Interview - Joseph Caldwell

An Interview With: Joseph Caldwell

Initially, scripts for Strange Paradise were written by one writer - Ian Martin. Up until episode 45, Martin was the only writer employed on the series. However, once Maritn's involvement with the programe ended, Strange Paradise found itself enduring a period of uncertainty, with a succession of writers being brought in at short notice for short periods of time and asked to write scripts quickly just to keep the series going. New producer Bob Costello called for an almost complete reboot of the series, shifting the location off of the remote island of Maljardin and instead focusing on the town of Desmondton, ancestral home of the Desmonds and, more crucially, a much less remote locale were new characters could be introduced more easily.

To assist in developing the Desmond Hall storyline and moving Strange Paradise in a new direction, Costello brought in writer Cornelius Crane, who would be responsible for bulk of scripts during the second 13 weeks of Strange Paradise. In addition, he enslited the aid of two of his fellow Dark Shadows alumni - writers Ron Sproat and Joseph Caldwell, both of whom were instrumental in crafting some of Dark Shadows' most memorable storylines.

Both Sproat and Caldwell worked on scripts during the second and week of the Desmond Hall storyline (episodes 66-70). While Ron Sproat continued to write for the show through at least episode 76, Caldwell's tenure was much shorter. His only onscreen credit wasfor episode 69, which he co-wrote with Cornelius Crane. was fortunate to be able to speak with Mr. Caldwell about his brief experience writing for Strange Paradise: Obviously you are much better known to fans of gothis serials for your work on Dark Shadows, and in particular your role in crafting the character of Barnabas Collins. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Joe Caldwell:
(Initially) Dark Shadows struggled very precariously in the ratings and one day [Dark Shadows creator] Dan Curtis got us together in one of our weekly meetings and said “My kids want a vampire for the Summer”. Ron [Sproat] and I looked at each other and thought “this guy is crazy” – Dan wanted a lot of blood and gore, to scare the kids, but Ron and I wound up making him (Barnabas) a reluctant vampire.

SPN: A lot has been said over the years about why the character of Barnabas Collins became so successful. One aspect in particular that is often mentioned is the notion of a reluctant vampire. What is your opinion on the reclutant vampire characterization?

JC: He (Barnabas) became about reluctant sex. The kids didn’t realize this, but it really was about not being able to control oneself. At that time, it really was about compulsive sex. At times they would make Barnabas too much the straight man, and once the focus was back on him as the reluctant vampire, the ratings would go sky high.

Dan Curtis didn’t realize the romantic aspect of the Barnabas character. On House of Dark Shadows, I mentioned to Dan that Barnabas needed to be a reluctant vampire. Dan said no – we’ve done that. He didn’t want to do the overly romantic angle.

SPN: You took a break from Dark Shadows for a while. What made you leave?

JC: I just worked on DS and then left. I made the mistake of leaving to work on a documentary for NBC. Then I came back, but it was not the same. Later when I worked on the show I couldn’t remember who could or couldn’t be out at night, or out during the full moon, etc.

SPN: How did you get involved in working on Strange Paradise?

JC: I wound up getting the job because of my experience writing for Dark Shadows.Ron Sproat and I were hired at the same time and Ron stayed on.

SPN: What was your impression of the program?

My sense was that they were trying to replicate Dark Shadows. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a fresh approach to that kind of material.

SPN: A fresh approach? Can you elaborate on that?

JC: If we had had the equivalent of a Barnabas Collins character (on Strange Paradise) it would have been good. That type of material needs to be original.

SPN: What do you remember about your initial involvement with the program?

I spent one weekend in Ottawa talking with Bob Costello. They (the Strange Paradise people) put me up in a local hotel to go over the larger storyline and to set up specific plots. They did pay for my hotel stay, but not for my plane fare.
SPN: How long did you work on Strange Paradise?

I only wrote a couple of scripts and then I was fired.

SPN: Fired? Why?

JC: I guess that what I came up with was not what they wanted.

SPN: Do you remember any details about your time writing for the show?

JC: I remember having an argument with Bob Costello over blowing curtains. I said that we needed blowing curtains in a particular shot and Bob told me we couldn’t have them because they didn’t have the equipment to make blowing curtains!

SPN: How would you compare writing for Strange Paradise with writing for Dark Shadows? How you compare the level of involvement on the part of those putting the shows together?

There was not the same level of involvement in Strange Paradise. On Dark shadows, if there was a plot problem, the writers got together with Dan and hammered it out. Dan insisted that Dark Shadows get better until it was as interesting as you could get it.

SPN: You mentioned being fired from the show. What do you recall about that?

They just called me when a got home and said “you’re fired”! – I think it was Bob Costello who called. We got along just fine, so maybe I was too insistent on what I wanted [for the scripts]..

SPN: The script for episode 69, which you cowrote, is somewhat of an important one in terms of plot development, in that it establishes that the evil from Maljardin has followed Jean Paul and he has not escaped it. Do you recall anything specific about the script?

JC: I'm afraid I don't, but I'm happy to know that my brief time on Strange Paradise actually contributed something worthwhile!


SPN: What are you doing no? Are you still writing for TV?

JC: I'm no longer writing for TV. I stopped that long ago. I concentrate on writing books now. I just published “The Pig Did It” - part of a trilogy of books. Nowadays, when people ask me “do you write for soaps?” I say “not intentionally!"

SPN: Thank you very much for taking the time to share your memories of
Strange Paradise with us.

JC: You’re we1come!

Additional Photos from Episode 69


















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