Kin Shriner is the king of soap hopping. Best known from his role as Scott Baldwin on GENERAL HOSPITAL, Shriner has appeared soaps on ABC, CBS, NBC, in syndication, in Canada, and now he's entering a new frontier - indie web soaps. Shriner debuts on the latest episode of Martha Byrne's GOTHAM (first airs Monday, January 18 at 8 p.m. ET) as Jon Prescott. In this exclusive interview with We Love Soaps, the four-time Emmy nominated Shriner, who is enjoying life in South Florida, talks about his new soap gig, some previous roles and what he might change if he could start his career over again.
We Love Soaps: I was watching an old episode of MERV GRIFFIN recently with you and Mary Beth Evans and he called you a "soap hopper" even back then. What do you think he might say now?
Kin Shriner: [Laughs] Right! Merv was ahead of his time! I might hold the record now I'm not sure. I've done 11, or now that I've done GOTHAM, 12, or 13, different soap operas.
We Love Soaps: And you've always had leading parts on these shows.
Kin Shriner: Yeah. As they say in show business, it's been a good run.
We Love Soaps: Soap fans recognize you from the role of Scott Baldwin on GENERAL HOSPITAL. Do you get constantly asked about returning to GH?
Kin Shriner: People come up to me on a daily basis and have associated me with GENERAL HOSPITAL. They did and still do and always will. As long as GENERAL HOSPITAL is on the air, I will always be a part of GENERAL HOSPITAL, whether I'm on it or off it.
We Love Soaps: You haven't aged and you look the same, so people will always recognize you.
Kin Shriner: [Laughs] That's what people say to me, "Boy, you haven't changed. You look the same." And I say, "Clean living." And they usually laugh. That's how it goes down.
We Love Soaps: I remember you on RITUALS. I wish there were old clips from that show online. What was it like working on a syndicated soap at the time versus a network show? Was there anything different in how it was produced?
Kin Shriner: No. It was produced by Jørn Winther who produced ALL MY CHILDREN. It was done as we do all soap operas. But the expectations were for it to be the first syndicated soap opera. It premiered at this 8:30 at night timeslot and then never really found its footing in syndication. It was 8:30 here, 10 o'clock there. It was designed to be a nighttime show but only made it a year. I'm sure someone will unearth some videotapes and release them online or YouTube. There was at least 250 episodes of it.
We Love Soaps: You said a few years ago that you had a lot of fun acting on AS THE WORLD TURNS. You worked opposite Martha Byrne on that show and now you are working with her again on GOTHAM. What did you say when Martha called and asked you to take the role of Jon Prescott on GOTHAM?
Kin Shriner: She has a way of getting you to do things you normally might not do. She sort of charms you into things. I had such a good time with her and the rest of those guys on AS THE WORLD TURNS that I would have signed up for anything with them, whether it was a play or this or that. Anything she called and asked me to be mixed up in I would have done.
We Love Soaps: What can you tell us about the role of Jon Prescott?
Kin Shriner: He's kind of a guy who had a relationship with his wife, and they're divorced, but he stills feels as though they are still together. He doesn't give up. He thinks her house is his home. His daughter is still there, and he just won't go away. No matter how much she says to go away, he's back again. We're kind of fleshing him out as we go along.
We Love Soaps: You were here in New York City taping GOTHAM during a blizzard. Did you have any trouble getting in and out of the city?
Kin Shriner: I got on the wrong subway out of Brooklyn and got lost, but other than that it was a wonderful experience. It was snowing and Christmas in New York. Once I got back to Manhattan, it was good. By the time I left the snow had subsided and I flew right out of there without a hitch.
We Love Soaps: What was it like working with Martha as not only a co-star but as the executive producer?
Kin Shriner: You know, she didn't really put the producer hat on when I was there. She was acting with me so she was more of an actress. In fact, more so than ever because I think she kept me waiting quite a bit while she was having her hair and make-up done. I'm assuming she didn't have the producer hat on that day because otherwise she would have been yelling at herself [laughs]!
We Love Soaps: You've done soaps on ABC, CBS and NBC. You did a syndicated Lorimar soap. Now you're working on an indie web soap. How did your first experience working with the GOTHAM cast and crew compare?
Kin Shriner: I have done all kinds of stuff way back to student films in the '70s. GOTHAM had an all professional crew. Once you are outside a [television] studio it's a location shoot to me, and it was no different than we did 25 years ago at Luke and Laura's wedding on GENERAL HOSPITAL. You hope it's going to look as good as it would in a studio with the lighting and everything, but these cameras now can shoot with no light! The whole thing seemed to me to be very professional. And acting with Martha comes easy because I've done it before with her so it was just second nature.
We Love Soaps: GUIDING LIGHT went off the air in 2009 and AS THE WORLD TURNS is ending this year. Do you think there's a way for the remaining daytime soaps to sustain beyond the next few years?
Kin Shriner: I guess they've got to find a way to cut back. Any actor whose been on a soap says the only way to save things is to open up the history books of the show and start playing history, and that's my feeling. Embrace your viewers and give them the stories and characters they have known.
We Love Soaps: I personally believe the soaps have a better chance of getting former viewers to start watching again than attracting brand new viewers.
Kin Shriner: I concur with that. I believe you're onto something. If a show is 50 years old, you're viewers are falling into that category, and you have to play to them. Like with those guys working in the subway, if somebody is standing there, they turn and play the jokes or play the guitar to the guy who will put the dollar in their hat. That's the way I see it. Play to who is watching.
We Love Soaps: James Franco just wrapped up his stint on GENERAL HOSPITAL. He really didn't have much of an impact in the ratings. In fact, the total viewers actually started going down after he debuted.
Kin Shriner: I don't know how to explain that. But I just think it's a very specific genre, and the genre has shown us what it is after 50, 60 years. These fans are loyal and they know what they want. They stand up at attention when you give them what they want. Otherwise, they don't like it.
We Love Soaps: Out of all your soap roles, is Scott Baldwin your favorite?
Kin Shriner: Yes, he is. I've had the most fun with him because with him I've been able to span four decades from my 20s to my 30s and my 40s and into my 50s, so I have history playing his dreams and ambitions and faults and everything else. He has been with me the longest. The other guys kind of fell by the wayside.
We Love Soaps: If you could go back to 1977 when you first started on GH, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself?
Kin Shriner: I probably would have stayed put and played the run of it instead of coming and going. But when you're young, you're restless, and so I moved around a lot. I think you have to leave roles, go away and come back with a whole new attitude. It's just like in life with somebody you haven't seen in two years and they have a different hitch in their step. It's fun to figure out what they've been doing. So I think you do need to go. However, it was a great job and I loved it, and I was probably out looking for the rainbow and gold ring from time to time when it was right in my own back yard. I would have probably played longer and had more fun with the people I was working with instead of jumping to another show.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Jim Warren for the Kin Shriner soap card.