Elvis Presley, James Dean, Robert Pattinson, George Clooney, Leonardo di Caprio, Brad Pitt… all teenagers dream of talented and handsome actors, and as a young girl I was no different. There were many actors I admired whom I had seen on television and at the movies, but my favourite for a long time was David Selby. His dark hair and piercing, intense gaze made me melt – and a young David Selby is much how I imagine Rafe in Burning Embers to be.
When I was in my early teens, my mother had a black-and-white television in her room, and I would be allowed to watch drama series along with her and my sister. I first discovered David when he starred in the television series Dark Shadows, which was a wonderfully theatrical soap opera that was dark and dramatic. It was groundbreaking at the time because it explored paranormal themes like ghosts and werewolves and witches and time travel – deliciously thrilling to me as a teen. The series has become something of a cult sensation now, and a film version by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp opens this week. I don’t think I shall go to see it, though; it was always David Selby, not the spooky goings-on, that drew me in.
Years later, in the 1980s, David took a role in the soap opera Falcon Crest and I was delighted to be able to watch him on screen again. His character, Richard Channing, was set up as a villain, and David played him superbly. Over time, it became hard to dismiss the character as a ‘baddie’ because the depth of the acting meant you developed empathy with Richard.
Today, David Selby is in his seventies, but he remains a well-respected actor; indeed, in 2010 he was even asked to play Abraham Lincoln at the historic reopening of the Ford Theatre with the president of the United States, Barack Obama. With the new Tim Burton film release, interest in David Selby is bound to be renewed; and if you’re interested in Dark Shadows and its cast, I highly recommend Selby’s book My Shadowed Past, published in 2010.