Charles Shaughnessy is a veteran film and stage actor, arguably best known for his work on Days of Our Lives and The Nanny. But as we celebrate his 61st birthday today (Feb. 9), his roles as Shane Donovan and Maxwell Sheffield don't even cross my mind. Instead, I remember him as the mom-dating vampire Dimitri Denatos in Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire and Det. Charles Meany (aka Falco Grandville) in Get a Clue.
I grew up watching these classic Disney Channel Original Movies, and Shaughnessy's performances in them are forever cemented in my mind. He was the villain in both flicks and brought a certain type of charisma to the roles. Usually, bad guys are just that: bad. But Shaughnessy made them stand out from all the other DCOM villains — yes, even Kalabar from Halloweentown.
A major reason I liked them was the fact I was kind of rooting for them to win, even though it was Disney and the bad guys never win. Take Dimitri for example. All he wanted was a woman for his mansion, and maybe a pint of blood or two, and he was willing to go to the trouble of taking her out on a date and wooing her.
He had the power to just zip her into a trance and whisk her off to his bachelor pad right away, but he didn't go that route. Instead, he took the time to get to know her, spent money on her, and attempted an interest in things she liked (like rockabilly music).
And to be fair, he didn't actually do anything wrong until Adam, Chelsea, and Taylor Hansen pulled one too many stunts to break him up from their mom. TBH, after being wrongly thrown out of a club, hit in the back of the head with a softball, and gipped of a coffin, I'd be pissed, too. We all have our breaking points, vampires included.
Going into the movie, you clearly know that Dimitri is bad because he's a vampire, but I found my nine-year-old self rooting for him. He was so suave, so debonair, it made it hard for me to dislike him. Even when he was defeated in the end by the kids and Lizzie McGuire dad Robert Carradine, he was still cracking jokes and bursting with personality. (All Kalabar did was scream and shout and complain about how hard life was. Boo hoo.)
Two years after Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire, Shaughnessy was back in the DCOM world, this time playing a human baddie instead of a supernatural one. He battled Lindsay Lohan, Bug Hall, and Brenda Song and eventually lost. (Again, bad guys don't win in Disney films.)
But the twist in this movie is you don't know he's the bad guy until the very end -- dun dun dun! So, you spend the majority of the film watching him ward off Lohan and her clique from police business. He's just got a job to do, and a paycheck to earn. While his character isn't exactly charming like Dimitri, he still has his moments.
For example, when Orlando Walker (aka Nicholas Petrossian) accuses Det. Meany of setting him up while they're in public, Meany doesn't deny it. Instead, he's all like, "LOL, yes. Yes I sure did," and that was that. He doesn't shy away from his crime, but he doesn't deliver some long, drawn-out villain speech either.
He fights dirty and is a quick thinker, so after being steps ahead of the kids, part of you just wants him to get away it, since he's gotten this far. But then, he gets crushed by a cake and apprehended. Womp womp. After being led out in handcuffs covered in frosting, it sort of makes you want to cut the guy some slack. I mean, he impersonated an officer and committed fraud and embezzlement, but he didn't kill a man. Leave the guy some of his dignity!
It should also be noted the genius of Meany's plan. He hid $10 million in plain sight, buying a super rare diamond and using it as part of a bumblebee pendant, something most people wouldn't notice. That's some strong planning skills and deserves credit where credit's due.
Shaughnessy's DCOM villains will always be iconic to me because he gave them depth and made you like them, even though you knew you were supposed to be rooting for the good guys. Because sometimes, being "bad" just looks more fun.