Barnabas Collins is the main protagonist of the series, novels and the film Dark Shadow. He's a 175-year-old vampire looking for his true love, Josette.
In the 1991 NBC cover version of Dark Shadows, British actor Ben Cross played the role of Barnabas Collins. Alec Newman played the role in the original 2004 pilot film. In the recent series of audio dramas produced by Big Finish Productions, he is described by Andrew Collins, while Frid returns to play the role one last time in The Night Whispers. The role is played by Johnny Depp in the film Dark Shadows by director Tim Burton in 2012.
Barnabas Collins was a member of the late 18th century Collins family, from the fictional town of Collinsport, Maine. He was the son of Joshua Collins (Louis Edmonds) and Naomi Collins (Joan Bennett). Barnabas' many cousins included Millicent and Daniel Collins. During the flashback, Barnabas intended to marry an heiress from Martinique named Josette du Pres (Kathryn Leigh Scott), but had a brief affair with Angelique Bouchard (Lara Parker), Josette's maidservant.
Upon Angelique's arrival in Collinsport for the wedding, Barnabas was determined not to resume his affair. The spurned Angelique Bouchard, a practitioner of witchcraft, used a number of spells to manipulate Barnabas and his family and force his agreement to marry her. Barnabas discovered Angelique's duplicity, and shot her. With what she believed to be her dying words, she took revenge on Barnabas by summoning a vampire bat from hell to attack him. Barnabas fell extremely ill and died. Angelique survived and attempted to rescind the curse, but was unsuccessful.
Barnabas shortly thereafter rose as a vampire, and soon strangled Angelique. Collins later frightened his aunt Abigail (Clarice Blackburn) to death, and left the hatefully fanatic witch-hunter Reverend Trask (Jerry Lacy) entombed alive in the Old House basement. Sarah Collins died of pneumonia after a cold night spent hiding in the woods from her deceased brother. Adding to Barnabas' grief, his mother Naomi committed suicide after discovering his secret. Barnabas Collins blamed Angelique for the deaths of both his sister and his mother, and also blamed Lt. Nathan Forbes (Joel Crothers), who had told Naomi about him. Barnabas strangled Forbes, and attempted to transform Josette into a vampire. Josette was willing, if not fully cognizant of what this would entail, until Angelique revealed a vision of what she would become. Fleeing from Barnabas, Josette leapt off the cliffs of Widow's Hill to her death.
Unable to bear what he had become, Barnabas Collins asked his father, Joshua, to destroy him. Joshua Collins was unable to slay his son, and ordered servant Ben Stokes (Thayer David) to nail a cross to the inside lid of Barnabas' coffin and to wrap chains on its outside, forever imprisoning the vampire in a secret room of the family mausoleum at Eagle's Hill Cemetery.
The return of Barnabas Collins
In 1967, while searching the Collins family crypt for their rumored lost jewels, Willie Loomis (John Karlen) stumbled upon the chained coffin in which Barnabas slept. Believing the coffin to contain the Collins family riches, Willie inadvertently released the vampire. Barnabas attacked Willie and turned him into his unwilling servant.
Barnabas Collins introduced himself to the modern Collins family as a cousin from England, a hard-working businessman never seen during the day. The family accepted this story, despite having never before heard of him, because of his resemblance to the portrait of the ancestral Barnabas which hung in Collinwood. The thirsty Barnabas made victims of several Collinsport residents. He was particularly taken with waitress Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott), who resembled his long-lost love, Josette. Barnabas was told by David Collins (David Henesy) that Josette's spirit still haunted the Collinwood estate, where it periodically helped and protected others, including young David. Barnabas Collins kidnapped Maggie, hypnotized her to believe that she was Josette, and planned to make her his vampire bride. Maggie escaped with help from the ghost of Sarah Collins, but the emotional distress of being kidnapped caused Maggie to regress to a childlike mentality and to forget all that had happened. Barnabas Collins then targeted David's governess, Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke) as a potential consort. He tried to seduce her away from her fiancé Burke Devlin (Anthony George), and then to bite her. The ghost of Sarah appeared repeatedly throughout and warned Barnabas, who was tormented by a feeling of responsibility for her death, away from evil deeds.
Maggie was sent to Wyndcliff Sanitarium, where Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) tried to get her to remember what happened and to identify her kidnapper. Dr. Hoffman found that the answer lay somewhere at Collinwood, and discovered who and what Barnabas was. Julia fell in love with Barnabas and attempted to cure him, and hypnotized Maggie to forget everything Barnabas had tried to do to her. Barnabas Collins initially distrusted Julia, and when her medical cure failed, viewed her as a risk who would be able to expose his true nature. He attempted to kill Julia, or to drive her mad so that no one would believe her accusations. Ultimately, Barnabas came to see Julia as a useful ally. The romantic relationship Julia desired never happened on-screen, but she became Barnabas' chief confidante and helped him many times, while Barnabas Collins became genuinely devoted to Julia and would go to extraordinary lengths to protect or rescue her when she ran afoul of enemies such as Angelique (eventually a firm friend), ghosts, and the ancient Leviathans.
In the 2012 film Dark Shadows, Barnabas is played by Johnny Depp as a somewhat-modernized version of the character from the original series. He has a deep obsession with Josette, has no forgiveness for those who betray him, and believes that his curse can be reversed. He shows deep emotions for his modern family members, whose lives he longs to be part of. He displays his television counterpart's powers and abilities, while subject to his cold vampire instincts. Barnabas tries to win the love of David's governess Maggie Evans, now called Victoria Winters, who reminds him of his lost beloved Josette. Depp's version is up to date with popular culture and has a strong taste for rock music. He wears a hair and clothing style similar to his late 1960s counterpart, but dresses more colorfully. His character is portrayed as somewhat more sexually active and eccentric than before. This incarnation has a different relationship with Dr. Hoffman, who never becomes his ally.