In Parts One and Two of our interview with the musician-actor Jon Lindstrom, the fan favorite shared his passion for music with The High Lonesome, playing with the band in Hollywood during the wild 1980s, as well as his memorable roles as Mark on SANTA BARBARA and twins Ryan/Kevin on GENERAL HOSPITAL. In Part Three below he shares what happened when Kevin spun off to PORT CHARLES, offers insights into backstage decisions made in daytime, as well as the challenges and vindication of portraying Craig on AS THE WORLD TURNS.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: The characters of Kevin and Lucy [Lynn Herring] were so popular on GENERAL HOSPITAL in 1997 that you were spun-off into the new soap PORT CHARLES. What was that like for you?
Jon Lindstrom: I was thrilled. Basically they were asking us to come do a show that was half as long for more money. I said, “Yeah I’ll do that, my momma didn’t raise no dummy!” At the time they were planning to do a spin off about Ned [Wally Kurth] and Lois [Rena Sofer], and Claire Labine was going to write it. That would have required the show to be done in New York. ABC did not want to set up a whole other studio in New York when they owned a studio and sound stage in Hollywood. So Wendy Riche pitched the idea of doing a spin off with Lynn and myself using existing sets. It was their decision to do it much cheaper. My character at the time wasn’t working much [on GH], I was only doing about one show every few weeks. I was ready to leave. I approached it as a great opportunity out of the blue. I thought it would be half the work for more money, but it turned out to be twice the work.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Why was it twice the work?
Jon Lindstrom: It is very very hard to get a new show off the ground. I didn’t realize that at the time. But I learned it. It is hard to get a new show launched, to give it a feel that is different from the others, and to get its own tone, its own rhythms.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you feel like PORT CHARLES ever really found its own tone and its own rhythms?
Jon Lindstrom: I think it did and then it lost it.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: During what time of the show’s history did it feel like had the right tone?
Jon Lindstrom: When Lynn Latham was writing the show [1998-1999] and then following that up, when Barbara Bloom and Karen Harris were writing the show . Both those periods were very good. I thought we lost it, honestly, when we brought in vampires. I understand the reasoning. I know that for some reason vampires are this mysterious seductive thing. I just don’t get it. I don’t watch TRUE BLOOD, I don’t see horror films, so I never really understood it. I felt it lost it’s way then.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Funny you say that. I have publicly stated that PORT CHARLES lost me with the vampires. When soaps bring on supernatural elements, I feel emotionally disconnected from the characters. Wendy Riche explained to me the reasons for it, but I just don’t feel any investment in those stories.
Jon Lindstrom: Some people love it, I don’t.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What do you think needs to happen to keep the six shows left on the air alive and thriving?
Jon Lindstrom: Nobody seems to know what to do to keep these shows on the air in a meaningful way. Whoever can figure that out will be the richest person in the world. Personally, I’m convinced that networks don’t want to put on the cheap-assed shit more than we want to watch it.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you mean the “reality” shows?
Jon Lindstrom: Yes. It’s a conundrum. Nobody really likes it, but as long as soaps are running under a 1980s paradigm, reality shows are going to look more current and somehow be more engaging. As soon as someone can figure out how to make a scripted show look and feel more current then there will be life in the genre again and people will start making money again. The biggest problem has been how to make it financially viable. It’s a tough one.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I think one of the things that have gotten daytime soaps in trouble was to ignore elements that made them so successful in the past, like telling character based drama that ultimately ascends and inspires their audience.
Jon Lindstrom: And being able to tell stories without regard for age as well. Tell stories that involve everyone. If you’re going to tell stories about a community then show a community that is not all under 25-years-old. I have nothing against stories about young people, I’m all for it. Great stories about young love are just as engaging as older ones. But in their pursuit to try to keep soaps on the air, a mindset has changed. It’s a shift in focus. Networks have almost had to think like a cigarette company, and that is why we were so overwrought with young people for awhile. We wanted to get them “hooked” while they were young and then keep them around. That is the demographic that they want. But that completely ignores the rest of the age group that watches the show.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I think a real missed opportunity came after PORT CHARLES was canceled, and Kevin and Lucy were left out of GH.
Jon Lindstrom: They were left out on the other side of town. I think that was because that mentality I described had taken over. It’s not like we wouldn’t have done it, we just never got a call.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Was it your understanding that Kevin would come back to GH if PORT CHARLES was canceled?
Jon Lindstrom: As I recall there was.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I think those sorts of decisions can have a cumulative effect, leading audiences to lack an investment in tuning every day to their show.
Jon Lindstrom: I can see how any viewer who had invested time would see that as a slap in the face. They say, “I put in all this time in these characters, I invested in these characters, why are they gone? Don’t make me care about these people I don’t know.” Again, that was all part of a way to figure out how to stem the flow of audiences leaving us. I can’t blame them for trying as many things as they could to try to find a solution. I probably would have done the same thing.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: On AS THE WORLD TURNS you had the unenviable task of portraying Craig Montgomery, a character who had been played by two different actors with very passionate fan bases. Some might say it was very brave of you to take that role.
Jon Lindstrom: I didn’t realize this was such a character to step into it until after I stepped into it. I said “yes” before knowing that. Then I realized it was kind of like stepping into the role of James Bond. There were a lot of people expecting a lot. The thing in my favor was that WORLD TURNS was still stories in a humanistic way. I had that going for me, I didn’t have to try to jump over any other hurdles. And I did realize that I am fairly good at this acting thing. I know how to take a part and make it my own.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did you like that challenge?
Jon Lindstrom: I did. Craig Montgomery was a great part.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What did you like about Craig?
Jon Lindstrom: His charm. He could charm his way through any opportunity. Whether it was being charged with murder, or just trying to get an investor, or to make nice with his daughter. In any situation he could say, “Come on, I’m just a big kid.” Which he was, in so many ways. Personally I like that about him.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I think we saw a softer side to Craig with your interpretation. We saw a very supportive side as he helped Carly with her alcoholism.
Jon Lindstrom: I have been told that I brought that side to him where the other guys didn’t. I don’t know, I never really watched the other guys. I went to YouTube to check out both Scott Bryce and Hunt Block after I had been the doing the show for about six months. I wouldn’t do it before then. I don’t see how anyone wouldn’t want to put heart in it because he seemed to love everything so much. Even the people he didn’t like it, there was something that he loved.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Your performance was so acclaimed that it won you an Emmy nomination in 2009. How did that feel?
Jon Lindstrom: That was great, I had never been nominated for an Emmy before. I had worked really hard. The fact is, the Emmy's are a professional academy where you are recognized by your peers. So to have your peers say, “Dude, you were one of the five best this year,” that meant a lot to me.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did it feel vindicating given you had been under critical pressure taking on the role of Craig?
Jon Lindstrom: Yes, it did. I have to admit it did.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Honestly, did you prepare a speech?
Jon Lindstrom: I did, but it kept changing during the show, on the walk to the theater, while I was in the shower. And then during the show, as we were getting closer and closer to the award, you see that the show is running long and whoever wins won’t have much time to say anything anyway. So I thought, “If I find myself up there I’ll say whatever comes to mind.”
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: And who would you have thanked?
Jon Lindstrom: Everyone that had ever been born in the history of the world...and the people who watch the show (laughs).
EDITOR'S NOTE: Come back for the final part of our interview in which Lindstrom discusses the impact of the AS THE WORLD TURNS cancellation, how he has coped with the loss of the show this past year, as well as thriving career in independent films.
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