R.I.P. Denise Nickerson of Dark Shadows and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
The '70s child star also appeared on The Electric Company and The Brady Bunch.
Denise Nickerson was just 11 years old when she joined the cast of Dark Shadows in 1968. First popping up in episode No. 623, the Florida-raised girl appeared on the supernatural soap opera for two years. Due to the twisty plots involving time travel and parallel timelines, Nickerson portrayed three characters, Amy Jennings, Nora Collins and Amy Collins.
After wrapping up her time on the occult melodrama, Nickerson landed an unforgettable role in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Her gum-smacking snob Violet Beauregarde balloons into a giant blueberry. (As a side note, Jim Backus, best known as the Millionaire on Gilligan's Island, was originally considered to play the role of her father.)
That 1971 instant classic proved to be another springboard for the young actor. The following year, Nickerson joined the cast of The Electric Company, the sort of hipper, headier cousin of Sesame Street in children's television that featured Morgan Freeman. The PBS series had a singing group called Short Circus. After the first season, Irene Cara, who would go on to sing the hit theme song to Flashdance, left the show. Nickerson hopped aboard to replace her in the second season, belting tunes like "Sweet Sweet Sway."
In 1974, Nickerson turned up as one of Peter's dates on The Brady Bunch, in the final-season episode "Two Petes in a Pod." Later that decade, Nickerson left showbiz.