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Exclusive: John J. York (Mac) On His Emotional Return To General Hospital



After being diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and smoldering multiple myeloma, two blood and bone marrow disorders, in December 2022, John J. York took a hiatus from his role as Mac on General Hospital to undergo a blood stem cell transplant. Happily, he went back to work last month and will make his triumphant return to the screen on June 19. The actor spoke to Digest about going public with his health crisis, what the outpouring of support he received from fans and his GH family means to him, and what it was like to be back filming at the studio.


Soap Opera Digest: Take me back to the day that you posted that first video letting fans know about your diagnosis and your hiatus from GH. Were you anxious or nervous at all about sharing that publicly? And what was it like to receive what I have to imagine felt like a pretty overwhelming outpouring of goodwill in response?

John J. York: You just wanna make me cry, don’t you? Because every time I talk about this, I cry. I wanted [my diagnosis] to be quiet; I didn’t want to tell everyone only because I didn’t want anybody to feel sorry for me or be like, “Oh, poor John, he’s got cancer,” all that kind of stuff. I felt, “I’m gonna have this [transplant], I’m gonna get through it, it’s gonna be fine and nobody will know.” But a gal named Cortney Lind called me from Be The Match [which is now called NMPD] and told me that they’re there for support, gave me all this information about what they’re able to do and how they were involved in looking for a match for me, and at the end of the conversation, she said, “You know, a lot of people like to use their platform to” — and as soon as I heard the word “platform,” I felt she maybe knows that I’m on a TV show. I said, “You know what I do?” And she said, “Yeah, we know all about you.” I explained to her, “I really just wanted to keep this quiet. I don’t want any attention.” But she went on to explain how being in the position I’m in, coming out with it helps fill the registry of possible donors, helps make money for patients who can’t afford to do whatever it takes to be in the registry, helps people that have to travel [for treatment]. She convinced me to make an announcement. I didn’t want to make it a big deal, I just wanted to let people know, “This is what’s going on.” I said what I had to say and at the end of my video, I said, “I’ll be back [to GH].” And it’s just really amazing [gets choked up] because I posted it and it was just a flood of people with messages of support and love and kindness and caring. My [inbox] was just overflowing and it was truly, truly overwhelming. And in the meantime, Be The Match was letting me know, “We’re over 10,000 donations, 15,000 donations.” You just never know — $5 or $10 or $25, that might be the donation that is able to fund a new drug, you know?

Digest: Nobody wants to go through a struggle with their health, but to be in a position to use your experience to inspire other people to be generous — and to your point, every dollar counts — and to know that you’ve made that impact is a beautiful thing.

York: Yeah, it is. I’m just so humbled by all this because I just feel — not like I’m a nothing burger, but I’m just a guy that got really lucky getting a job on a TV show in 1991. And here I am, still able to be working after 33 years. It’s a miracle. And it’s that miracle and that faith and that love from Almighty God that gets me through it all.

Digest: Tell me about the support and love that you felt specifically coming from your GH colleagues after you went public with your diagnosis.

York: The announcement came out on [X, formerly known as Twitter] and within a few days, I was out in California [to film at GH]. Emma, the security guard at the front door, gave me a two-minute hug. Every actor that I saw in the hallway gave me a hug. People came out of wardrobe and makeup and gave me a hug. It was a lot of hugs! Words didn’t have to be said, people just saw me and they walked up to me and gave me a big hug. It was like, “We’re with you, we love you, and you’re gonna get through this.” That’s what I felt in those hugs. And I want to mention Frank [Valentini, executive producer] because he’s been outstanding. If I didn’t have Frank in my corner, I wouldn’t have been able to work. I sent them the weeks that I was available to work [around my chemo schedule]. I’m sure it was very difficult for them to wrangle the actors that I was working with to make sure that we could get the scenes in on these days, but they did it, and that was incredibly supportive and helpful. Kristina [Wagner, Felicia] was always texting me, and Jon Lindstrom [Kevin], I mean, he texts me every single day of my life! He started sending me jokes of the day to keep me laughing, and one day he sent a video. They were doing a large cast scene and there were people in the background and Jon was holding the phone and everybody was just wishing me well, you know? It was pretty awesome.

Digest: It’s so uncommon to have a steady acting gig, especially one you could go back to if you’re unavailable to work for a period of time. So I’m sure you were feeling especially blessed to have landed on GH.

York: Once again, it’s a miracle because of the daytime storyline, it being five days a week. It works because they can just mention it in a brief blurb — “Where’s Mac?” “Oh, Mac’s in Argentina, on a case with Frisco, and who knows how long he’ll be away,” you know? That’s the good side. On the downside, you know, if you’re not pulling your weight, “What happened to Mac? Oh, his plane went down!” And that’s the end of him [laughs]! You’re either in or you’re out!

Digest: Well, you’re in, John!

York: Yeah, I’m in. I’m in as long as I’m allowed to be in and I’m really, really thankful and happy about that.

Digest: That first day back, you were surprised with “Mac Is Back” T-shirts. What was that like?

York: I think that was Frank’s idea, and Shawn [Reeves, costume designer] had them made up and they put those photos up on social media saying, “Mac is back,” and the response and everybody saying they were thrilled that Mac is back … It’s just so crazy, I can’t even believe it! I mean, who am I? I’m just so thankful for everything I have. Even the pain and the struggle. I’m very thankful for the time to be able to sit and think and be present in that, in that pain and whatever, you know, after the transplant, after the heavy-duty chemo. Every moment was its own special, unique moment, up to this very moment now.



You Can Go Home Again: Kristina Wagner (Felicia) and Josh Kelly (Cody) helped welcome York back to the GH studio.

Digest: Coming in to work your first day back, that’s a drive you’ve made countless times over the decades. Did it feel like just another day, or was there a little something extra you were feeling that day?

York: You’re absolutely right. It’s the same drive, going down Los Feliz, making the turn on Commonwealth, turning down a side street — but in my mind, I was saying what I was just saying to you, just how thankful I am: “Here I am, 33 years later, making the same turn, coming down the same road.” Emma, the guard, she’s such a sweetheart, she was like, “I have a parking spot for you in the front, and what dressing room do you want?” I was like, “Will you just not make a big deal out of it? I’ll park in the back. It’s fine, I need to get my steps in.” But yeah, it wasn’t just another drive to work.

I’ll tell you the truth: I remember making that drive when I had been on the show 10 years and I was being taken off contract, and I was very sad about it — and there was probably some anger there, you know? Like, “Why? I don’t know what I did!” I’m sure it was just storyline and business, but nobody’s going to tell you that, you know? You’re just an actor. So here I am on a show and I think I’m doing good and doing everything I need to do to keep my job and I get taken off contract. And then one day, I remember specifically driving to work thinking, “Don’t be angry, John. You’ve had a job on a show for over 10 years. Do you know how many actors would kill to be on a television show for 10 years?” And at that moment, it was just so much to be thankful for… At that point, I understood the fact that General Hospital doesn’t define who I am. My family defines who I am. That’s the bottom line. I could be Mac Scorpio for 100 years, but what’s important is what Vicki [his wife] and Schyler [his daughter] and Mike [his son-in-law] and [his grandkids] Elijah, Lucille and Emerson and Joshua think about Pop-Pop. I’m certainly not a perfect man. I’ve made many mistakes in my life. But if I’m playing the back nine [of my life] right now, if I’m out somewhere on hole 12 or 13, maybe, I wanna close, baby! I wanna close it out.

Digest: What was it like to slip back into working with members of your on-screen family like Kristina and Kirsten Storms (Maxie)?

York: It was great and it was seamless. Just like when I made the announcement that I was leaving the show for a while and everybody came up to me and gave me a big hug, I came in and went to my dressing room and got called up for blocking and I got up [to the stage] and just got an amazing hug from everybody that I was working with. The producers, the actors, the crew —  everybody was just saying, “It’s really nice to have you back, so glad you’re back.” I got a great, emotional, tearful hug from Kristina that lasted quite a while. It was good to be back, you know? We had fun. They were fun scenes and we were off to the races!

Digest: Are you looking forward to getting into the juicy stuff that is still to come for Mac, given that he still doesn’t know that Cody is his son?

York: Absolutely. Josh [Kelly, Cody] is awesome to work with. He’s a really good guy and a really good actor. I’m excited because I don’t know what they’re going to do, but this could potentially affect everybody [in Mac’s family] — Felicia and Maxie and Robert and James and Georgie and Bailey. You never know, it could involve Kevin, as a psychiatrist, who could help me and give his two cents. It’s not just about my character.

Digest: What would you like to say to all the folks in the GH audience who have been missing Mac and are excited to have you back on the show, but above all, are so happy you’re doing well?

York: I would say, “Thank you so much for opening up your front door and welcoming me back into your home and showing me all the love and support that you’ve shown me. Thank you for letting me come back and be a part of your life and thank you for all the notes you’ve left me. Thank you for not giving up on me, and thank you for support and love.”