Humbert Allen Astredo, a stage actor who played opposite James Earl Jones, Frank Langella and Elizabeth Taylor but is best remembered by generations of scared kids as the evil, devil-bearded warlock of Dark Shadows, died February 19 at the age of 86. No cause of death was given in a paid death notice published today in the New York Times.
After performing for Joseph Papp’s free Shakespeare in the Park and in various Off-Broadway productions, Astredo joined Shadows in 1968 in his primary role Nicholas Blair, a demon-summoning warlock and foe of witch hunters. The role was at the center of a brief controversy in ’68 when real-life Christian groups protested a plotline in which Astredo’s character seemed to be gearing up for an encounter with Satan himself. The show’s writers — in what was either a real reaction or a publicity stunt — renamed the devil character Diablos and outfitted him in generic Grim Reaper garb.
Humbert served in the Korean War before studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, working in local L.A. theaters and establishing the classical theater company the Hollywood Center Theatre. He played Sergius in Shakespeare in the Park’s production of Shaw’s Arms And The Man. He also performed with James Earl Jones in Othello. After Shadows, he toured nationally with both Langella and Martin Landau in Dracula. On Broadway he performed in Gore Vidal’s An Evening With Richard Nixon, Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs and the world tour of Little Foxes with Elizabeth Taylor.
Before retiring to Connecticut in the 1980s, he appeared on soaps Another World, The Edge Of Night, For Richer, For Poorer, Guiding Light, Love Of Life, Loving, One Life To Live, Somerset and Texas. He was predeceased by his daughter Jennifer.