also Willie. Yet, in the end, Willie tucks Barnabas' ashes away for safekeeping, to suggest to the listener that Barnabas may yet return, and that possibly Willie is not entirely free of the darkness that had enshrouded him.
A few differences from the 1967 Dark Shadows story: Things need not be precisely so linear -- why not bring along Professor Stokes? He would have the occult knowledge to aid Dr. Woodard's more straightforward scientific sensibilities. Also, Maggie Evans would be the governess at Collinwood that Barnabas sets his lovelorn eyes upon. Finally, it might be fun to turn Julia Hoffman into a vampire. As she is treating him and something goes wrong (out of jealousy), he retaliates by, rather than killing her, making her as he is and in the process restoring himself.
So, what do you think? Two Shades of Darkness, a 50th anniversary tribute to the arrival of Barnabas Collins, pivoting around the transformation of Willie Loomis who liberates Barnabas, but imprisons himself -- with the two original actors to portray Willie as a kind of "before and after" treatment.
Do you think this would make for a compelling two-part Big Finish audio drama?
As a short follow-up, first I hope you'll pardon such a public pitch relating to a prospective project, but your message wall here is the only way I can contact you. If I were to write this project as outlined above, do you think there is a chance it would be considered by Big Finish, or would you advise against it?
Oh, sorry, just seen this!! It would be a fun idea but unfortunately there's no plans at the moment to do any more of the Dramatic Readings - just the short story collections and the full cast series - so I'm not sure there'd be a place for it. Would be fab to get James Hall in an audio though!!