Jon Lindstrom Details The Unique Challenges Of Playing Comatose

You’ve been in a couple of comas in recent years as Ryan, and Kevin was comatose back in the day. “I’ve had a few comas in my career, yeah! I do remember doing Kevin’s coma on PORT CHARLES, and of course, Ryan has been, shall we say, nonresponsive lately.”

A rich well of comatosity for us to discuss! What, for you, is the hardest part of playing comatose? “For me, doing a coma, which means you look like you’re asleep, is not difficult. You just have to keep from laughing, and that is the hardest part. You have to keep from taking advantage of the situation at another actor’s expense, and I say that because Julie Pinson [ex-Eve, PC] and I were doing a scene and her character had fallen in love with somebody else but she was trying to stay true to our marriage, and I’m in a coma and she doesn’t know what to do and she’s pledging her love — and I absolutely [fake] snored in her face. Just to, you know, crack up the crew and give them something to laugh at. And when I look back on it, it’s a little cruel, because someone is working by themselves when they’re talking to a character in a coma, which means they’ve got to work doubly hard; they don’t have anyone to react off of. So, it was selfish on my part, and if I didn’t apologize then, Julie, I apologize now.”

Port Charles


Is it easy money, earning your paycheck on a day when your character is comatose? “I mean, you are getting paid to lay there and do nothing, so you know, you can’t help but enjoy that little bit of it. It’s a break [from memorization], so you bet. The only thing is that you might have to get a cue, or take a cue, from a piece of dialogue to jerk your finger or something like that. You just have to remember when it happens. But other than that, yeah, it’s like a day off of school — or you go to school, but you just get recess instead.”

When people are at your comatose character’s bedside, pouring their hearts out, how do you train yourself not to react? “You’ve just got to tune it out. You just pretend you don’t hear it. It’s a funny little line to walk, you know? In acting, you’re supposed to listen to what’s going on so you have something to react to, but in this case, your reaction is a nonreaction. So, how do you do that? You just have to tune it out, but you may have to be conscious enough to wait for a certain cue so that your finger will move; but other than that, it’s like trying not to laugh when someone tells a joke.”

What happens if your character is all hooked up to machines and you have more scenes to shoot, but the crew takes a five-minute break? “You lie there! If there are a lot of scenes to do, there’s really nothing you can do about it except beg and plead if you need what we call a ‘10-1’, which is a bathroom break. But when I come up [to the set] I just usually joke, ‘I hope we can get this in before the crew needs to take a 5!’ Because I don’t want to be laying there. But, again, you’re getting paid to just lay there, so it’s almost a ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ kind of thing. If you gotta lay there through the break, you’re gonna lay there through the break! And usually, someone will come over and sit down and you’ll have a conversation. Pretty good day at the office, all in all!”

Have you ever ruined a take because you accidentally moved? “No, that hasn’t happened, fortunately, because they can just edit [around it]. If you’re really still, then they would be able to lay that in from another take and make it look right. I haven’t had a situation where somebody says, ‘Oh, he blinked, we’ve got to stop.’ I haven’t had that problem. I’m just that good [laughs].”

How is playing Ryan’s locked-in syndrome different than playing a coma? “That’s such a subtle difference. In one [scenario], you’re lying there with your eyes closed, and in the other, you’re lying there with your eyes open, and obviously, if you’re a sighted person, so much of your stimuli and what you react to comes through your vision, so it’s a real challenge to do it and do it right. What I’ve had to do lately with Ryan in this catatonic state, where his eyes are open and somebody as big and demonstrative as Maura West [Ava] is jumping around in front of you and pinching you and trying to get a rise out of you, that’s a lot harder! It’s really hard to keep your eyes focused and your breath modulated — that really takes an enormous amount of concentration. And in that regard, I say, ‘You know what? I earn every penny.’ ”