General Hospital star Maurice Benard talks exclusively with TVSource Magazine about his upcoming storylines on GH, how love has changed Sonny Corinthos and his upcoming film projects.
It’s been a year of big change at General Hospital, but star Maurice Benard has embraced it with open arms. Under new head writer Ron Carlivati and executive producer Frank Valentini, viewers have been treated to an evolution of Sonny Corinthos. No longer a man just fighting over territory and power, Sonny is a man changed and challenged by love. Fighting to protect those he loves – his girlfriend (soon to be fiancée) Kate, his children, and his family, Sonny is willing to do anything to keep them safe from harm. Benard was upbeat when we spoke last Saturday, excited to discuss what’s coming up on the show, as well as his upcoming fan events on the east coast. It was extremely fulfilling for me, a lifelong fan of the actor, to get to interview one of daytime’s most popular and most talented stars.
TVSource Magazine: For almost 20 years you’ve played this multi-layered, dynamic character. Looking back to when you started, did you ever think you’d be around for this long?
Maurice Benard: It started out as a six month contract. I didn’t want to do more than a year, but just when I thought I was out they pulled me back in. It’s been an amazing ride.
TVSource: Some consider Sonny to be an anti-hero; others look at him as a villain. How do you see him?
Benard: I see Sonny as a gangster with a good heart. He loves his family, he loves his kids, but he’ll take you down if you cross him. He’s does bad things (at times) for good reasons. He’s human.
TVSource: You’ve worked with a lot of producers and writers over the years. What sets Ron and Frank apart from the others?
Benard: Frank is on the set 24/7. I’ve never seen that with any producer I’ve worked with. Ron has a lot of sensitivity in his writing. He’s made Sonny very well balanced, as opposed to just being labeled a ganger or a mafia guy; he’s just a man now with a lot of colors.
TVSource: Which do you prefer?
Benard: I prefer Sonny as a balanced character. I think the audience prefers it too. The fans are why I’ve been able to do this for so long. Whether it’s during the bad times, hard times with the writing or low points with the character – the fans as loyal as one can be. The fans are the best, they’ve been loyal from day one and I’ll never stop saying that.
TVSource: Ever since Sonny and Kate reunited, we’ve seen a different side of Sonny. Do you think she brings out the best in him?
Benard: That character – whoever is playing her to be honest, but especially with Kelly Sullivan, brings out a certain side of me, a lighter side. The way [Ron] is writing it now where I’m just supporting her 100 percent, [it's] never been [a] consistent [thing] in the past. Then it [was] always for a moment I’m that way, then I’m back to being another way. This way it’s been going on for four or five months now of him being the supportive boyfriend who loves her and will do anything for her. It’s refreshing.
TVSource: Sonny is not one who forgives easily. Do you think Sonny forgiving Kate was a big step in Sonny growing as a person?
Benard: Yeah. It’s funny you’re saying that because I played a scene yesterday where because he forgave Kate, he’s more forgiving as a person now, so my choices are different. I had scenes with Joe Jr. and I could have played it very just “wanting to kill him” but I kind of have to think how that wouldn’t be good for my relationship with Kate. So I think Sonny is growing now as a person, and it’s something I think was long overdue.
TVSource: What’s it like working with Kelly?
Benard: I was at a function last night and talking about Kelly. It was a turning point when they had her play Connie. And I have to be honest – I was on the fence [in the beginning]. I was on the fence thinking this was going to be horribly wrong or incredibly right. And because of her acting ability, and I’m not going to give myself a lot of credit here, but because of her acting ability, to be able to play a [completely] different person, I think she shut a lot of people up. And she’s just amazing.
TVSource: She had such nice things to say about you too.
Benard: Well she better [Laughs].
TVSource: I could hear the admiration and respect she has for you. The two of you have a very good dynamic.
Benard: It’s kind of like we both have similar acting styles, yet very different if that makes any sense. Thank you.
TVSource: GH will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. Does GH have support from the network? Are you worried that next year could be the last?
Benard: Not even close. I can tell you right now in the last couple days I’ve been doing things for the network and they’re putting so much behind General Hospital. In two years, I’ve never seen a network so behind a show. That only tells me that we’re going to keep going for years to come. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t feel that way six months ago. Six months ago we were all kind of like “Ok what’s going on here?” But now it’s a whole new ballgame.
TVSource: Has the morale improved now that you all know where you stand?
Benard: Yes. Initially the fear makes people better. It can go both ways, it makes you better or makes you collapse. It’s made us unite, made us better, and everyone is kind of relaxing in a sense but still wanting to be great. Everyone is having a great time.
TVSource: Sonny decides to take the next step in his relationship with Kate and proposes to her next month. Can you give me a preview of what he does?
Benard: This week we filmed the episode where Sonny proposes. We had about six or seven scenes and they were, for me, as real, and simple and as conversation as it gets. There was a lot of love. I was really into the scenes completely. People that saw it while we were filming felt the same way. It’s hard to judge until you seen it, and I haven’t seen it, but it felt great.
TVSource: Should fans expect a long or short engagement?
Benard: That I don’t know at all. I’ve been asking for the last week, but no one tells me anything. I don’t even know when it is that we get married, if we get married at all.
TVSource: Let’s talk about Joe Jr. Is Sonny going to let the courts handle Joe? Or does he have a plan of his own?
Benard: He has a plan to make him pay. We’ll see what happens but I love working with Richard [Steinmetz]. He just seems like the guy. Plus he’s eight feet tall, so when he comes at me — like yesterday we did a scenes where he stood up and stood in front of me and I was like “Oh noooooooo” [Laughs]. I went wow this dude is huge. There’s history there, I love it. He’s fantastic.
TVSource: Is Joe more of a threat to Sonny and his family because of their past? Joe seems like a very cerebral villain – not afraid to get into the heads of his victims.
Benard: Absolutely. First of all, he raped my girlfriend and that’s enough or me to want to kill anybody. The way Richard plays it, he embodies the role. It just feels like we know each other. There’s a lot of history there. I love this bad guy.
TVSource: How would describe Sonny’s relationship with his children?
Benard: With Michael I think that’s his heart, his sweet kid. With Kristina, he longs for her love, which he can’t get. A lot of it is his fault. Morgan is one that has always stuck by him, even though they don’t see each other much anymore, Morgan has stuck by him the most which is sweet. Dante is a lot like Kristina where he longs for his love and every time I think they’re getting close, something happens. I love working with all of them.
TVSource: Which one is most like him?
Benard: Probably Kristina. And maybe when she gets older and figures things out, maybe she’ll let go of a lot of stuff.
TVSource: It’s interesting that Kristina feels the way that she does. Really all he’s ever wanted to do is give her the opportunity to experience life and go to one of the best schools. Yet she’s so angry about that. He’s tried to give her everything, she doesn’t want that.
Benard: The old Sonny would look at it the way you’re saying it. But the way I’m playing it, I’m trying to look at it from her side. It’s all the way they’re writing [Sonny] now. But I have to agree with you, even though I have to play it different.
TVSource: Will viewers see more of Sonny and Jason’s friendship? It seems like neither has really had enough time for each other.
Benard: We have some. Not a lot. Not as much as I would like. I love working with Steve, but he’s got his own McBain/Sam situation. I’ve got my own situation. I do have a scene coming up next week with him, but we’ll see what happens.
TVSource: What’s something you’d like to do on the show that you haven’t gotten the chance to do yet?
Benard: I’ve been asked that this week. The thing is I’ve done pretty much everything. I would like Sonny to get out of the mob if it’s written to win, not to lose. If it’s not written well then it’s not work it. I’d love to see Sonny live life without power. That’s a good character thing to play. Acting wise it’d be fun. They [used] to always tell me, “No we can’t have Sonny have no power, fans wouldn’t like it.” Sometimes you can do something different and the fans will like it.
TVSource: I hear you’re going to be working on a film called “The Ghost and the Whale.” Can you tell me about the project?
Benard: It’s a script that’s very intense, kind of a thriller, suspense, someone romantic story. It’s about a guy who’s a fisherman whose wife died and you try to figure out how his wife died or how she was killed. Through the whole movie, it’s very much a mind — a word that I can’t say because it’s bad [Laughs]. You have to figure out more and more, and as the movie goes on you realize what happened. As you get to the end it’s phenomenal. I start shooting in January so we’ll see when it comes out. My wife is producing it. She’s very diligent; she will not stop until it gets done [Laughs]. The way I explained it is not even close to how good it is. If my wife told you about it, you’d go pay to see it tomorrow.
TVSource: Can you tell me a little about the documentary you participated in, OC87?
Benard: This guy name Buddy came to the set and we kind of clicked. I thought well I’ll never see him again, and now this movie comes out and it’s everywhere. I read it in the LA times with good reviews, I went to see it and it was phenomenal. It’s just incredible. The academy is interested in having it be nominated so that’s awesome.
TVSource: Do you feel the more you talk about your struggle with bi-polar disorder, that maybe through your experiences it’ll help others?
Benard: That’s why I keep discussing it. I know in my career, in my life, I’ve had people come up to me on the street, write me letter that have just made me cry. I just continue and will continue to talk about it. It’s something I feel I have had to do. Actually no, it’s something I need to do.
TVSource: You have some personal appearances coming up on the east coast. What’s the best part of the events for you?
Benard: The fans man. The PAs for me it’s like being at a party with all your friends. You just talk, laugh and catch up. It’s a great atmosphere. I have a great time. I believe people in there have a great time. I may not be a standup comedian but I do know about my life, and work. My son comes out and he sings, and they dance. It have a coming out from LA doing a couple songs. I just did one last weekend in LA and it was a blast.
For more on Maurice’s upcoming personal appearances, visit his official website at http://mauricebenard.tv
Friday, August 10, 2012
Treehouse Comedy Club @ Marisa’s
6540 Main Street
Trumbull, CT 06611
(203) 268-5857 or BUY IT NOW
Showtime: 9:00 PM
Tickets: $99 + $15 food minimum for non-dinner guests
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Uncle Vinnies Comedy Club
520 Arnold Avenue
Point Pleasant, NJ
(732) 899-3900 or BUY IT NOW
Showtime: 10:00 AM
Tickets: $99 plus tax includes Q&A, Meet/ Greet, Photo Ops
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Brokerage Entertainment Club
2797 Merrick Road
(516) 781-5233 or BUY IT NOW
Showtime: 2:00 PM
Tickets: $99 includes Q&A, Meet/ Greet, Photo Ops