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Tricks of the Trade: Jon Lindstrom

What is your approach to the dramatic tag at the end of a scene? “I think there are different ways you can approach it, like the Kin Shriner [Scott] way, which is basically, don’t hold still at all! You’ll see him kind of looking side to side; he usually plays it like a flummoxed moment. But I think for me, I have to find a way to think about the last thing I said as if I’m trying to make a point. That’s really all you can do. You just have to pull your technique in and hold your look and hope that somebody will say, ‘Cut!’ It’s funny; it’s a pretty standard requirement of the job, but there is nothing natural about it.”

How do you handle being in a scene with someone who ad libs? “I’m somebody that really likes to stick to the text, but in daytime, writers are banging out so many shows and we’re shooting so many shows that [actors] have to be forgiven a little bit when it comes to, ‘I know a better way to say this,’ or, ‘I have a way that my character would say this.’ But making a line change is one thing, and an ad lib is a little different. As long as it’s appropriate and still in the context of what we’re talking about in a scene, I welcome it. Working with someone who does ad lib a lot, like Kin, keeps it fresh, it keeps you on your toes and it keeps an energy in the scene that otherwise could be lost, if you’re just becoming too rote about what’s on the page. You just have to make sure paying attention!”

What do you do when you can tell your scene partner can’t remember their next line? “I usually just wait for them! I usually just give them a look that says, ‘No, it’s your turn, man!’ That doesn’t really happen a lot anymore. There was a time when there was a lot more leeway [in the production schedule] where you could see the panic in the other actor’s eyes and they’re hoping, really hoping, that you’ll bail them out. But nowadays, there’s really no excuse for not showing up with your lines ready to go, so I really feel like, ‘You didn’t learn your lines, man. That’s your problem.’ But having said that, nobody’s perfect, so normally we’ll just stop and do a pick-up [of where the dialogue left off]. We all mess up and when that happens, you just have to stop and start again.”

What do you do when you can’t remember a line? “I’ll look around, or I’ll pull a Brando. Marlon Brando never learned his lines later in his career and would put little notes around he set and he would read them. I don’t have notes on the set, but when he would do it, it just looked like he was thinking. So I will pause until the line comes back, but hopefully, I can mask it to look like somebody in there is thinking about what he’s going to say next! That works with Kevin, because he’s so deliberate with his words. I have a built-in safety net.”

How do you cope with last-minute line changes? “The only way to do that is to just roll with it. You have to expect that it’s going to happen eventually. Things happen — shows run long or somebody doesn’t show up because they got sick or were in a car accident. Things just change sometimes, life happens, and if you can’t roll with it, man, pick another career! Pick another life! I don’t really mind it that much. The only time it’s a bit irritating is when you’ve learned a lot of material and suddenly they’re going to cut a page and a half of it, because you put a lot of work into it. But you know what? That’s the job, that’s what they’re paying you to do: deliver what they need. So, you do it and move on.”

What is your process for learning a long monologue? “It’s like memorizing anything else, even the give and take of a dialogue scene. For me, the best way to do it is to break it down into sections of what it’s about, in terms of what happens, what am I talking about? In a dialogue scene, it’s like this exchange, right? We’re talking about going to the store. I bought some muffins, [you ask me if] the muffins were blueberry, I say, ‘Yes, but then I put poison in them.’ A monologue is basically the same thing. I’m just kind of saying to someone, ‘Well, I went to a store, I bought some muffins, they were blueberry muffins. And after I left the store and got back to my car, I put in poison, I knew that feeding them to somebody was going to make me feel very guilty. But I wanted that person dead anyway. So I went ahead and did it.’ You break it down into sections as if you were breaking it down into paragraphs so that you have a logical line of thought to follow, which is like any scene. Any good scene, anyway, has a logical train of thought. Anyway, then you just drop your chin and really do your best to learn the actual lines, and knowing that order really helps you do that.”

How do you approach shooting scenes out of order? “Things aren’t shot in order as much as they used to be [on GH], and you deal with it by really learning that day’s [script] so that you understand that at this point, this is what happens with the character.’ You just have to get yourself to a place where you can say, ‘Okay, at this stage, I’m really pissed off,’ or, ‘I’m really emotional.’ It adds a little more work, but the fact of the matter is that even if you’re shooting in order, you still have to kind of come back to where you left off. There’s an actor phrase, ‘What is your moment before?’ And if you remember your moment before [the scene starts], that helps immeasurably to give you a place to start from.”

How do you prepare for a scene that requires a high degree of emotional difficulty, such as one where you might be asked to cry? “Well, if you want to do it right, with some sense of reality to it, you really have to challenge yourself and drop in. I don’t like the Method approach of dredging up some terrible memory; I think that’s unhealthy. But we do have our imaginations available to us all the time, and if you really challenge yourself and think about, ‘What would it be like if this really happened to me?’ So much of acting is finding similarities between yourself and the character you’re playing, and if I were to really, truly imagine how I would feel in a situation, it makes it easier, or at least gives me a place to come from. And then I just try to be as ruthlessly naked about it as I can. That doesn’t mean I tell anyone what I’m thinking about or what I’m working with, but that’s what works for me.”