Pop the bubbly! General Hospital’s Scott Baldwin—cuddly tyke turned teen dreamboat turned slimeball attorney—is currently the longest running character on an American TV series, having hit Port Charles some 52 years ago. On August 2, Kin Shriner will celebrate his 40th anniversary in the role. How can we not gab with the guy on such an awesome occasion?
These days Scott is the consummate scam artist but he was the town hero when you first played him, right?
He was the golden boy! He stood for everything that was good, following in his father’s footsteps to become a lawyer and marrying the love of his life—the beautiful Laura Webber. And everything was perfect until that clown Luke Spencer showed up. He stole Laura and Scotty went bad after that. You can’t blame it on the bossa nova. You gotta blame it on Tony Geary.
You’ve hopped to other soaps here and there but GH always pages you back. Is there any safer job in daytime than playing a sleazy lawyer?
Soaps always need a guy like that. There’s always somebody who needs to get off the hook by unscrupulous methods. But you also need to know how to deliver 50 pages of courtroom dialogue in a single episode. That’s my saving grace. I can get the words out. Not all actors can handle that. Plus I just love to turn up the heat during a trial! It’s so old Hollywood. I stay in practice by watching Perry Mason reruns every day on MeTV. That’s the only channel we get on the TVs in the GH studio, which is great for me because we spend so much time waiting around and I’m addicted to the old TV shows. People ask, “How was your day at work?” And I’ll say, “Well, I watched The Big Valley, Bonanza, two Riflemen and a Gunsmoke. It was a great day!”
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Ever worry that Scott might push the audience too far?
No, because the old-time viewers—the ones who remember how he was wronged when Laura dropped him like a hot potato—always stand by him. They love him no matter how often he crosses the line. [Laughs] It’s the newer viewers I worry about. They’re like, “I can’t stand that Baldwin! Why is he always in everybody’s face? He’s like a baboon!” So I’m sticking with my core voters.
And you’ll just play him till you drop?
Did you watch Feud? Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were exactly like us old soap actors. They wouldn’t let go! I’m not happy with just 40 years. I want 40 more! But every time there’s a new writer or producer regime at GH, I have to start over and sell ‘em on Scotty. My first job as a kid in Texas was going house to house as a Fuller Brush man. And now here I am—all these years later—still trying to stick my foot in the door so they can’t get rid of me!
But what more can a guy do except show up and deliver the goods?
[Laughs] Well, there’s a certain amount of ass kissing in any job, as you well know. But, beyond that, I try to wake up every day and go to the gym and keep my guy sharp. I try to keep him funny and current. I keep my hair high and tight. That’s the style today, though I really have no choice because my head is all cowlicks. And I’m always hawking the wardrobe department to get me something cool to wear. The other day they brought in four new suits for me. I fit into three of them perfectly but the fourth I was trying desperately to squeeze myself into. I looked like Little Man Tate, but I didn’t want to give it up!
This is the first time in forever that Scotty and Laura have been on the show at the same time without Luke anywhere in sight. So how come she’s hooked up with Kevin?
You’re right! Laura can’t go running to Luke no more. This is Scotty’s golden opportunity! I never even thought of that. I guess I was just too excited that he was making time with Ava Jerome. That is, until she dumped him. [Laughs] What was that about? We had those scenes in the hospital when Ava was all burnt up and bandaged and it was like she was breaking up with Scotty but they’d never even kissed! She’s, like, “Scott, you need to go away and never come back.” He never even got to first base with her! He was freeloading on her couch going, “What’s it gonna take to let me in the bedroom?” I’m nuts about Maura West. It’s so great working with her. She is so captivating, like the old-time movie stars. But those hospital scenes really threw me because I had to cover up my head. I can’t do hairnet acting! If my hair’s covered up, I’m finished!
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What do you remember about your first day on the set back in 1977?
I walked in and met my TV parents Susan Brown [Gail] and Peter Hansen [Lee], we did the camera blocking and then they suddenly disappeared to go play tennis in Griffith Park! I thought, “Wow. Here I am studying my lines over and over so I don’t screw this thing up and these guys have it down to such a science they can take a break and flee the set!” They were so full of life!
You’re such a mensch, staying in touch with the GH old guard long after they’ve left the show. We love that about you, Kin Shriner!
I’m always calling ‘em up to see how they’re doing. I’ve wanted to be in this business since I was in third grade so I just love hanging out with actors and shooting the breeze—and the older they are the better! I went to Peter Hansen’s memorial service a couple of weeks ago and sat with Rachel Ames. It was kind of a funny thing. The church was packed to the rafters for Peter. He was 95 but he had a lot of friends. The priest delivering the eulogy said, “I’d like to talk about Brother Peter. I know he was an actor but I don’t watch soap operas.” And I just bristled! I looked over at Rachel and she’s bristling, too! We’re, like, “Seriously, you have to put down soap operas even at the guy’s funeral?” But the priest did go on to talk about Peter being a Marine, which was something Peter never talked about. I worked with him for a very long time and never knew he had served and had won all these important medals. Guys of his generation just didn’t talk about that stuff. But I think Peter would have bristled, too, if he’d heard that crack about soap operas!
You left GH at the height of your popularity in 1980 and went to New York to star on a new soap, Texas, which was supposed to be a big freakin’ hit but wasn’t. Did you ask for your old job back?
No, but I was happy to get it. After spending a year on Texas, I’d returned to L.A. and was hanging with all my GH friends, and I guess word got out. Gloria Monty, in her infinite wisdom, thought it would be great to marry off Luke and Laura and have my character return all hostile and bitter to catch the bouquet. And I didn’t hesitate to say, “I’m in!”
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You never thought about holding off on daytime and trying for a primetime career?
No. It was just too much fun being Scotty. He’s done pretty much everything you can think of, including having his ear bitten off by Luke Spencer. And they just sewed it right back on. Another daytime first!
Why do you think your character has stayed in the game? If Scott hangs in just two more years, he won’t just be the longest-running American character currently on TV. He’ll beat As the World Turns’ Nancy Hughes as our longest-running character ever. Is all this endurance just luck, or does it have something to do with Scotty’s terrier spirit?
It helps that you’re never quite sure what zone he’s in, though usually it’s the Twilight Zone. There’s a lot of mystery to the guy.
Yeah, like where the hell does he live? It’s never really clear.
Hmm…I don’t know for sure. Uh, maybe at the Metro Court Hotel?
But he’s always broke, and there’s no way Carly would let him squat there for free.
I don’t think they want you viewers to know too much about Scotty. It’s better that he just pops up out of nowhere. We never know his financial situation but his wife, Dominique, was a billionaire when she died from a brain tumor. She left him with a whole lot of millions. So how come he’s still sleeping on people’s couches? But here’s why I think Scotty’s had such a long run: There’s not a character on GH that he’s not somehow connected to, so it’s easy to throw him into any situation. And it helps that he’ll always hate Sonny Corinthos. And you can always use him to go down memory lane with Bobbie or Lucy or Laura. Our older audience really gets a kick out of that. For them, watching scenes with us veterans is like putting on that old college sweater.
Yet, over all these decades, not one damn Emmy for you. And your GH nemesis Tony Geary has two thousand of them. How do you explain that?
Well, I’ve had three or four nominations over the years but I guess I just don’t have that Emmy charm, that Emmy magic. Tony has it. And Susan Flannery. And Peter Bergman. It seems like some people win every year. [Laughs] But, hey, I will happily settle for a job that lasts 40 years. Awards are nice. They’re great, even. But you just can’t beat longevity!
General Hospital, Weekdays, ABC