ICYMI Jon Lindstrom Interview

Soap Opera Digest: Obviously, Jon, we’re here to discuss that you just marked your 30th anniversary as Ryan, who first appeared on June 26, 1992 — but let’s start with your real GH debut, in the role of a car rental agent for one episode in 1983.

Jon Lindstrom (laughs): That’s right! That clip pops up on Twitter sometimes and there I am, looking like I just got out of high school! The story behind that is, I knew Marvin Paige, who was the casting director, who I’d met through a mutual friend and helped me get my first agent. So, cut to 1983, he has me come in and read for a car rental agent and he had the power to just say yes or no. So I did that, and then he brings me in to read for the role of Jimmy Lee Holt for [then-Executive Producer] Gloria Monty, and he looked at my resumé and he sees GENERAL HOSPITAL on there; he’d forgotten that I had done that because he cast so many people all the time. He goes, “Here, I’ll fix that,” and he whites it out. He said, “If she sees that, it’ll kill you around here.” I read for Gloria, didn’t get it, Steve Bond gets it. Then Marvin brings me in for Frisco, and of course, my friend Jack [Wagner] got that. Cut again to 1992. [Casting Director] Mark Teschner brings me in to read for some role that never actually happened because two days after I read for Gloria, Gloria left the show. But Mark remembered me from that and brought me in to read for Ryan Chamberlain for [then-EP] Wendy Riche. The first time I went in, there were probably 10 or 12 guys that all looked the same, and then there was a callback and it was only me and Michael O’Leary [ex-Rick, GUIDING LIGHT], who’s a great guy. I go in and do my thing and I leave and I’m walking across the parking lot and I hear, “Jon! Hey, Jon!” And I look over my shoulder and there’s a security guard chasing me. And I mean, that was probably at a time in my life when if I saw a uniformed person chasing me, I’d run the other way [laughs]! They said, “They want to see you again!” So I went back up and they said, “We just want to know if you’re scary.” I said, “Oh, you wanted to see if I could be friendly, and now you want me to be, like, friendly but quietly scary, is that it?” “That’s exactly it!” So we did it again and as the other actor stopped talking and turned away, that’s when I put on the scary face. And obviously, I got the job. So that was the beginning — this sudden appearance of this guy who’s still there 30 years later [followed] a 10-year association of starts and stops with that show before it ever actually paid off.

Digest: Truly incredible. And to think, if you’d wound up as Jimmy Lee, you’d have Roger Howarth [Austin] for a fictional son, and if you’d been cast as Frisco, you’d have Kirsten Storms [Maxie] as a fictional daughter! But I digress. When you think back to the Jon who landed that job in 1992 — where were you in your life and your career?

Lindstrom: I remember pretty clearly where I was at that time. I hadn’t worked in two years and that was after having done several TV movies and a lot of episodics. I had a roommate, I had less than $100 in the bank, I had some credit debt that felt pretty overwhelming at the time to somebody who was broke. I’d already established myself and had a good launch in my career, so there I was, going, “Did I screw up here? Was I wrong about my abilities?” So when I got this job, it represented, you know, hope and validation. This was supposed to be a summer storyline; they hadn’t written anything beyond three months and they actually expected Ryan to die at the end of that summer. He was just supposed to drive a wedge between Mac and Felicia in order to bring them back together. That was my sole purpose. I thought, “Well, if I’m smart, if I don’t eat out too much, if I keep living on Rice-A-Roni, I might be able to clear these credit card bills and have a few bucks in my pocket!” Little did I know that the storyline itself and the character would resonate and, you know, nine, 10 months later, I would be offered a contract on AS THE WORLD TURNS out of the blue, for the role that Paolo Seganti wound up playing [Damian Grimaldi]. I turned it down because I wasn’t ready to leave GH! I was having a really good time. I was out of the hole I’d been in, I had some savings, and when I got offered the other job, all of a sudden GH basically had to, as we say, s**t or get off the pot as far as Jon Lindstrom was concerned. And Claire [Labine, then-head writer] said, “Well, let’s come up with another character. I have this idea for this guy, Kevin [Ryan’s twin, who was introduced in December 1993]. Why don’t we do that?” That’s how that worked. Suddenly, I had signed a contract, got a big raise, and I was on a plane to New York to go to the Daytime Emmys. I wound up sitting in the ALL MY CHILDREN section next to Sarah Michelle Gellar [ex-Kendall] because there were no more seats in the GH section.

Digest: Obviously, they wrote for you past those initial three months, but can you put a finger on when you knew it was working?

Lindstrom: One of the things that comes to mind is a scene I was doing with Kristina [Wagner, Felicia], who I love. It was before her character knows that Ryan has been stalking her. We’re on a balcony at night and I’ve kind of got my arm around her and Ryan’s finally starting to get through her wall of, “I’m still in love with Mac and I’m still in love with Frisco,” and in the scene, she turns and finally gives him a kiss. And I just thought, “You know, this is actually going somewhere. We’ve got a really good thing here.” When I really knew things were cranking was when he basically kidnapped her and held her hostage in the cabin and she finally figures out what he’s about. It just played really well. I knew, “Even if she kills me with a knife in the back, I will know that we played a really successful story.”

Digest: Little did you know at the time — stab him, trap him in a fire, toss him off a bridge, Ryan can’t be killed!

Lindstrom: It’s true! He’s just too good of a character. He’s vital and mercurial and energetic and smart and he’s just great fun to play.

Digest: When Ryan was presumed dead in 1995, you continued on as Kevin, who crossed over to PORT CHARLES from 1997-2003. We didn’t see you regularly on GH again until you were asked back as Kevin in 2013, and five years after that, Ryan was resurrected. Tell me how that came about.

Lindstrom: Well, Kevin and Laura had turned into a very nice love story, and then it started to taper off — Genie [Francis, Laura] takes time off every year, other stories happened. I think it was Genie who said to me, “What would you want to do?” I said, “I don’t know. Maybe it would be cool if Ryan came back. Maybe that would, you know, spice things up a bit.” About a month after that, I got a call from Frank [Valentini, executive producer]. He says, “Can you come by the office? Shut the door. Your brother’s not dead.” And off we went again! That’s one of the great things about it — it’s kind of the gift that keeps on giving.

Digest: You had a huge arc in the wake of Ryan’s return with Ryan taking over Kevin’s life, going on a murder spree, seducing Ava. Looking back on that year-plus of story, would you consider that a highlight of your GH career?

Lindstrom: Oh, I absolutely would, for several reasons. I thought they did a really good job with it, and working Genie into the mix and working with Maura [West, Ava], who I’ve loved ever since we met out there on AS THE WORLD TURNS [where West played Carly and Lindstrom played Craig]. We never really got to play out our stories on WORLD TURNS because the show got canceled, you know? So we had kind of a do-over with that. But just for me, personally, it was great to be able to jump back into that character, mainly because I’m a different person and hopefully a better actor and more facile and skilled than I was back then, and I have more life experience. So for me, it was a great highlight to go back into it with that sense of, “Gee, I wish I knew then what I know now.” Well, now I can do that! I can put that into play. And it was amazingly easy to slip back into him. That was the strange part!

Digest: So, what does this milestone mean to you? What goes through your head as you try to wrap your mind around this 30-year journey?

Lindstrom: It is really remarkable because I can honestly say like I feel that there is still more to do. There’s still more stories to tell. I’m not done yet! I’m at an age now where I can be rather circumspect about things but I also wake up in the morning and I’m still excited to do things and create things and still have experiences that are memorable. In many ways, I feel like we’re just getting started.