Soap Opera Digest: Of course, Jon, we’re here to discuss the fact that you’ve just marked your 30th anniversary as Ryan, who first appeared on June 26, 1992 – but let’s start with your real GH debut, as a car rental agent for a 1983 episode.
Jon Lindstrom (Laughs): It’s true! This clip sometimes pops up on Twitter and here I am, like I just got out of high school! The story behind it is that I knew Marvin Paige, who was the casting director, whom I had met through a mutual friend and who helped me find my first agent. So in 1983 he had me come and read for a car rental agent and he had the power to just say yes or no. So I did that, then he got me to read for the role of Jimmy Lee Holt for [then-Executive Producer] Gloria Monty, and he looked at my resume and he saw GENERAL HOSPITAL; he had forgotten that I had done that because he was casting so many people all the time. He says, “Here, I’ll fix that,” and he whitewashes. He said, “If she sees that, it’ll kill you here.” I read about Gloria, I didn’t understand, Steve Bond understood it. Then Marvin brings me for Frisco, and of course, my friend Jack [Wagner] It’s understood. Cut again to 1992. [Casting Director] Mark Teschner had me read for a role that never happened because two days after reading for Gloria, Gloria left the show. But Mark remembered me and got me to read for Ryan Chamberlain for [then-EP] Wendy Rich. The first time I walked in there was probably 10 or 12 guys all looking alike and then there was a call back and it was just me and Michael O’Leary [ex-Rick, GUIDING LIGHT], who is a great guy. I go in and I do my thing and I leave and I cross the parking lot and I hear: “Jon! Hey, Jon!” And I look over my shoulder and there’s a security guard chasing me. And I mean, it was probably at a time in my life where if I saw a person in uniform chasing me , I was running the other way [laughs]! They said, “They want to see you again!” So I came back up and they said, “We just want to know if you’re scary.” I said, “Oh, you wanted to see if I could be friendly, and now you want me to be friendly but quietly creepy, right?” ” It’s exactly that ! So we started again and when the other actor stopped talking and turned away, that’s when I got the creepy face. And of course, I got the job. So that was the start – this sudden appearance of this guy who’s still here 30 years later [followed] a 10 year association of starts and stops with this show before it came to fruition.
Digest: Truly unbelievable. And to say that if you had become Jimmy Lee, you would have Roger Howarth [Austin] for a fictional son, and if you had been cast as Frisco, you would have Kirsten Storms [Maxie] as a fictional girl! But I digress. When you think back to Jon who landed this job in 1992, where were you in your life and your career?
Lindstrom: I remember quite clearly where I was at the time. I hadn’t worked for two years and that was after doing several TV movies and a lot of episodes. I had a roommate, I had less than $100 in the bank, I had credit debt that seemed pretty overwhelming at the time for someone who was broke. I had already established myself and had a good launch in my career, so there I was, I was like, “Did I screw up here? Am I wrong about my abilities? So when I got this job, it represented, you know, hope and validation. It was supposed to be a summer script; they hadn’t written anything beyond three months, and they actually expected Ryan to be dead by the end of that summer. He was just supposed to drive a wedge between Mac and Felicia in order to bring them together. It was my only goal. I thought, “Well, if I’m smart, if I don’t eat out too much, if I keep living with Rice-A-Roni, maybe I can pay these credit card bills and have some dollars in my account. pocket!” Little did I know that the script itself and the character would resonate and, you know, nine, 10 months later I would be offered a contract on AS THE WORLD TURNS out of the blue, for the role that Paolo Seganti ended up to play [Damian Grimaldi]. I refused because I was not ready to leave GH! I was having a great time. I was out of the hole I was in, I had some savings, and when I was offered the other job, all of a sudden GH had to, as they say, piss or get off the pot too far as Jon Lindstrom was concerned. And Claire [Labine, then-head writer] said, “Well, let’s make up another character. I got this idea for this guy, Kevin [Ryan’s twin, who was introduced in December 1993]. Why don’t we do this? That’s how it worked. Suddenly I had signed a contract, gotten a big raise, and was on a plane to New York to go to the Daytime Emmys. I found myself sitting in the ALL MY CHILDREN section next to Sarah Michelle Gellar [ex-Kendall] because there were no more places in the GH section.
Digest: Obviously they wrote for you in those first three months, but can you put your finger on when you knew it worked?
Lindstrom: One of the things that comes to mind is a scene I was doing with Kristina. [Wagner, Felicia], Who I love. This was before her character knew that Ryan was stalking her. We’re on a balcony at night and I kind of have my arm around her and Ryan finally starts to walk through her wall of “I’m still in love with Mac and I’m still in love with Frisco” and in the scene she turns around and finally gives her a kiss. And I just thought, ‘You know, this is actually going somewhere. We have a very good thing here. When I really knew things were bad is when he basically kidnapped and held her hostage in the cabin and she finally figured out what the fuss was about. It just played very well. I knew, “Even if she kills me with a knife in my back, I’ll know we played a really successful story.”
Digest: You didn’t know then – stab him, trap him in a fire, throw him off a bridge, Ryan can’t be killed!
Lindstrom: It’s true! He’s just too good a character. He’s vital and mercurial and energetic and intelligent and he’s just a lot of fun to play.
Digest: When Ryan was presumed dead in 1995, you carried on as Kevin, who moved to PORT CHARLES from 1997 to 2003. We didn’t see you again regularly on GH until you were asked to reprise the role of Kevin in 2013, and five years later, Ryan was resurrected. Tell me how it happened.
Lindstrom: Well, Kevin and Laura had become a really beautiful love story, and then it started to fade — Genius [Francis, Laura] takes time off every year, other stories have happened. I think it was Genie who said to me, “What would you like to do?” I said, “I don’t know. Maybe it would be cool if Ryan came back. Maybe that would spice things up a bit. About a month later I got a call from Frank [Valentini, executive producer]. He said, “Can you come to the office?” Close the door. Your brother is not dead. And we left! That’s one of the great things about it – it’s kind of a gift that just keeps on giving.
Digest: You had a huge arc following Ryan’s return with Ryan taking over Kevin’s life, going on a killing spree, seducing Ava. Looking back on this historic year, would you consider this a highlight of your career at GH?
Lindstrom: Oh, I absolutely would, for several reasons. I think they did a really good job with that, and they brought Genie into the mix and worked with Maura [West, Ava]whom I love since we met on AS THE WORLD TURNS [where West played Carly and Lindstrom played Craig]. We never really got to perform our stories on WORLD TURNS because the show was canceled, you know? So we had a kind of overhaul with that. But just for me, personally, it was great to be able to come back into this character, mainly because I’m a different person and hopefully a better actor and easier and more skilled than I was back then , and I have more life experience . So for me, it was a big highlight to go back to it with that feeling of, “Gee, I wish I knew then what I know now.” Well, now I can do it! I can put that on the line. And it was surprisingly easy to fall back into him. That was the weird part!
Digest: So what does this step mean to you? What goes through your mind as you try to get a sense of this 30-year journey?
Lindstrom: It’s really remarkable because I can honestly say how much I feel there is still a lot to do. There are even more stories to tell. I have not finished yet ! I’m at an age now where I can be pretty circumspect about things, but I also wake up in the morning and I’m still excited to do things and create things and have memorable experiences. In many ways, I feel like we’re just getting started.