Whether you love him, hate him or love to hate him, Sonny Corinthos has been fictional Port Charles, New York's resident don for over two decades on General Hospital. I recently caught up with Maurice Benard to get his thoughts on his character's evolution.
The Daytime Emmy-winning leading man shares his thoughts on the current plot twist that finds Sonny paralyzed. "This was something that I've never done," he says. He also promises fans won't want to miss the episode airing this Thursday, Oct. 22.
“The script was great, it felt great doing it, and the actors and crew were so supportive. I love them.”
Benard then reveals what it's like to be recreating the Sonny/Carly romance with Laura Wright. Does he believe Carly is "the one" for Sonny?
The actor gets candid about Sonny achieving patriarch status on the ABC Daytime soap, now that the character's grown sons and daughter are all on the canvas. What did Benard think of Sonny fathering a new baby with Ava Jerome (Maura West)?
Benard didn't shy away from questions about GH writers — past and present. What led up to him joking about Ron Carlivati's firing at General Hospital Fan Club Weekend? Which head writer did best by Sonny in his opinion? Keep reading for the answers to those questions and more.
Daytime Confidential: Sonny finds himself facing a foe he's never contended with before — paralysis. How did you react when you learned the most recent mob shoot out would leave the character unable to walk?
Maurice Benard: Well, first I was shocked, but then immediately excited. I had just told a few people that I’d done everything you can possibly do and have done it 20 times over and now this was something that I’ve never done.
DC: What type of research did you do to prepare for this plot twist?
MB: In any role that I play I try to do as much research as I can, whether it’s watching documentaries, real stories on YouTube, or getting to speak to people who have been through it. For example, the episode that just aired where I was in the wheelchair, I didn’t know how my legs and knees should go while sitting in the chair. Jimmy, one of my favorite guys on our crew, came over and gave me a few notes because I think he knows someone who’s paralyzed.
DC: Sonny is adamant about not marrying Carly (Laura Wright) until he is certain he won't be a burden to her. Is it strange for you to play Sonny in such a vulnerable position after he's been Port Charles' alpha dog for so long?
MB: Being in the hospital doing these scenes, the writing was great, because I don’t think I’ve ever felt as desperate playing Sonny. It reminded me of my real life when I’ve been in the hospital.
DC: Since Michael (Chad Duell) and Morgan (Bryan Craig) were children, Sonny has always sworn to Carly he'd keep them out of the mob. Now Michael is acting as interim head of the Corinthos crime family and Morgan has inherited Sonny's bipolar disorder. I see a lot of fans on social media saying Sonny never pays for his crimes. Do you think the sins of the father are being visited on the sons?
MB: Well, I think the Sonny haters feel like he’s never paid for his crimes, but the truth is I’ve played his pain for 22 years. If he goes to prison for 10 years then that means I’ve left the show. We have to remember it is a soap opera. I can only play and live with the pain of the character and hope that I can convey the torture he’s been through.
DC: Speaking of Sonny's children, the don has four adult offspring on the canvas and a new baby. Do you ever worry about being stuck in the patriarch role?
MB: I really wasn’t all that big on having another child, but it turns out the baby is the cutest baby in history. I love it now. I don’t mind being the patriarch, as long as I can play wisdom it’s great to play.
DC: Much of Sonny and Carly's more memorable romantic storylines happened before Laura Wright assumed the role. During her equally popular tenure, Sonny and Carly have kept up their push/pull but you were both largely with other screen partners until Carly cheated on Franco (Roger Howarth) with Sonny. What has it been like reestablishing that relationship this time around?
MB: I had worked with different actresses playing Carly, but it was still Carly, for a long time. I thought that it was time to move on and wanted to play with different characters. Some were successful, some weren’t. Then sometimes you go back home and that’s what’s happened now. Working with Laura, now that we’re a couple, it’s just a great connection that we have. She’s unbelievably professional, she works her butt off and it’s a pleasure going into work every day.
DC: Everyone has an opinion on who the love of Sonny's life is. What say you? Is Carly the one, or will he forever hold out hope for the elusive Brenda Barrett (Vanessa Marcil)?
MB: Everybody knows that I’m friends with Vanessa. We had our day in the sun and it was fantastic, but like I always say—and it’s a stock answer now—that you’ve got to love the one you’re with. That was then, this is now.
DC: Let's talk writers. Shortly after it was announced that GH had let Ron Carlivati go, you were videotaped at GH Fan Club Weekend celebrating "getting rid of the writer". You also said Carlivati wasn't a fan of yours. Would you care to elaborate?
MB: What happened at the Fan Club Weekend was basically me having a little too much fun for my own good. Actually, when I heard it again, I would really only take back one thing that I said.
DC: While it seems you didn't end up in a good place with Carlivati, you often praised the material he wrote for you during his time at the soap. Specifically, you tweeted accolades following Sonny outing Morgan's lies about Michael and Kiki, and again following the intense scenes with Sonny and Michael following Michael learning Sonny shot AJ (Sean Kanan). When did things become problematic from your point of view?
MB: I have nothing against Ron. You’re right there were a few storylines that I enjoyed playing. He did great when he first came on, with the Nurses Ball and balancing the show, and the dialogue was great. At the end, I think he was going down a different road. There wasn’t much that I was doing and ultimately the audience speaks.
DC: Sonny Corinthos was created by Bill Levinson. He became a romantic antihero under Claire Labine and a larger-than-life presence under Bob Guza. If you had to pick a writer who truly got the delicate dance between actor and character, who would that be?
MB: Claire gave me Brenda, gave me a father and at that time those two were very needed in his life. Bob gave me Carly, Jason and great mob stuff. So how do I compare? They both wrote Sonny dark, deep and intense with romance involved.
DC: GH has new head writers now, Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman. Their material just started airing so it's really too soon to judge from a critical standpoint. What about their material has you excited for the future of the soap and Sonny specifically?
MB: As long as they continue to have balance on the show, to have depth, to write in the way that people speak, to concentrate on family and romance, I don’t think you can go wrong. This is a show heavy on history. It’s been on air for 52 years. You find out what worked then and you use it now. As far as Sonny, contrary to what people think, I’m not hard to please. Just write me as real and truthful as you can and I’ll do the rest.
DC: Some very vocal fans online say they're sick of the mob; while others still get quite the kick out of "Goodfellas: Port Charles Style". How do you think GH can balance its storytelling in such a way to keep the mob-based characters viable, yet serve the fans who want more stories about the hospital, ELQ and other elements?
MB: The mob has been part of the show from the beginning. Too much of anything is too much. As long as you have a balance, the audience will watch anything that’s written well and that’s acted well.
DC: One big gripe I keep hearing, especially from my podcast co-hosts, is that Sonny has had little interaction with amnesiac Jake Doe aka Jason Morgan (Billy Miller). Are you and Billy itching to see if lightning can strike twice with these two characters?
MB: Absolutely. They’re absolutely right. I thought that we should have had more scenes, but when it finally does happen it is going to be great story.
DC: In recent months, GH went from being a Twitter darling to pretty much having to put out one social media fire after another. How can the show get the focus back on what's happening on screen as opposed to the latest behind-the-scenes scandal?
MB: I’ll tell you how: great writing, great acting, great directing, great producing equals great show.