On August 2, 1977, Kin Shriner assumed the role of law student Scotty Baldwin, who he has played on and off ever since. Along the way, he notes, “I was able to do nine other soaps and kept Scotty Baldwin alive through every producer and writer and every decade.”
Soap Opera Digest: Let’s begin before you were cast as Scotty. Where were you in your life before GH came into the picture?
Kin Shriner: Well, I’ve been pursuing my acting career since I was in third grade and forced my parents to put me in a professional acting class in West Hollywood. By the time I turned 21, I was in a major acting class, trying to get an agent, get a SAG card — all the stuff that all actors have to go through. And then I got put under contract at Universal Studios, where I worked there for a year, and then I went in to see [then-Executive Producer] Tom Donovan at GENERAL HOSPITAL. That was before the show was about to be canceled; it was still 45 minutes, live to tape, and I never thought that I’d spend 45 years there! As you know, I didn’t spend a full 45 years there, but I didn’t abandon him! He just gets reinvented.
Digest: Your first run, from 1977-80, was so eventful, both for the character and for the show.
Shriner: It all happened so fast. I had these two great actors, Peter Hansen [ex-Lee, Scott’s adoptive father] and Susan Brown [ex-Gail, Scott’s stepmother] and then Genie [Francis, Laura]. And then they sent a hurricane through Port Charles and wiped out half the cast and then Gloria Monty took over [as EP] and all bets were off! She changed the whole face of daytime and moved us over to the Desilu studio. By that time, the ride was on and there was no getting off of it! Leaving to do TEXAS [as Jeb, 1980-81] seemed like a good idea at the time. It was a huge blunder, but I fixed it a year later and came back.
Digest: I feel like your exit worked in your favor, because it allowed you to come back and crash Luke and Laura’s wedding as a Scott who was angry at the world because he’d lost Laura; that kicked off a whole other life for you on the show.
Shriner: You know, I took Gloria Monty to lunch and I had to break the news to her that I was going to go move to New York and do TEXAS. She said, “I’ve got such a great story coming up for you,” and I’m thinking, “I gotta break this news quickly!” because I’d already made the deal. I drove her home in a Jeep with no windows on it and told her and she about fell out of the Jeep. She was very disappointed, but I think she understood that I was young and looking to see what New York was like. I don’t know how Scotty would have ended up if he didn’t go away to come back as the bearded bad man. So, you’re right. It was probably what it was meant to be. But it altered me, it altered things … and Tony Geary [ex-Luke] profited!
Digest: Before Luke came along, Laura and Scotty were a hugely popular pair. Did it ever bother you that the show moved her away from Scotty toward Luke?
Shriner: No. When I left, the show went further through the roof with them and I’m thinking, “I’m out in Brooklyn doing TEXAS and everywhere I go, it’s, ‘Scotty, when are you coming back? Laura’s going to marry Luke!’ I shouldn’t have left a hit show!” But coming back into it, Luke and Laura were a household name, but I still had my footing and Scott got to have his own identity. If Scott had tried to break up Luke and Laura, I would have been the odd man out. It was better for me to come in and get mixed up with Heather and Lucy and all the rest of these girls. I don’t have sour grapes over it. I think Tony and Genie, it was their day. I have no complaints. I’m still there 45 years later!
Digest: The ’80s were really the heyday of Scotty as a scheming playboy, which must have been a lot of fun for you!
Shriner: Listen, we had the time of our lives. There’s no denying that. Robin [Mattson, ex-Heather] was as wild as you could get, she was a riot, we hung out daily, nightly. Lynn [Herring, Lucy] was a riot, too, because she operates five miles an hour faster than most people. These are girls that you have to keep up with because they’ve got so much game, and if you can harness that game in the scenes with them, that energy level, it’s going to work! That’s the key to daytime, which is, if it looks like you’re having fun in the scene, the audience is going to have fun, too.
Digest: In the early ’90s, there came a pivot for Scott via his tragic love affair with Dominique, who was felled by a brain tumor.
Shriner: Shell Danielson [ex-Dominique] wanted to leave, so they decided to kill her off, which gave me the six months of heavy-duty story with her dying and all that stuff. But that wasn’t [what the writers originally planned]. She became the love of Scotty’s life, only for him to find out she’s not going to make it, and all you can do is say, “Okay, we’ll play it to the hilt!” It wasn’t how I wanted it to go. I did not want the love of Scotty’s life to die in his arms. That’s not my idea of a good time! My whole game is fun and banter. I don’t like to play heavy-duty, emotional scenes, you know? I think my strong suit has always been screwball comedy and keeping it light and keeping the pace up and having fun. The stuff that I got to play with Lynn, with Maura West [Ava], even, you know, with Obrecht — it’s all still fun and games! Or, it’s me as a weird, off-kilter courtroom lawyer who I’m not sure wouldn’t be thrown out of court, and yet, it’s entertaining. If they want a lawyer, hire a day player. If they want me, then you get the high jinks that come with it!
Digest: From 1997-2000, you played Scotty on PORT CHARLES. What’s your fondest memory of that show?
Shriner: Carly Schroeder [ex-Serena], little Carly Schroeder. I discovered her in a commercial, I had her family moved out [to L.A.]. Her mother used to drop her off at my house and say, “Carly’s going to spend the afternoon with you,” and I’d say, “What am I going to do with her? What do I know? I’m a bachelor!” So, I’d do with her what I would probably have done if I’d had children. We’d watch movies, I took her scuba diving. It was a really great time, to have a daughter that I could hand back to her mother [laughs].
Digest: Speaking of Scotty as a father, what do you make of the fact that over the years, they’ve given you three surprise children — Karen, Logan and Franco — and then killed them all off?
Shriner: I don’t know! The word “flummoxed” comes to mind. I’m flummoxed all the time! “Why are we getting rid of Logan?” “Wait, why are we getting rid of Franco?” I don’t have any of these answers. It’s out of my hands! Nobody comes to me and says, “Do you mind if we kill off your son?”
Digest: So, you’ve been on the show consistently since you came back in 2013, lucky for us fans.
Shriner: Yeah, I was never really off TV for very long. There was maybe a year where I lived in Florida and didn’t do much but beachcomb, but like I said, there’s not been a producer or head writer that I’ve not worked for at GENERAL HOSPITAL in 45 years. They’ve all had their hands on the Scotty Baldwin character. Some of them, I think, have enjoyed Scotty more than others. But you’re only as good as your last storyline, and I have a storyline coming up that I think will be fun.
Digest: What does it mean to you to hit this milestone?
Shriner: You know, I think about the heyday and it’s a different animal now, but it’s fun and I’m still working with people I love — Maurice [Benard, Sonny] and Becky [Herbst, Elizabeth] and Maura [West] and Kathleen [Gati, Obrecht] — so it’s not like I’m some kid that’s been left behind, like, “Why am I still here?” I still get a hoot out of going in there and I still try to make it something that’s going to be entertaining.
Digest: Well, I hope you know how much the audience loves you and how much joy they get from what you bring to Scotty Baldwin.
Shriner: With this Scotty character, I’ve built something of a caricature of numerous actors and characters that I’ve admired and studied and so the fact that the fans are still entertained by my shenanigans, that keeps me coming back for more. It’s been a hell of a run! Would I do it all over again? Absolutely. Would I have gone to TEXAS? Probably not [laughs].