Exclusive Interview with True Detective’s Jon Lindstrom
Jon Lindstrom is one of the Daytime TV’s most beloved stars. He is also one of the most versatile. Recently, I talked to Jon about his role on HBO’s True Detective, the differences between Daytime TV vs, film and his directorial debut.
You can find out more Jon via his website.
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As we all know, you’ve had a great career in soaps: General Hospital, Port Charles, As the World Turns. Do you miss doing soaps ?
“You know what, I just like to work. If I get a job offer and it happens to be a soap, I’m usually happy to get that. I was just as happy to get True Detective. Do I miss soaps? Yeah, sure I miss it. I miss not working when I’m not working! I miss working when I’m not working.
In fact I just had a conversation with Lynn Herring this morning. We miss hanging out. I miss seeing my friends. You miss going to the regular places. You miss the intensity of it. Soaps are intense and they’ve only gotten more intense as the years have gone by. The budgets keep getting shrunk down and they ask you to deliver the same thing for the money. It’s a little tough.
That part I don’t miss, I think it’s awfully hard to deliver the product now.”
Yeah, I agree with that. What do you think is easier: soaps, or episodic TV, or film? I would think film would be, right? You tell me.
“You know, it is easier. I think it is. Having just come from a very, very big production on True Detective. It’s a great luxury for someone like me who’s toiled in television for a long, long time. Television has gotten faster and more intense over the years.
Whereas, if you’re on a film project that’s considered A-List, I might do one scene in an episode and that scene is going to take all day long to shoot. You get a little tired because you keep saying the same dialogue over and over and over. You need to try to find ways to make it fresh each time you say it.
I think overall, yes, film is easier. That’s kind of a long-winded answer. [Laughs].”
No, I totally get what you’re saying! I was looking through your stuff. I didn’t know this, you’re a musician and you’re in a band.
“The High Lonesome is kind of, I would say pretty much over now. We were a 90s band. We were five out of work actors that needed something creative to do in between acting gigs. We started getting together just to play music because we realized we had enough guys and we all played different instruments. So we actually put a band together.
My friend, Larry Poindexter, who I had met back when we were both on Santa Barbara in 1985-86, is a songwriter and a singer.
The High Lonesome formed naturally, over time. We started doing cover songs for birthday parties. If someone was leaving town, or if somebody got divorced, we would play. Then we started writing original songs and playing local clubs in Los Angeles.
We were asked to play someone’s birthday party on Sunset Boulevard, which at the time was called The Central. It’s now The Viper Room, but before that it was The Central. All of the girl’s actress friends showed up. While the actresses were dancing in front of the band all their boyfriends were in the back buying beer at the bar. The Central wound up making a lot of money.
They invited us to open for one of their house bands, which was Chuck E Weiss’s. Chuck played every Tuesday at The Central at 9:00 or something. You might recall Ricky Lee Jones did a song called “Chuck E’s in Love” way back when. That was about Chuck E Weiss.
We started opening for Chuck E and we started drawing in as many people as Chuck E was drawing. The next thing we knew we were asked to start playing on Saturday nights in one of their prime slots. We started getting asked to play around town in other clubs.
By this time we had a pretty good catalog of original songs and someone who I knew worked at a record company and wanted to form her own record company. She came to one of our gigs right around the time I was starting on General Hospital. Now it’s around 1993-94 and she formed her own record company and signed us as her first act. That’s how we got a record deal!
We toured around the Southeast part of the country. We played at the Super Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona. We did at least one big fan fest in Orlando, Florida for ABC in front of about 10 thousand people. We had a great run and we recorded an album.
Years later the rights to our album finally reverted back to us. We got ahold of our masters. Remastered them, put out unreleased songs, and recorded a couple of new songs. We re-released our material on our own on iTunes and CD Baby and Amazon wherever fine digital downloads are sold.
That’s the story of The High Lonesome. We still talk. We’re still friends. In fact I’m seeing Larry sometime in the next couple of weeks! I think that what we’re probably going to do is trying to get together and record a new song every year or so.”
That would be great.
“We want to keep it going for ourselves! We still love to play together. That’s my High Lonesome story.
We didn’t really have to pursue anything. It just came to us, which made it beautiful. Then we wound up with two hits on the Billboard Hall 100 back in 1995-96. A song called Mary Mary and a song called True Believer.”
Tell everyone about what’s going on with True Detective and Jacob McCandless.
“Well I can’t talk about the story at all. We’re all under non-disclosure agreements. We were sent the non-disclosure agreements just to audition for the show!”
“Yeah, I got a call from my agent. “They want to see you for True Detective, but first I have to send you this email. You’ve got to sign this NDA and send it back to me. Then I can send you the audition material. Okay?”
I went through all that. I auditioned for it, but it was material for an email that you couldn’t print out. That’s how secretive this whole show is! You couldn’t print out the audition part. The day of my audition the slides disappeared from my computer!”
“Yeah. In the scene that I actually auditioned for Jacob McCandless was somebody named Glenn Ellinger. The scene itself wasn’t even in the show. It was written specifically just for the audition.
Which is too bad because it was a really good scene. I talked to Nic Pizzolatto about it. He goes, “We decided to do it because that way we wouldn’t have scenes from our show going around the Internet.”
In fact, Deadline Hollywood broke the story that I got the part, and they actually had all the wrong information. They printed that I was playing a character named Glenn Ellinger. I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t correct them because we couldn’t talk about it!
Now that it’s airing I can talk a bit about it. Jacob McCandless is obviously a very rich and powerful man. He has no problem looking Frank Semyon right in the eye and saying, “Hey, man. Don’t make your problem my problem.”
He does seem to be enjoying his ability to manipulate Frank. “Lost the hard drive? Hey Frank, you’re a gangster. You go get it.” Jacob’s almost treating him like a lap-dog in a way.”
The question is how will Frank respond to that when he finds out? When he puts everything together. We’re going to find out Sunday night during the finale! I think McCandless is a very manipulative, and frankly rather cruel, legal gangster. That’s what I think. That’s how I would describe him.”
Will what McCandless is doing come out? Do you hope any kind of skeletons come out of his closet?
“Well, I guess I can tell you that all will be answered in the finale! [Laughs].
It’s pretty clear already that McCandless is much more deeply involved in all of this than anybody has any idea about. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about people comparing this season to the first season. We didn’t know who the bad guy was in the first season until the very last episode.”
That’s absolutely true.
“We didn’t even get a clue! You didn’t even see the bad guy until episode four or something like that, because it played out like a real detective story.
You only learn what you find out. You have to uncover it and figure out how it’s all pieced together. I think the plotting of this show is absolutely genius. I think what Nic Pizzolatto has done is just amazing. It’s reinvented television in many ways.
You catch glimpses of Jacob McCandless in the first episode tipping his glass and toasting Frank Semyon. In episode two Semyon’s money has somehow disappeared. Jacob McCandless doesn’t care, but says, “I can get your place back in here if you come up with another 7 million dollars.”
In episode five McCandless had something to do with the hard drive and it’s a case that Ray Velcoro is investigating. It has to do with Casper and the little house that Ben Casper had hidden up in the Hollywood Hills. Where Colin Farrell’s character got shot by the guy wearing the bird mask.
Episode six comes along and you see McCandless hanging out with the Russian that Frank is dealing with. They’re at a big place which might be McCandless’ house. He’s got an office there and a key to the desk that he stuffs all the papers into.
You see how all this stuff starts to come together. All of these things are coming together in a web and I think it’s absolutely beautiful!
My wife and I just started watching every episode twice. We watch it on Sunday and then we watch it again on Monday. Instead of watching something else on Monday night, we just watch a rerun of the episode of True Detective from the night before.
It fills you in so much more. I mean it’s extraordinary. It’s like a different show even though you’re watching the same episode!”
Like you said, I have to watch multiple times. I’ll wait a couple of weeks, go on HBO On Demand, and I’ll watch a bunch of them. I binge watch them the second time, I missed something and I’ll catch it then.
“Binge watching, I think is a great way to watch television.
It was interesting to me because we had actually shot a very long scene for episode seven. I can’t say much about that, but I can say that it was a very long scene. It took all day long to shoot and it was me, and a couple of other actors, one of whom is one of the regulars. The scene was actually cut.
Instead of seeing me in this particular scene, everybody was talking about McCandless. It all comes from what these characters have discovered, what they’re trying to find out. You have Ray Velcoro saying, ” This guy, this corporate guy McCandless – the Catalyst Corporation – the guy who runs Catalyst.”
Then there’s Frank Semyon talking about him, “Yeah, well this guy. I don’t know what’s up with him but this guy, McCandless – the Catalyst Corporation – he has something to do with what I was supposed to get back into…”
What’s interesting to me is that Nic bases everything on character. All the story movements come from something somebody says or somebody does. It’s not just some sort of contrivance of a plotting or a device that doesn’t belong there. It all comes from every character that’s moving forward in their own way. That’s a gift! To me, that is just genius.”
How was it working with Vince Vaughn? He has been phenomenal in this.
“I couldn’t agree more. Vince has been great. He’s a really great guy. He’s a very, very generous actor. I’ve noticed that about the few greats that I’ve had the chance to work with. They’ve all been very generous. They all care about the work and what’s going to make a good team. Vince on True Detective is no different.
I think he knows that he’s become associated with a big, loud frat boy, and very big studio comedies. During the beginning of his career, he did a lot of independent films. He and Jon Favreau helped create the modern independent film movement when they wrote and starred in “Swingers”. That came out right around the same time as Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” and Richard Linklater’s “Slackers”.
They were a part of that movement and independent films have really showcased Vince’s dramatic work. I’m so happy that he’s getting such good positive notices for his work on True Detective! I think that he’s uncapping something that he’s kind of had to hold down for a while. I think he’s really going to start rip-tearing it up in ways that we have no idea. In fact, I know he just signed on to do a World War II movie. I think that Mel Gibson is directing that. It’s a big 40-50 million dollar war film.
The short answer is Vince is great! [Laughs]. We had a great time working together. It was always about the work. Though, he’s also a fun guy to hang out with. He is very funny and friendly; the main thing is he’s very friendly, as is Colin, as is Rachel. I didn’t really interact much with Taylor, but Rachel – I’ll tell you – she had me at hello!
My first day on Episode one, I’m standing in the office, in Mayor Chessani’s office! There’s Lieutenant Burris and Colin Farrell. It’s the scene where they tell him, “We want you to go find this guy.” He says, “Am I supposed to solve this case?” The mayor says, “We just don’t want any surprises, Detective Velcoro.”
Well, I’m in that scene. I’m actually standing right behind Colin Farrell. People don’t notice that because they didn’t use the close up.
That’s another clue! If you go back and watch it a second time your eye will go around the rest of the screen that you weren’t directed to the first time. You’ll go, “Oh wait a minute. That’s Jacob McCandless standing right behind Colin Farrell. What’s he doing there?”
I’ll have to go back and watch that!
“They didn’t make anything out of it, but it’s there. I spent that whole day, about eight hours, just staring at the back of Colin’s head. [Laughs]. Colin is lovely. He’s such a nice guy.
We wrapped that scene and I went back to the makeup trailer. Rachel McAdams was just coming in to get her makeup on. She had some night scenes to shoot that night. I’m thinking, “Oh, God. Rachel McAdams.” [Laughs]. I think she’s such a gifted young actress. I think she’s one of the best working today, I really do. I mean she’s just gifted.
I kept thinking how do I go over there in a smooth way without me looking like a freaking fan? I can’t! “Excuse me, Ms. McAdams, I just think you’re wonderful. Can I have a selfie with you?” [Laughs]. You know, something like that. Instead, she looked over at me and she just smiled! She just looked down at the floor for a second and then looked up at me again and said, “I am such a big fan of yours!”
I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say, except, “Well, back at ya sister!” That’s typical of those people, those people with great talent who are putting their talent to work! They are really really genuine human beings and Rachel was.
She watched General Hospital with her grandmother up in Toronto so she knew me as Doctor Kevin Collins. She remembered it and she told me so. It was such a wonderful first day!
That’s so great though! I understand too that you direct.
Tell us about your first film that you directed recently.
“It’s called How We Got Away With It. You can find out about it at Howwegotawaywithit.com. It’s available now at: Amazon, iTunes, etc.
DVD, and Blu-ray are coming out at the end of this year or early 2016. I forget which. If you want to see it before it is on DVD, you can rent it for $3.99 off of Amazon.
We shot up in Rochester, New York. I met a young actor at a mutual friend’s wedding named McCaleb Burnett. He knew that I had actually written a script previous to that called The Hard Easy. It starred Bruce Dern, Vera Farmiga, Peter Weller and Nick Lachey. It’s a good little crime thriller!
McCaleb and his friend Jeff Barry had written a script, I’m not really sure why they approached me – maybe because I’d written a script and gotten it made – so they thought maybe I’d have something to offer. They brought me the script and I said, “You know what? I like that idea of yours! It needs to be rewritten, and I’ll be happy to help you do that, but only if I direct it.” They said, “No problem, good for us.” We spent some time doing a rewrite on it and then we all kind of went our separate ways for a while.
I got offered As the World Turns and relocated to New York. I reconnected with McCaleb and Barry and we decided that we’re going to go ahead and make this movie. We started getting together every week. We went over little bits of the script to make sure that we were ready. Then we figured out how it could be shot and how it could be produced for not very much money.
Then, As the World Turns went off the air and I basically went into director mode. Jeff Barry who is from Rochester was able to secure locations. We hired most of the crew out of New York City, and hired all the actors out of New York. We went up to Rochester for a month and shot this little movie.
I had wanted to direct a feature for a long time and fortunately it went well on the festival circuit! We got picked up for distribution. I should say that less than 5% of all independent films get picked up for distribution and ours is one of them!
It did because it did well on the festival circuit. We have no stars, we don’t really cling to an easily defined genre, but it is a very engaging and intelligent film that we’re all really proud of.
That’s my feature directing debut and it’s just a matter of time before I’m directing another one.”
Is there something else that you want to direct in the future?
“ I’m always working on something. I have a couple of future scripts that I’m looking at. I have been approached recently about directing another feature at a higher budget. People say I don’t want to talk about it as if they don’t want to jinx it. It’s not that they don’t want to jinx it; it’s just that so many things have to go right before something actually gets made. Things have to go right before it actually gets released or aired on television.
I’m amazed anything gets made at all. [Laughs]. I can understand why people like Francis Ford Coppola have decided to just make their own movies with their own money and then release them themselves. The mountains you have to climb, especially a little independent like mine where I had to do basically everything, is just so hard and exhausting. Having said that, I can’t wait to do it again! I just want a little more support.
I’ve been talking with this guy about a comedic crime caper movie, and I’ve also put together a pitch for a new TV series based on a guy that I used to know. On top of that I have another stack of scripts. There’s always something moving along, I just don’t know exactly which one is going to pop first.”
Do you have any future projects that are going on now that you’re able to talk about?
“Yeah, I’ve got two things that I’ve shot since True Detective. I just did a part on a new ABC family series called Recovery Road, which won’t air until 2016. I know they’re almost treating it like a binge show. They’re shooting all of it then they’re going to post all of it, and then put it out. It’s based on a young adult novel by the same name. It’s about a teenage girl who goes to a rehab center because she’s been dealing with drug addiction issues.
The book is very very good and I play the drug counselor at a rival, high-end drug rehab facility based on a really obsequious Dr. Drew. That’s who he is: an obsequious Dr. Drew. I’ve done one of those episodes already. I’m supposed to go back and do more if they decide they want to use the character some more.
I also flew down to Arkansas to do the sequel to God’s Not Dead called God’s Not Dead Part 2. That’s starring Melissa Joan Hart, Jesse Metcalfe, Ray Wise and Robin Givens. I just got back from that a couple of weeks ago. I think that will be out probably around Christmas time.”