"Are You Afraid of the Dark?" was a long-running anthology TV series, similar to the "Twilight Zone, but geared toward 'tweens, which aired on YTV in Canada and Nickelodeon in the U.S. The show ran from 1991 until 2000, airing 91 bone-chilling episodes in all. The majority of the episodes' themes were of the horror/fantasy/supernatural bent, and they are now all available for free on You Tube.
"Are You Afraid of the Dark?" revolved around a group of young people who referred to themselves as "The Midnight Society." Every week, at a secluded location in the woods, one member of the group would tell a scary story to the members. The actual story, rather than the telling, was displayed to the television viewer. The story was shown between the group's arrival at the site and their departure. Each storyteller would begin their story by saying "Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story..." at which point he or she would toss a handful of "midnight dust" (in actuality, a non-dairy creamer) from a leather pouch into a campfire to heighten the flames and produce an eerie white smoke. Series creator D.J. MacHale wrote the line "submitted for the approval of" as a nod to the show "The Twilight Zone," in which creator Rod Serling would, after introducing the episode, say "submitted for your approval." The storyteller would continue by announcing its title (The Tale of...).
The series was also something of a starting ground for many famous actors of today. Ryan Gosling, Jay Baruchel, Neve Campbell, Elisha Cuthbert, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Melissa Joan Hart, Tia and Tamera Mowry, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Aaron Ashmore, Vanessa Lengies, Will Friedle, Rachel Blanchard, and Jewel Staite all cut their teeth in episodes of AYAOTD over the years.
On this spooky All Hallows' Eve, the de facto leader of the Midnight Society for five seasons, Gary (Canadian Meteorologist Ross Hull in real life), took a few moments to answer HNGN's questions about his life, growing up on the show, and just what he is up to these days as he is now fully embracing his roots a child star and Midnight Society member.
HNGN (Jerry Bonner): So why revisit your "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" character "Gary" now?
RH (Ross Hull): It just felt like the right time...I spent the last decade or so building a broadcasting/meteorology career but despite the fact that I had made a career shift, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" would still come up a lot. It was when I went to the launch party for Mathew Klickstein's "Slimed" in NYC that I realized there was still a real interest in the show and Gary's character.
HNGN: What was your favorite part of playing "Gary" as a kid?
RH: I think the concept of the Midnight Society was a really fascinating one... something about a bunch of kids getting together as part of a secret group to scare the bejesus out of each other had a definite magnetism to it. So, to be a part of that (even if I wasn't really a kid...I was in my late teens when we shot the series) was something special.
HNGN: Now that every episode of the show is up on YouTube do you think you'll get recognized more as "Gary?"
RH: I think what it has done is open up the show to a whole range of people that otherwise would have never known about it. I've met some fans who weren't even born when the show first aired but have gotten to know it through YouTube and Netflix.
HNGN: Gary had a great interest in magic in the show. Did you ever pick any of that up, or did it spark any interest of your own in magic?
RH: I've always had an interest in the "how" magicians do what they do but I'm not one of those people who's ever offered to do a magic tricks at a party.
HNGN: Your new project(s) on You Tube ("The Guy From That Show" videos) is that going to be a regular series, or just a sporadic "when you can make them" kind of thing?
RH: Initially, it was just a creative venture I embarked on with a good friend of mine, Adam Perry, who's been a key part of this project. But, after our first couple of releases we've gotten some great feedback, so we plan on releasing more content on a regular basis.
HNGN: Do you keep in touch with any of the old "Midnight Society" gang?
RH: There are a few cast members I keep in touch with. Raine Pare-Coull (Betty Ann) and I worked for the same broadcaster for a bit and we both live in Toronto so I see her the most often.
HNGN: What are some of your favorite episodes of the show?
RH: That's always hard to answer because I think there were a lot of really strong episodes. One that seems to stick out namely because of the clown theme is "The Tale of Laughing in the Dark."
HNGN: What triggered your interest in Meteorology and/or to become a Meteorologist?
RH: I always had a passion for broadcasting growing up, but acting kept me pretty busy. It's when I started working at The Weather Network here in Canada that my love for meteorology was ignited. Plus, I'm Canadian...how could I not be obsessed with the weather? It's a national pastime!
HNGN: Any funny/amusing/scary anecdotes to share from the making/shooting of the show itself?
RH: Gary's glasses didn't have lenses after the first season because of the reflection of the lights and the dust used to introduce the story was powdered coffee whitener. We also didn't shoot the campfire scenes in an actual forest...it was always a set.
HNGN: As an "out" gay man, what are some issues/causes/charities that are important to you?
RH: I try to support several charities some of them do help support the LBGTQ community. As for being "out," I think that's all a part of being comfortable with who you are and that ultimately helps you in all aspects of life. It's not always easy to get to that point though, which is why a supportive community always helps as well as knowing that others have taken that path (with success) before you.
HNGN: What advice would you have for kids who want to become actors or get into the arts? An extension of this question is how you yourself got into showbiz?
RH: My parents got me into acting when I was just a little kid...that led to commercials and eventually television shows like "Are You Afraid of the Dark?"
As for any advice I have for anyone looking to embark in a career as an actor/ artist, I think a key thing is not to let anyone (and I mean anyone) discourage you to pursue your dreams ...a big part of being successful for many is perseverance.