Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Interview: Jon Lindstrom on his Many Roles on Screen and In Life: From General Hospital to Homeland to New Movies PLUS the Unique Cause He Just Can't Say Enough About

Jon Lindstrom
If you're a fan of daytime, you'll understand that there are only a few actors that can successfully portray two people at one time. True soap fans can recite a list of the handful that have played two people, most often twins, and one more than likely a not-so-nice version of the other.

Multiple award-winning and Daytime Emmy-nominated veteran actor Jon Lindstrom currently plays Dr. Kevin Collins and Ryan Chamberlain on the Emmy-winning and long running daytime drama General Hospital. That's probably what he is most known for. But, this accomplished actor has a whole lot more on his resume. Most recently, he was on the series finale of Homeland, on Bosch Season 5 on Amazon, and safely returned back to his home in LA from NYC for a role on CBS' Bull, just before the virus took at bite out of the Big Apple. He will also be seen in two movies yet to be released, Marzipan and Dark Foe (with Selma Blair.)

His acting career is impressive, from roles on daytime dramas such as As The World Turns, Port Charles and Santa Barbara  to many roles on TV series such as NCIS, SWAT, True Detective, Blue Bloods and moreHe also makes his own films and music. (He's a drummer).

I recall getting to know him a bit a few years ago, dining with he and his beautiful wife Actress/Director Cady McClain, whom I work on some projects with, on a beautiful night before the Daytime Emmy Ceremony in Pasadena. Great company and great soap stories. (Given what is happening now in the world, I wonder how long it will take before we can gather in a large place and enjoy a crowded and bustling Red Carpet like that again.) 

Read on to find out more about Jon is doing and thinking about during these unprecedented times, and how he looks forward to the future.

On Doing Scenes with Himself

Q: Most people know you from your time in daytime, on several dramas. Right now, you're playing a dual role. How does that compare to your other roles in daytime? How challenging is it? 

Jon Lindstrom: Good question. I assume you mean doing scenes as twins, in other words, talking to myself. I joke that it’s great, I’m working with my favorite scene partner! :) But that over-simplifies it. Having to do twice the work is always a challenge, obviously, but the biggest difference in comparison to other work in daytime is it actually can give me a bit of an advantage. 

When doing straight scenes with another actor, you don’t always know where they’re going to go with it, which in the best circumstances gives the work a vitality, a spontaneity, that gives the scene life and spark. Or we hope so, anyway. :) Doing twins, specifically twin scenes, I’m working with an actor who’s off-camera and I’m coming back later to do that side of the scene. Whether it’s something he does that inspires me, and during this go-around it’s been a terrific actor named Jason Ryan Lovett, or some idea I come up with while I’m shooting one side, either Ryan or Kevin depending, I may have the advantage of finding a moment or attitude that I can plan on bringing to the scene when I shoot the other half later. 

On the set of General Hospital with Genie Francis                                     Courtesy GH Facebook

It may or may not work as I expected, but when we’re just shooting scenes, with Genie (Francis) or a great day player like Jeff Kober (Cyrus) you just don’t have the luxury to go back and find that little bit more to inject into it. So ultimately, it’s more satisfying on a creative level. Otherwise, you always wish you could get another couple cracks at it, but that’s really film work. We don’t have time for that. 

On Rising Ratings Amid the Pandemic

Q: General Hospital is one of only four remaining broadcast daytime dramas and retains a great fan base. How are the fans reacting during this pandemic? What are your concerns or hopes for GH after we're all out of this? 

Jon Lindstrom: First, I hope we have enough new episodes to get us to the other side, even with the Classic Fridays reruns, and we can get up and running soon enough to get new content on the air without interruption. The last thing we need is another period like we experienced with the OJ trial, where audiences just got bored and moved to cable. Now they’ll just go the streaming platforms. 

I’m heartened to learn that the ratings for all the soaps have gone up during the shutdown, but that’s a bit of no-brainer, isn’t it? The challenge will be retaining our core audience as things begin to lift. But I do believe that none of the networks want to be without at least one serial on the air. That audience may be smaller than primetime overall, but it’s still “audience” to advertise to and they need all they can get. 

On Getting His First Job at Rituals, Meeting Cady and 
Getting Away from his Stalker

Q: Looking back on your three + decades in daytime, aside from meeting your wife - what are some of your most memorable moments on or off set? 

Jon Lindstrom: Oh man, how do you compare your job to meeting the person who saved your life? :) Nothing will top that but I have so many moments that I’ll never forget.

Mainly they’re events that typify a milepost of my own personal journey. Getting my first one (Rituals) while I was at my bartending job, having it dawn on me that the next morning my life would completely change. Getting GH when I was terribly in debt and had no prospects and was just happy to be hired for what was intended to be a few months and hopefully earn enough to pay off my credit cards, then putting everything I had into the gig, and here I am today. Getting ATWT the same day I won a restraining order against a stalker which gave me a way out of LA and into NYC which I'd always wanted to do. 

That led to my first Emmy nomination and, of course, to Cady. And that time in NY led to my directing my first feature film, and then took us back to LA where I was asked to rejoin GH. It’s been a real sidewinder of a life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

On Getting out of Dodge Before Broadway Went Dark

Q: I know you just finished filming something in NYC, right before the virus struck.  What were you shooting?

Jon Lindstrom: I was in NYC doing an episode of Bull the first two weeks of March. I love New York and what they’re going through with this is unimaginable, but then so is everyone. I feel very lucky to have gotten out unscathed. As we now know, the coronavirus was spreading very quickly right then and NYC seems to be getting hit the hardest. My last day on the shoot was also the last day of the episode, and they shut down their show the next morning. Broadway went dark just a day or two before that, and GH and the rest of the industry shuttered on Friday the 13th of March. 

But I had a wonderful time on Bull. I play a formidable opposing attorney. It’s a great show and a great environment, contrary to anything you’ve read in the news. Michael Weatherly couldn’t have been more welcoming and generous and respectful. The entire cast and crew was the same, Freddy Rodríguez, MacKenzie Meehan, director Dennis Smith, producer Bethany Rooney, I mean everyone was a dream team. I hope they get another season, at least. 

On Working with Lesli Linka Glatter and Mandy Patinkin

Q: You're on two widely followed series. Tell me about your roles on HBO's Homeland and Amazon's Bosch.

Jon Lindstrom: Homeland was one day at the very end of their run. And it was with the great Lesli Linka Glatter directing. And Mandy Patinkin. I mean, who wouldn’t do it? I love the show and I’m sorry to see it go, but I’m thrilled to be even a little part of it. Truly. I play a dealer in rare books. I was asked to come in and do this one scene with Mandy. There was just a certain “thing” they wanted from the character to be opposite him in his last on-screen moments. You’d have to ask them what it was. 

I was on Bosch last season, Season 5, which is one of their best, I have to say. In that I’m a very crooked defense lawyer. This new season, Season 6, is the one after mine. I’m nowhere to be seen in the new one. :( 

The film he wrote and directed.

Q: Somehow you also found time to shoot two films?

Jon Lindstrom: I have two films coming out this year, A Dark Foe with Selma Blair and Graham Greene, in which I play a French pimp. And “Marzipan,” a spy thriller with Reece Noi and Tamara Taylor where I play a high-ranking C.I.A. handler. 

It's Not Like Tootsie!

Q: Is shooting a soap different than other work? Got any good soap stories to tell?

Jon Lindstrom: It’s funny, a few years ago I was doing True Detective and Timothy V. Murphy, a sensational actor who had never done one, asked me what it’s like to do a soap. I said it was like any other gig; you learn your words and do your job. He was surprised. He thought it was just like Tootsie. Amazing how that movie has informed the public perception of Daytime, but couldn’t be further from the truth. (It’s a great movie, though.) 

Jon Lindstrom at the Daytime Emmys

A Question from Martin Sheen

Then there was the time I was on stage at “GH” one day, probably back in ’92 or ’93. I’m just standing in the dark waiting for everyone to move to my set and who walks up behind me looking for someone but Martin Sheen. We had friends in common so we start chatting and he’s looking at whatever was being shot that moment and asks me, “Do you guys ever use cue cards?” I had to stifle a laugh. I’ve only seen cue cards once in my entire daytime career, and it was actually a teleprompter which they set up for me when I was early in my Kevin/Ryan days, because there was so much dialogue. I asked them to take them away. No one I know has ever used them. They’re too distracting. 

But on some films and primetime TV, I’ve seen cards all over the walls! There can be several reasons for it, but it’s very rarely laziness on anyone’s part. If it’s a legal show, it might be because the legalese is very difficult to get just right and/or the show-runner’s laid down an edict that the dialogue must be followed word-for-word, no exceptions. And that’s not a bad thing. But in daytime you have a little bit of leeway to paraphrase. It’s just not so in single camera work. Not unless you’re someone like Harrison Ford, with the proven track record of coming up with something leaner and better. But Harrison also gets the time to work every line of every scene, so there’s that. 

What’s “different” or “similar” always depends on the same element: Time. 

Jon Lindstrom in a scene from the series Switch 

On Seeing James Bond at a Drive-In

Q. When did you first think that you wanted to be an actor? What show/movie/actor inspired you to think, "I want to do that?”

Jon Lindstrom: I know exactly when. My parents took my brother and me to the drive-in to see From Russian With Love. I slept through most of it but I woke up in time to see Sean Connery and Robert Shaw fight to the death in the train car. I remember thinking, “That’s what I want to do!” Of course, I was maybe five so I thought it meant I wanted to be James Bond, and I did for a while. But it was absolutely Sean Connery’s “James Bond” that inspired me to live this life. 

On Rising Early and Binging at Night

Q: What is your routine like these days? 

Jon Lindstrom: Rise. Feed animals. Coffee. Meditate. Bike ride/Workout. Breakfast. Write. Futz with project ideas. Dinner. Movie/TV binge. Sleep. Slight variations along the way. 

Q: You are very active with a fantastic organization, Kids in the Spotlight, and organization that allows kids in foster care to experience what it is like to make a film. Tell me about the film you did last year and what it was like working with the children. 

Jon Lindstrom: KITS is an extraordinarily impactful organization. I’m so gratified to be able to contribute in any way, but being able to bring our skills and expertise (Cady also shoots films for them) is an added bonus, being able to pass something down. 

The film I did last year was the most challenging in several ways, the first being that I couldn’t be there for the director's table read of all the scripts, so I basically ended up with the one that was left over. That would imply that it wasn’t the best one and that would be wrong. You have to remember that all the KITS films sprout from their own lives, and KITS is devoted to mentoring these kids how to tell their own stories through film, and therefore have a way to deal with it. 

Given the tough backgrounds many of these kids have experienced, they just don’t write a lot of romantic comedies, and that’s what this one was. I had also never tackled that genre before. All the directors want to make something that has some kind of transformative power (and Cady’s latest one for them is a great example) but the fact that ours chose a lighter tone makes it no less so. 

Jon with wife Cady and supporters of KITS

On Filming A Majestic Wish and How To See It 

Q: Tell me about the film. 

Jon Lindstrom: A Majestic Wish is about a teenage girl who is having her first birthday since her father passed away. I decided the father had been a cop, and we imply he had been killed in the line of duty. So she had not only lost her father, he was also a heroic figure. She also has a terrible crush on a boy at school who doesn’t know she’s alive because he’s so obsessed with sports.

The kids in the KITS program were completely down for the shoot. They know their characters, and they what they wanted to say. I give credit for that to the instructors who mentored them through the writing process. Grace Ajegbo, who played the lead character of ‘Majesty,’ did a fantastic job, especially considering she is not a professional. And Michele Davis, who played her secretly closeted friend, ‘Lavender’ threw herself into it, as well. They both had no fear whatsoever. 

I auditioned many young actors to place around them, some kids who have some experience and skill I thought could bolster them a bit, but they really didn’t need any. All the kids were terrific, worked for no money and a free lunch and on probably the hottest day of the year, and without one single complaint. 

The other challenge is the top of the line camera I rented came to the set without all it’s equipment, so we couldn’t use it. The rental house was nowhere to be found, either. I was livid, because one thing I really wanted to do was make these girls feel really beautiful when they saw themselves in the film. I wanted them to feel like stars for a day. Luckily, Cady, who was shooting her own film on the campus that same day, had packed a pretty good extra camera so we wound up using that. And I recruited lighting, makeup and hair people from GH to donate their time and they did a spectacular job making the girls look absolutely gorgeous. The film doesn’t look as “rich” as I wanted it to, but after a lot of post work with color correction and sound design, it came out all right. And it makes you smile, so I guess we did our job. 

You can see “A Majestic Wish” and learn more about KITS here: https://vimeo.com/367614123

Jon LIndstrom and wife Cady McClain

Q: Aside from KITS, what is something you have done that you are most proud of? 

Jon Lindstrom: My foster son, Paul. He’s in the medical field so he’s on the front lines right now. I am so proud of him I can’t even say it out loud without falling apart. He and I decided long ago that he's my son, I’m his father. That is all. And he loves Cady. 

Q: After we get out of this, and production goes back to normal, what do you see in your future? Are you using this time to plan anything special?

Jon Lindstrom: I’d just like to go back to doing what I do best. I have some things on the stove that are percolating, but we’ll get to those at the right time. 

Jon's Top Five Movies

From Here to Eternity
The Godfather
Pulp Fiction
The Killing

What Jon is Binging Now

Babylon Berlin
Money Heist
Zero Zero Zero
Better Call Saul

To Connect with Jon Lindstrom:


Interview by Suzanne Ordas Curry