I played the scariest villain on kids' TV in the nineties – 15 years later I got a huge shock from fans | The Sun

NICKELODEON'S Are You Afraid of the Dark? villain has opened up about his experience as one of the most terrifying children's characters to ever hit screens.

The hit children's horror anthology series created by D.J. MacHale and Ned Kandel saw children fight off deadly supernatural foes every night in new episodes.

The original iconic franchise of Are You Afraid of the Dark? aired on Nickelodeon from 1992 until 1996, traumatising a generation of horror lovers with nightmarish stories and supernatural occurrences.

The successful show created some of children's TV's most scary moments, including a gruesome entity trying to drag kids underwater to a cigar-toting clown way more chilling than IT's deranged Pennywise.

As Halloween comes to an end, show fans who grew up watching the horror series have been discussing the show's scariest moments, and one episode has repeatedly been mentioned – The Tale of The Ghastly Grinner.

The joker-like brute has wiggled its way into show fans' collective psyche, spawning fan art and even tattoos among loyal and dedicated fans.

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Recently, the Grinner actor Neil Kroetsch spoke to Metro.co.uk about what it was like to become an iconic children's horror character and how he was shocked to learn that his character was included in the pantheon of children's villains.

He began: "I think audiences respond to the Ghastly Grinner's energy because he is otherworldly. I wouldn't call them evil.

"He represents a realm that is often fascinated the human imagination. What if there are other beings in the being in outer space? What if ghosts do in fact exist? What if the trolls in Scandinavia are not just our imagination?

"These things speak to an actor and mean you can make a connection with some of primal fear."

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He added: "The children [who watched it] at that point are making slowly making the transition from childhood to pre-adolescence, and becoming more cognizant of the way of the world and how adults work, and that some adults can be menacing.

"At that point, they love to be scared, but within the context of a safe, secure home environment.

"Maybe it's a way of children dealing with a certain fear because they are dependent on adults, and they need to be taken care of and educated by us. But some adults are not as nice as others.

"All these fears like the boogeyman, the monster under the bed, and the fear of the unknown. I think the very young audience realised that they could come to terms with it."

During The Ghastly Grinner episode, illustrator Ethan Woods (Amos Crawley) is a struggling comic book artist who ends up donating the only copy of artist Sylvester Uncas' (Danny Raboy) nightmarish novel The Ghastly Grinner to his town's new comic book store.

Not long after, Ethan starts to notice odd events transpire around town.

He quickly realises the Grinner himself has leapt from the pages of the book to cause chaos in the flesh.

While filming the episode, Neil disclosed that he was concerned that his young co-stars may become frightened of the Ghastly Grinner.

He admitted: "I was afraid that the young boy playing Ethan might have been afraid, but his mother was there. So that was that reassuring me because I knew I was going to get loud.

"My movements appear threatening, but it worked out well. I'm a supporting actor, and this was one of the rare times I played the lead."

Neil revealed that after attending a 'stage actor's dream' audition for the role, he was given the part and filmed all of his scenes in just one day.

Decades went by before AYAOTD crossed his mind again after a fan reached out to him for an autograph, which led him to binge-watch all the episodes again.

Neil recalled: "I forgot about it, and then about 15 years later, I got a letter from my agent saying a letter had arrived. 

"I opened it up, and it was from some young men in college in New Hampshire who wanted me to sign an autograph."

He continued: "I picked up some headshots but thought that was a bit cheesy, so I thought I would get some stills from the show. 

"I had never seen it. So I found an old VHS and went to a place that converted it to DVD. I asked the guy to pick a couple of shots and give me some stills to sign, so I signed them."

He soon realised that the children's horror show had an devoted fanbase even decades later, saying he 'didn't realise the extent' that it had touched people's lives.

Neil said: "I became aware of this fandom that I did not know existed, maybe because I'm not on social media, I don't know.

"There are fan clubs, people even have tattoos of the Ghastly Grinner. I was astounded. I didn't realise the extent of the phenomena. It's very interesting."

The AYAOTD? franchise ignited two reboots from 1999 to 2000 and again from 2019 to 2022 after its first initial run.

Earlier this year, Audible announced a new podcast series, which will bring in a new age of terror for fans.

When asked if he would return as the Ghastly Grinner, Neil let it be known that he would be there 'right away' to don his jester hat again or perhaps take on another terrifying role.

He said: "I would love to [return], it was so much fun to do.

"I know that there is a certain audience that would be eager for a new version of the Grinner, maybe a prequel or a sequel, whatever it might be.

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"I would be keen if that was going to happen."

Are You Afraid of the Dark? Is available to stream via Paramount Plus on Amazon Prime Video.

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