Following an evening of light and funny entertainments like “The Secret World of Alex Mack,” “Roundhouse,” and “Ren and Stimpy,” Nickelodeon’s teen-and-tween-oriented Saturday night lineup — or “SNICK,” as it was known in cool portmanteau — the evening came to a frightening climax with “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”
Like the classic literary compendium “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” told in anthology format, a la “The Twilight Zone” or “Black Mirror,” each episode began with the kids of the Midnight Society gathering around the perfect place to tell spooky tales — a campfire in the dead of night — and share the most spine-chilling stories that a basic cable network for kids would allow. The dramatized story was self-contained, with the Midnight Society of kid actors as the uniting thread from week to week, throughout the ’90s. For many young Nickelodeon actors, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” was their entry into show business; for others, their curtain call.
Submitted for the approval of the now much older actors who portrayed members of the Midnight Society, and a handful of performers who played some recurring villains, here’s what became of the cast of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” after the fire went out and all the scary stories were told.
Ross Hull led the AYAOTD storytelling, now he forecasts weather
Gary was the guiding force behind the Midnight Society, the one who convinced a bunch of kids to join him at a fire for the regular telling of frightening stories. It’s in his blood — Gary’s grandfather started up the original incarnation of the Midnight Society more than 50 years prior, and Gary’s father ran a magic shop, the jumping off point for many “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” episodes about cursed or enchanted objects.
After five seasons of bespectacled Midnight Society leadership and atmospheric dust handling, Gary passed on control of the group to his brother, Tucker — and Ross Hull moved on from “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” to another Canada-produced TV series for young people, playing high school student Chris Sheppard on “Student Bodies.” After nabbing small roles on sci-fi shows “Mutant X” and “Stargate: Atlantis” in the 2000s, Hull moved away from acting.
In 2004, he embarked on a career as a TV meteorologist, forecasting the weather and broadcasting his findings in Canada on The Weather Network, CTV, CBC News Network, and finally on Global News. “‘Dark?’ paved the way for me to continue not only in acting but my transition into journalism and meteorology,” Hull, who ran a YouTube channel called “Guy From That Show,” told The Globe and Mail in 2015. He has also since come out as gay, and said of being “out” to HNGN, “I think that’s all a part of being comfortable with who you are and that ultimately helps you in all aspects of life.”
Daniel DeSanto graduated from the Midnight Society to the PAW Patrol
Tucker was only part of the Midnight Society because his mother forced her older son, Gary, to bring him along to his late-night spooky storytelling showdowns. It was either fill the void left when Kristen and David departed, or shut the whole thing down entirely. Between his penchant for dumb pranks and exposing Gary’s secret crush on Sam, Tucker proved to be the quintessential annoying little brother.
When his time playing second-fiddle Midnight Society leader Tucker on two iterations of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” came to an end in 2000, Daniel DeSanto embarked on a prolific acting career, landing guest-role gigs on a number of major and internationally popular Canadian TV shows, including “Being Erica,” “Schitt’s Creek,” and “Private Eyes.” He’s additionally an in-demand voice actor, portraying Dave in the “Total Drama” franchise and Daring Danny X on “PAW Patrol.”
DeSanto also went on to major in film studies at Toronto’s Ryerson University. Noting that former Nickelodeon castmate Ross Hull “was and still is a good friend of mine” to College Humor back in 2007, DeSanto also revealed that he’s “really fascinated with the filmmaking process.” This explains his turn as a producer on 2018’s TV show, “Wholesome Foods I Love You… Is That OK?” But apart from his work as Tucker, DeSanto likely remains best known for his role in “Mean Girls” as Jason, the boyfriend of Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert) who introduces Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) to the cruelties of high school with an off-color question about buttered muffins.
Joanna Garcia Swisher was Sam on Snick, and now she's a sweet magnolia
Pretty much all of the teen guys in the Midnight Society developed a crush on Sam at some point, and that became her defining characteristic — the archetypal dream girl. She joined the creepy collective at the urging of her friend, Betty Ann, to tell stories usually set long ago, centered on women, and which involved the dead rising up in some manner. She at least gets a happily ever after, coupling up with Midnight Society leader Gary.
Following her time as Sam on the scariest show ever produced for an audience of children, Joanna Garcia (now Joanna Garcia Swisher after her 2010 wedding to baseball star Nick Swisher), became a superstar of lighthearted and fluffy comfort TV. This Reba McEntire lookalike played the country star’s daughter over six seasons of the sitcom, “Reba,” and starred on the short-lived comedies, “Privileged,” “Animal Practice,” “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World,” and “Better With You,” as well as putting in time on “The Astronaut Wives Club,” “Royal Pains,” and “Once Upon a Time” (she portrayed Ariel, the Little Mermaid).
As of 2021, Garcia Swisher — who’s also a mom to two daughters and boasts an impressed $8 million net worth — is headlining the smash hit Netflix friendship drama, “Sweet Magnolias.”
Rachel Blanchard went from Are You Afraid of the Dark? to Clueless
Easily frightened, freaked out, or sickened, it’s a wonder why Kristen would ever join a secret club whose entire purpose is for its members to scare each other, but she was an original part of the Midnight Society, nevertheless. (That is, until her character disappeared three seasons into “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” because her family moved out of town.) During her brief time with the campfire crew, Kristen took her time as a storyteller seriously, bringing props or costumes to make her tales all the more visceral.
Finding fame and success with her role as Kristen, Rachel Blanchard went on to play a number of similarly charming and bubbly young women in movies and TV shows throughout the 1990s and beyond. When “Clueless” became a sitcom in 1996, Blanchard took over the role of Cher Horowitz from Alicia Silverstone and made it her own for three seasons. She also co-starred on “7th Heaven” for two years as Roxanne Richardson and landed big roles in early 2000s broad comedies like “Sugar and Spice” and “Road Trip,” before joining the cast of the cult hit British comedy, “Peep Show.”
On the personal side of things, Blanchard is married to composer-cellist Jeremy Turner, with whom she shares a daughter, Maxine.
Elisha Cuthbert found a happy ending after leaving AYAOTD behind
Megan was the local rich kid on “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” and as such, felt herself to be a bit above the trappings of the Midnight Society. Why go to some well-worn spot in the woods, she reasoned, when she could just have everybody over to her fancy house and fancy yard for a fire there? As a result, it’s Megan who introduced furniture to the Midnight Society, bringing in a couch and a chair to make her friends more physically comfortable for when she told them her haunted fairy tales and unsettling fables.
Fresh off her 1996 to 2000 stint as Megan on “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” Elisha Cuthbert moved from Canada to the United States and became the show’s biggest breakout success, emerging as a “Maxim”-covering sex symbol and mid-2000s star. For the better part of a decade, she played the often-in-danger Kim Bauer on Fox’s Emmy-winning terrorist thriller, “24,” which led to memorable appearances in era comedies like “Old School,” “Love Actually,” and “The Girl Next Door.” Cuthbert then starred in the ABC sitcom, “Happy Endings,” and the Netflix comedy, “The Ranch.”
In addition to her acting career, Cuthbert also settled down with her husband, Canadian hockey player Dion Phaneuf, in 2013. Four years later, the couple welcomed their first child, daughter Zaphire. Reminiscing about her time with the popular Nickelodeon series in 2015, Cuthbert told The Globe and Mail, “It was like an actors’ camp for kids.”
Vanessa Lengies isn't afraid of the dark or a Turner and Hooch remake
Vange (that’s short for Evangeline) popped up toward the end of the ’90s run of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” as a member of the so-called New Midnight Society, and was the youngest of the bunch. Already best friends with Quinn, she liked to tease fellow storyteller Andy and regale the other kids with scary stories of objects seemingly imbued with sentience that terrorize humans, like “The Tale of the Zombie Dice” and “The Tale of the Virtual Pets.”
A few years after her short stint as Vange on the short-lived second version of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” Vanessa Lengies grew almost omnipresent in movies and TV shows for teens and young adults. On NBC’s 2002-2005 ’60s-set period drama, “American Dreams,” she played rebellious teen (and best friend to the main character) Roxanne Bojarski and then starred in the 2006 gymnastics movie, “Stick It.” Lengies also portrayed hostess Natasha in “Waiting…” and its direct-to-video sequel, “Still Waiting…”, before joining “Glee” in its later seasons as spoiled troublemaker Sugar Motta. But the actor wanted more and didn’t stay on the musical high school series for very long, telling TV Guide (via Digital Spy) in 2013, “I loved getting to be there and dancing around, but I didn’t really have much of an opportunity to act.”
Luckily, that opportunity came in 2020, when it was announced that Lengies, who previously came out as bisexual and genderfluid, would co-star in a Disney+ series adaptation of the 1989 movie, “Turner and Hooch.”
Whatever happened to the man behind Are You Afraid of the Dark's own Sardo?
The stories told on “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” were almost always standalone, self-contained tales with little connection between them. That’s how viewers knew Sardo (pronounced “sar-DO!” to the character’s liking, and no “Mister” beforehand) was a complicated man. He appeared in eight episodes between 1992 and 2000 (and one more in the 2021 reboot) in stories told by Gary and his brother, Tucker, as a magician and proprietor of a seemingly wicked magic store called Sardo’s Magic Mansion, where doomed boys and girls acquired the items that would take them on a creepy journey and seal their fate.
The man behind Sardo hasn’t appeared on camera apart from “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” in the last 20 years, but he’s one of the hardest-working voice talents out there. The versatile vocals of Richard M. Dumont can be heard in entries in popular video game franchises such as “Prince of Persia,” “Splinter Cell,” and “Assassin’s Creed,” as well as in animated TV shows and English dubs of French-language Canadian programs. Dumont was also the official voice in the ad campaigns of many major companies, including Air Canada, Chrysler, Cirque Du Soleil, Fidelity Investments, Sony, and Volkswagen.
Describing Sardo’s so-called “quasi accent,” which the actor developed during his audition, as “not too British, maybe kind of Connecticut-y, kind of mid-Atlantic,” Dumont told the “We’re Not Afraid of the Dark” podcast in 2020, “I was just so blessed to be able to get that role of Sardo.”
The late Aron Tager played two classic AYAOTD villains
Tapping into and perhaps perpetuating the common and overwhelming fear of clowns, Zeebo is probably the most memorable villain in all of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” history. He’s the central bad guy in just one episode, “The Tale of Laughing in the Dark,” but his menace is so legendary that he’s mentioned in multiple stories. Not only is he a typical clown, with the overdone makeup and maniacal laugh, but he’s also a thief and a ghost. The only other baddie on “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” with the stature and familiarity of Zeebo is Dr. Vink, a mad scientist, loopy wizard, or any other crazed figure that the story needed him to be.
Amazingly, Zeebo and Dr. Vink were played by the same actor: Aron Tager. Tager was in so many memorable and beloved projects — chief among them “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” — that he was the subject of the 2013 documentary, “Tager.” His voice was all over cartoon series like “The Busy World of Richard Scarry,” “The Adventures of Sam & Max: Freelance Police,” and “Donkey Kong Country,” and he appeared in numerous made-for-TV movies and miniseries, notably “Life with Judy: Me and My Shadows,” the Emmy-winning Judy Garland biopic, in which Tager portrayed classic Hollywood showman George Jessel.
In 2018, Tager took on a recurring role on the CBC Comedy series, “My 90-Year-Old Roommate,” which would be his last performance: In March 2019, he died at age 84.
Jacob Tierney is responsible for a Canadian cultural phenomenon
Eric appeared in only the first season of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” — and, not unlike the kid subject of an “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” story, he mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen, heard from, or even mentioned ever again. It was the early ’90s, and Eric was very much a character of that era, Bart Simpson-like with his constant cutting remarks and smarmy, bad boy attitude that wore thin on the other members of the Midnight Society.
Jacob Tierney ceased portraying the mischievous and above-it-all Eric in 1992, but he kept acting for a while, starring as Josh in the 1993 road trip movie, “Josh and S.A.M.” and voicing characters on cartoon shows like “The Little Lulu Show” and “Arthur,” before moving behind the camera. He wrote and directed three movies in the 2000s — “Twist,” “The Trotsky,” and “Good Neighbours” — before teaming up with actor-writer Jared Keeso to co-create the verbally dexterous rural comedy, “Letterkenny.” Tierney has directed most episodes of the show, too, as well as making an occasional appearance as Glen, a slimy minister. He has won six Canadian Screen Awards for the series, a massive hit on Canadian television.
With the show often celebrated for its portrayal of multiple characters who fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, Tierney himself has long been openly gay.
It was a short leap from telling stories to making movies for Jason Alisharan
As one of the core original members of the Midnight Society in the first seasons of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” Frank brought a lot of tension to the campfire. Not only did he serve as the third point in a potential love triangle with the show’s one-true-couple, Gary and Sam, but the jock-ish Frank also just plain didn’t get along with Tucker or Eric. He certainly left his mark on the series, however, utilizing Dr. Vink as his stories’ villain on numerous occasions.
Apart from playing Frank on “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” for five years, Jason Alisharan didn’t act much, before or after. After landing a supporting role as Scott in the 1996 made-for-TV sports movie, “The Halfback of Notre Dame,” and nabbing a guest appearance in 1998 on the teen sitcom, “Breaker High,” Alisharan was out of the performance game. He’d rather make things than be in them, and as such, became a creative executive at Fade to Black Productions, where he served as a producer and script developer on “A Single Man,” the deeply sad 2009 film about a professor mourning the death of his lover that resulted in an Oscar nomination for star Colin Firth. Alisharan went on to start his own production company, JA Films.
Additionally, he graduated from Stanford University twice, earning a bachelor’s degree in communication, and a master’s degree in sociology. On the personal side of things, Alisharan is married to Drea Silva, a Human Resources professional in the packaged foods industry.
Jodie Resther is a major voice-over talent
Kiki brought both an edge and female-centric storytelling to the often male-dominated Midnight Society during the early seasons of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” The character was prickly and openly hostile toward the character of Stig, but loved telling stories about women, people of color, and athletes.
Jodie Resther’s best-known acting role is that of Kiki on “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” — a character who transfixes others with her stories. That’s a path Resther has taken in her post-Nickelodeon life, building a busy professional career around her expressive voice. Since the mid-1990s, right around the time her gig on “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” ended, Resther has portrayed Francine Frensky on PBS’ long-running “Arthur.” She had also done voice work on “Winx Club,” “Vampire High,” and in the video game, “Deus Ex: Human Revolution.” Resther is also a musician, releasing the 2006 French-language album, “Ma Dualite,” as well as a mother, having welcomed two kids with husband Zacharie Raymond in the 2010s.
Still, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” remains a career highlight. “It was so magical, such an amazing time, such an amazing experience from beginning to end, really,” Resther told “MediaMikesPresents” in 2020.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? alum Raine Pare-Coull now works behind the scenes
A charter member of the Midnight Society and a presence through the entire original run of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” Betty Ann was one of the show’s most prominent storytellers, likely due to her vast knowledge of and fascination with the unexplained and the supernatural. Betty Ann introduced Zeebo to the “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” canon, and when the stories had a vague ending — or one in which the death or defeat of the protagonist was strongly implied — it was likely one of hers.
After her dynamic, 65-episode stint as storyteller Betty Ann on “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” finished up in 1996, actor Raine Pare-Coull almost entirely retired from acting. Her post-Snick performance resume includes just two entries: an episode of the 1997 Disney Channel kid-com, “Flash Forward,” and an installment of the 2006 Canadian comedy showcase, “The Morgan Waters Show.” She didn’t leave show business entirely behind, however, serving on the post-production audio teams for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and HBO’s “Chernobyl” miniseries.
With a low-key presence on social media, Pare-Coull largely lives her life out of the former child star spotlight, but ultimately signed up with the CBC, Canada’s state television network, where she works in scheduling.
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