Where were you the first time you were traumatized by an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? The show that made us scared of clowns that had no nose and rickety boats floating in the shadows? The show that made damn sure I stayed away from pools, libraries, hospitals, comic books, graveyards, doll houses, and just about any other object or place? It also made me incredibly wary of a guy with a questionable hairdo named Sardo (accent on the ‘do!).
Once the trauma and fear subsides, what you probably remember most is Gary, the leader of the Midnight Society. Ross Hull began playing the memorable role over 20 years ago. Now a successful meteorologist in Canada, Ross is returning briefly to his Nickelodeon roots. It all started with “Slimed: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age“, featuring interviews and thoughts from over 200 of the creative forces that helped shape a network.
Ross Hull recently filmed a documentary to explore why Are You Afraid of the Dark? left such an impression on fans. We had the opportunity to chat with Ross about his documentary, his experiences leading up to the Slimed! launch event in New York City, and what else the fans can expect from him in the future.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Ross Hull below:
So, I loved your documentary. I think I watched it about 6 times. And I’m not just saying that because we’re in it.[laughs] That’s good to hear. That means a lot actually. It’s cool that people are enjoying it.
What inspired you to make this documentary?
It basically happened when Mathew Klickstein called to interview me for his book. I did the interview a couple of years ago and he seemed to know a lot about the show. I wasn’t expecting the in depth questions that he asked me. It was obvious he had done some research. It was the first sign that people really take ownership of these shows. They’re very passionate about them. He asked me to come to the launch party and a friend of mine and I decided to explore Are You Afraid of the Dark and my television past. Right now, I’m not really involved with acting, I’m a meteorologist. It feels like a different time for me. We brought a camera and a loud mic and this thing kind of evolved. People recognize me here for Are You Afraid of the Dark and Student Bodies but I didn’t really know…I had been to the US before for events and stuff but I was really surprised by the amount of people that were there and the amount of passion that they had for these shows.
You seem very humble. That was the one thing I found odd in the documentary, how you genuinely didn’t seem to believe that all of these people still cared about you and the show so much. Were you truly unaware that people were still touched and affected by you and how you had such an impact on their lives?
I guess, maybe subconsciously I was. It really reminded me of that. Because I started a second career in weather, maybe I tried to put that part of my career behind me. Not that I was embarrassed by it, it was just a different part of my life. It feels like a really long time ago. Going to an event like that and meeting people face to face who are still fans of the show and are affected by the show brought it back to the present for me. I was touched by it. I don’t think anyone can ever have a negative reaction to that. There are worse things that can happen in life, right? If I had that positive impact in some way, that’s a good thing.
Billy West says in the documentary that he believes these shows inspired people to pursue certain things in life. What’s it like still being such an influence and inspiration for people who grew up with you and are now adults themselves?
I guess it just makes me realize that you can see the transformation of television and the experience of television back in the 90s when Are You Afraid of The Dark was on. It was a different time for many reasons and I guess television was a different entity then too. It just reminds you of that part of time and also it reminds you of all these things coming together with a talented guy like DJ Mchale. That show could have been shot in the US but me being there in Montreal and doing the pilot and DJ believing in me enough to bring me back for the series…all of those things coming together and the show being a success, that doesn’t happen with every show with people being able to connect with it. I guess how I feel about it is appreciation that I was able to experience that.
Were there any challenges that you faced while filming or anything you wanted to include but couldn’t?
Hmmm. Any production is gonna have its challenges. I was 16, 17, 18, and maybe 19 when the show ended. You’re with other young people and you’re working long hours — sometimes we’d have to shoot overnight. Those types of things are not a huge challenge, it’s just stuff that’s part of production.
As to things I would have liked to change, I’m a perfectionist. I don’t like watching myself so obviously there’s something I’d like to change in anything that I do. But you learn to accept your work and learn from whatever you think you should have done and apply it to something in the future.
How did you originally get into acting and eventually get involved with the show?
I was a child model. I know that’s hard to believe.
Oh, please![laughs] My mom got me into that and that sort of turned into auditioning for commercials and eventually roles like Are You Afraid of the Dark. I think the good thing about starting in Montreal was that it was a relatively new industry there. There wasn’t as much competition like New York or LA. I was able to quickly get access to some interesting stuff with being at the right place at the right time. I was fortunate enough to do shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark and Student Bodies. I was lucky enough to get on some shows that went pretty long.
How was the experience working with the cast and crew? Do you keep in touch?
Yeah, I don’t talk to them every day but I still keep in touch with Daniel DeSanto. Rachel Blanchard and I actually worked on some stuff afterward but I haven’t talked to her in a while. With DJ and this whole thing with Mathew Klickstein’s book, I talk to him on Facebook sometimes. It was an amazing experience. Are You Afraid of the Dark was my first big role. I owe a lot to DJ. He made me feel very confident about what I was doing. He had a lot of responsibility and he offered the right amount of feedback. He always made you feel like he had time for you. That was a really good quality of his. If you had a question, he always took the time. That paid off in terms of the cast feeling comfortable.
How did that transition from acting to the weather occur?[laughs] I always had a passion for news and broadcasting. I used to always bother my family with fake news reports and interview my family. In my mid-20s, I had been working pretty consistently as an actor but I hadn’t been to university yet. I went to Ryerson University, which is pretty well known for its production and media courses. In my last year, I got a job at the weather network here in Canada and that sort of exposed me to the world of weather and then I wanted to learn more about weather. So I pursued a diploma in meteorology and becoming a meteorologist. What I like about weather, there’s a science behind it and I’m fascinated by trying to explain the difficult concepts and making it simpler. You can also have fun as a weather person.
How did you get involved with last year’s Slimed event in New York City?
Mathew called me and said the book was written and there was a launch party and we’d like you to be there. It just so happened to work with my schedule. I had some hesitation. I wasn’t sure what it would be like or how many people would be there. It did feel like such a long time ago but it’s one of those things that I have no regrets. I’m glad that I went and got to be a part of that.
How was it reuniting with some of your Nickelodeon peers? Was there anyone you were excited to see?
What I found interesting was the Canadian connection to a lot of the shows. Like ‘You Can’t Do That On Television’. I remember growing up watching that show and learning about the fact that it was just shot in Canada, I didn’t know that. Learning about all these shows, it brought to the forefront that moment of “Wow, television has really changed and that was a really special time.” It allows you to reflect on things and maybe looking forward, allows you to maybe put some of that energy into something creative.
Everyone asks about fun moments on Are You Afraid of the Dark but were there any fun moments behind the scenes at the event? All those people in one room with booze…[laughs] I don’t know. I can’t really think of any fun moments. I guess for me, when I walked in there, I didn’t think anyone would really recognize me.
You were like, the most recognizable, I think. You were the one we all saw from across the room and were like “Gary!”[laughs] That was kind of a funny moment for my friend Adam and I. He had his camera and almost instantly, we walked in and people did recognize me. It was kind of funny. It was an interesting night just hanging out with the actors behind the scenes, when we were waiting to go on stage. We kind of understood each other without having met before. We’d been through some of the same experiences. It was interesting.
That event and the recent nostalgia wave with TeenNick and Nickreboot kind of opened all these new doors for you guys and gave you an even bigger platform to interact with your fans. Especially with the DVDs finally being released here, how has the fan support been recently?
You kind of realize there is a big fanbase for this. I think that’s what social media has allowed. When these shows were going on in the 90s, email and the internet were just developing. There wasn’t that opportunity to interact and now there is. I am constantly amazed at the interest in these shows.
Talking to people about the specific stories they tell me about how they were scared by an episode or the experience viewing the show and who it was with. Sometimes it was with their parents or friends or they weren’t allowed to watch the show but they snuck it in. All those things are really interesting to hear. It all comes down to the fact that I’m very fortunate people were able to see some of the work I was able to do and some of the creations of all these people that worked hard on putting the show together. In the end, I think that’s what you want. You want people to watch it and have an experience while watching it. It’s good to hear that’s what happened.
I enjoyed watching you interact with your fans. Your kindness showed so much because I think you were one of the only ones who made sure to stay for everybody. You and Phil Moore I feel, went above and beyond.
Oh, cool. I’m happy. I was there and traveled all this way — but I’ve always felt like within reason, if people are polite and nice and respectful, why not take the time? Like I said in the documentary, what is it for me to take a second and sign something? That’s nothing, right? It’s not a big deal for me. Thank you.
I learned that I will not be asking you if you are afraid of the dark.[laughs]
Do you have a favorite episode or memory from Are You Afraid of the Dark? Was there a story that stuck out for you at the time that you enjoyed?
It’s hard to pin down a favorite episode. Again, I really enjoyed the Super Specs when I was able to be a part of the episode. That was cool. When Gary came back with the second cast, that was interesting too to interact with the second generation of the Midnight Society. One of my favorite memories is that feeling of being at this campfire, that was a set and it wasn’t even a real fire…
Nooo , don’t tell me that.[laughs] Working with these creative people and these cast members who became friends — there were moments where you felt like a kid again. Sometimes it felt real when we were there and telling those stories. There are times when it actually felt like there was something really cool going on there. When you’re a kid, sometimes you don’t want to work. But you felt like there was something interesting happening.
When I spoke with Mathew, we were kind of joking about what we would have taken home from Nickelodeon back in the day. What would you have taken home from the Are You Afraid of the Dark set?
Hmmm. See, I wasn’t exposed to all the other Nickelodeon. It was on YTV here, which was like the Canadian Nickelodeon. I recently did the Ice Bucket Challenge and I would have liked to have had the real bucket that we used to extinguish the fire. I had to go to some hardware store and buy a plastic version. I actually still have the Super Specs. I was able to keep those but they don’t actually work. Maybe the pouch that the dust was in. Having an actual campfire we could go into to tell ghost stories would be cool.
I always kind of wanted that weird chair that was made out of stone that you sat in.
I hate to break your heart but it wasn’t actually made out of stone [laughs].
You’re crushing my dreams here. Any chance you’ll be participating in the New York Comic Con event this Fall?
I don’t think I’m going to be able to make that event. I have a new job here so I don’t know if I can take the time off to be there. But I think it’s going to be a great event. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it. I’m hoping more events like this will start getting momentum going and who knows what’ll happen in the future. I’m certainly open to being a part of events like these. Hopefully, I get to go to more of those and meet more people like you and fans of the show.
What can fans look forward to from you next?
GUYFROMTHATSHOW is basically my YouTube channel and a Facebook page. The documentary was the first release and we’re working on a second one now which we’re just about to finish. Basically, it’s not a documentary…I don’t know if you would call it a spoof. It kind of uses the campfire situation but in the present with some of the interesting experiences that I’ve had and meeting people that are fans of the show. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s not trying to be an Are You Afraid of the Dark episode but it kind of has some of the qualities. I hope the fans will appreciate it. Hopefully, we’ll release it within the next month and a half. And we have some other projects in the works too. I’m always open to suggestions, if anyone has any ideas. While reading some of the comments on the documentary, I do want to maybe talk to some of the creators and maybe do an interview with DJ. And maybe try to answer some of the questions fans have had. I think people will like it.
We’d like to thank Ross Hull for taking the time to chat with us!
Be sure to keep up to date with Ross by following him on Twitter @Ross_Hull as well as his GUYFROMTHATSHOW account!
Keep an eye out for all future updates on his new YouTube channel and Facebook page!
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