In Part One of our interview, Jon Lindstrom shared his musical roots with The High Lonesome, memories of playing Hollywood clubs in the 80s, as well as some of the struggles behind the scenes at SANTA BARBARA. In Part Two he reveals more anecdotes about SANTA BARBARA, and his process of playing tortured twins Ryan and Kevin on GENERAL HOSPITAL. Which famous soap actor almost got the role instead of Lindstrom? Find out below!
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: From the viewer’s standpoint, the 1985-1986 season you were on SANTA BARBARA was such a treat.
Jon Lindstrom: It was a beautifully written and produced show. It was so well done. I’m happy for that. The work showed. It was hard work, and we all sweated bullets to make it happen.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Your character, Mark McCormick, was popular while being so very hated.
Jon Lindstrom: Everybody hated that guy.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Well he raped his wife Mary, the former nun!
Jon Lindstrom: Yeah, he was the smarmiest guy. He was a douche bag.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Yet audiences were captivated. You have made a living on soaps and independent films playing some very troubled and often violent men.
Jon Lindstrom: There’s no real trick to that. You have to keep two things in mind. You have to enjoy what you do and the audience will pick up on it. I think people like to watch others enjoying what they do. And the other thing is a basic lesson: learn to love your character. Find some reason to like him. If you can do that then audiences will pick it up and go along for the ride.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What did you love about Mark McCormick?
Jon Lindstrom: Mark McCormick was in love with love. His problem was that he thought he knew what love was and he didn’t. But he believed in his idea of love. He wanted to feel that and have it come back at him. And that’s probably the same for Ryan Chamberlain on GH as well. There are really only so many characters out there, only so many motivations. Ryan Chamberlain and Mark McCormick had these things in common.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: They thought of love as possession.
Jon Lindstrom: That’s where they would screw it up. They thought that to love somebody is to possess them. What they truly wanted was to love and to be loved. I think that was the only redeeming factor that people could see. If he believed he was feeling love then the charm would come out. It’s just like falling in love. You feel great, you don’t really know why.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Then they tragically sabotage it.
Jon Lindstrom: Of course, or there is no story.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You are in one of the most beloved scenes in soap history on SANTA BARBARA. Mark was on that roof at the Capwell Hotel when the big letter “C” came down and crushed Mary. This was before spoilers and news of who was coming or going. I watched that Friday afternoon and was in complete and utter shock. My entire weekend was spent in disbelief that Mary could be killed by the letter “C”.
Jon Lindstrom: (Laughs) It was death by “C”! And now there’s a show on Showtime called “The Big C.”
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Right! What was filming that scene with Harley Jane Kozak, Lane Davies, and Nancy Lee Grahn like?
Jon Lindstrom: To be honest, it took so long to shoot that. I remember just wanting it to be over. I had to emote so much. I had to lull and cry over Mary’s body and then be hauled off. And of course no one believed Mark’s remorse and sorrow over the whole thing. I just remember we had to shoot it nine times in nine different ways in order to get the “C” falling, and to get the right angle on Harley, in order to make it look like she was actually getting hit by the big letter. It just went on and on. That’s what I remember about it, thinking, “Please, just let me go home.”
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Lane Davies recently told me that some of those shooting days would go two in the morning. Was that scene one of them?
Jon Lindstrom: Actually I think we shot that scene first and the rest came after. But I was told that there would be nights they would shoot until 4 am. I remember coming in at 8am on a Saturday morning and not even be called into to shoot my scene until 1pm on Sunday morning. That’s what I mean about it not being a happy place. We all made a lot of money because of overtime and all that stuff, but we didn’t have a whole lot of fun doing it.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So when you had the opportunity to do GENERAL HOSPITAL and play another troubled man, was there any hesitation to go down that route again?
Jon Lindstrom: No, for a myriad of reasons. I needed the job at the time. I think I had less than one hundred dollars in the bank when I got that job. I had been out of work for a couple of years by the time that came around. Dry spells will happen to actors. I thought, “Great, it will be three months on a recurring basis, I’ll work this summer and pay off my credit cards.” Eleven years and two shows and two characters later, I was still there! It was a great great run. It was the source of so many great things in my life.
A little bit of unknown trivia is that the role of Ryan was between me and Michael O’ Leary (STEAMBOAT, ex-GL). We were the last two guys called in to read for it at the final callback. I thought, “Okay, Michael is a good guy, it will be okay if I don’t get it.” He went in and read, did his thing, and left. I went in, read, did my thing, and left. I got into my car in the parking lot at the ABC studios. I’m driving across the parking lot and I see a guy in uniform running after me. For some reason I actually stopped, lowered my window, and said, “Yes?”, when any other time in my life I probably would have hit the gas and ran for it. He said, “They want to see you again.”
I went back in and read it again in the same way for Wendy Riche, Maxine Levinson, and Mark Teschner. They looked at me like, “That was exactly the same.” I asked, “Is there something else you want to see?” They said, “Yes, we wanted to see it without menace in it.” I said, “Sure, I can do that.” I gave it to them in that way and they said, “Great.” By the time I got home I had the job. I got to play one of the great psychos in daytime television by taking all the menace out of my audition. See how these things work, we never know what to expect.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did they want you to take the menace out of it because they were planning for Kevin Collins?
Jon Lindstrom: No Kevin wasn’t a glimmer. They just wanted to believe that Felicia could fall for this guy before we saw the menace. Which made perfect sense.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Kevin became one of my favorite daytime characters of all time. He was a good therapist, and I liked how his complexities were written by Claire Labine. He’s the only soap character that I know of that owned a duck.
Jon Lindstrom: The only male character, Lucy owned him too.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: After playing these troubled violent men on daytime, how did you approach the opportunity to play a calm nuanced therapist?
Jon Lindstrom: It meant I had to start thinking about it. Playing Ryan was very easy because he was so psychotic. I could play whatever mood I was in that day and it would work. Anything with Ryan would be logical. But with Kevin I had to think about how he would be thinking about his day, knowing that the other side of his personality was so crazy and screwed up. I had to get very methodical about it every day.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did you speak to any therapists about this role?
Jon Lindstrom: Just the ones I paid (laughs).
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You and Lynn Herring had such beautiful chemistry as Kevin and Lucy and to this day are one of my favorite couples on daytime.
Jon Lindstrom: Thank you.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I was also fond of the times you got to play Ryan and Kevin’s struggles with each other. There was a hostage story after Ryan escaped from prison in which Kevin has to negotiate with him at length. Your ability to so completely portray these men who were so opposite, yet so connected, was fascinating. Daytime has had a lot of twins, but never before had the psychological complexities of being a twin been explored in such detail.
Jon Lindstrom: I would agree with you on that. The writers they put in charge of writing that relationship had a lot of free reign and they went with it. I think they were very intelligent with how they handled that relationship.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How did you prepare for these long scenes with just Ryan and Kevin engaging in mental and verbal conflict?
Jon Lindstrom: I just let Ryan be Ryan and Kevin be Kevin. With one of them I could be utterly mercurial and over the top. With the other I could be methodical so the viewer could pick up on a visceral difference between the two of them. And don’t ever use cue cards! Cue cards will kill you. You’re then busy looking at a cue card trying to remember your next line instead of relating to somebody. Don’t ever use them.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please come back next week for Part Three in which he discusses the beginnings of PORT CHARLES, the process of spinning off from GENERAL HOSPITAL, and the challenges of replacing two popular Craigs on AS THE WORLD TURNS. What does he really think about vampire stories? Find out in Part Three.
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Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist now accepting new clients in New York City. He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." For more information about scheduling an appointment, please email him at Shouldless@gmail.com.