‘General Hospital’ Star John J. York on 30 Years as Mac Scorpio
February 14 means more than Valentine’s Day to John J. York. That’s the day he debuted on General Hospital in 1991 as Mac Scorpio, the rebellious brother of Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers). Initially described as a rebel, York’s Mac quickly segued into surrogate father to not only niece Robin (Kimberly McCullough), but, later, to stepdaughters Maxie (Kirsten Storms) and the late Georgie (Lindze Letherman).
York recently chatted with TV Insider about how his lucky break came just before he began waiting tables at the Cheesecake Factory, Mac’s memorable moments, and much more.
Was Mac your first role on a soap opera?
In 1990, I read for the character of Jake on Bold and the Beautiful, which went to Todd McKee. Way before that, when I had just gotten off the plane from Chicago, I tested for the part of Bo Brady on Days of our Lives. I told an actor friend of mine, Mike Genovese [Boomers], that a producer at Days [after my audition] had said to me, “Good luck.” I didn’t know if he meant good luck at Days, or good luck in my career. [Laughs] Without looking up, Mike said, “He meant in your career.” But I did have good luck.
Prior to GH, you’d played the lead on the series Werewolf on Fox.
Yes, it only went one season. Then, there was the writers’ strike of 1988. [My wife] Vicki and I had saved a little money. We lived on residuals and were expecting a baby, our daughter, Schuyler. I was training at the Cheesecake Factory [as a waiter] when my agent called and said that GH was looking for a brother for Robert Scorpio. Of course, I was interested!
I was told I didn’t have to have an Australian accent for the audition, but I went ahead and got a dialect tape. I read with [casting director] Mark Teschner and then later, with Gloria Monty [the show’s producer]. She tested me and five others including Paul Satterfield, who got the part of Paul Hornsby. Paul had that Christopher Reeve look and I felt I looked a bit more like Tristan.
You weren’t on terribly long before Tristan and Finola Hughes [Anna] left. Mac took on the role of surrogate dad to their daughter, Robin.
Originally, Mac was this rogue, bad guy type. Nobody ever said this to me, but I think someone may have felt that since John’s not a bad guy, let’s make Mac a good guy, the caretaker. He was a friend to Felicia (Kristina Wagner). He was there for Robin and later, Maxie and Georgie. They wrote to my strengths as a human being, a husband, and a father, and I’m glad they did.
Do you have memories of the HIV storyline with Robin and Stone [Michael Sutton]?
I remember the emotional weight the HIV storyline carried for Kimberly and Michael. I don’t know if they left it at the studio when they were doing that story. It was a very important story to tell. I remember crying watching Kimberly and Michael doing their scenes. One of my favorite scenes was Robin telling Mac she was HIV positive. I look back and see that Robin was the strong one and she was holding Mac up. Incredibly moving.
In 2013, GH visited a lot of classic stories and relationships for the show’s 50th anniversary. Jack Wagner came back as Frisco. Who was Felicia going to choose — Frisco or Mac?
There were many fans who were happy Felicia chose Mac. However, there are a lot of hardcove Frisco and Felicia fans. I see those tweets too! But that’s part of the fun of it all.
Speaking of the Nurses Ball, I remember Mac’s ventriloquist act with Mr. Marbles.
I tried. [Laughs] I really did. I practiced at home. It was a riot. I kept in mind that this is the Nurses Ball, it’s amateur night [for the citizens of Port Charles]. Everybody went along with me and it was a lot of fun.
Is Mac going to keep a watchful eye on Maxie? Not everyone is thrilled about her marrying Peter [Wes Ramsey].
I think Mac will always be protective of Maxie and all the people he loves dearly. That’s a quality Mac has and I hope they continue to write for it. He’s seen growth and maturity in Maxie. She can make her own choices. Who is Mac to step in? There was a time where he would have said. “No! No!” But we’re way beyond that. He respects her as a young woman. Hopefully, she can take care of herself.
A testament to your likability was being asked to help anchor spinoff shows Port Charles [1997-2003] on ABC and Night Shift , which ran on SOAPnet.
It was a huge compliment to be asked to be a part of them as they were getting off the ground. I have to tell you — if the fans hadn’t embraced me when I first came onto the show I wouldn’t be here. I believe it’s divine intervention. I got a lot of good feedback from the fans and I’m grateful for that.
I had one fan, Lisa, who really championed me. I remember reading a blurb in a magazine that John J. York was next on the chopping block at GH! I was like, “What??” Lisa helped with a campaign and she put all these notes [from fans] together. She sent them to me. It felt so good. I think her campaign really helped keep me on the show. The feeling may have been, “Let’s not get rid of him! The fans seem to like him!”
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