By Nancy M. Reichardt
United Feature Syndicate
April 5, 1998
NEW YORK -- How does Benjamin Hendrickson handle the "dumbing down" of Hal Munson, the character he has played on AS THE WORLD TURNS for the past 13 years? "I try to play against it as much as I can. I hope that perhaps he knows more than he is letting on," he says. "Plus I think anyone in a state of infatuation is in a state of insanity." And Munson is infatuated with his new wife Carly, played to the scheming hilt by Maura West. "Life has been so empty for him," continues Hendrickson. "He knows she has done a lot of dastardly things, but he looks the other way, not wanting to think about a separate agenda."
The actor points out that it is difficult to maintain consistency during such a long run with the different writers who see things differently. "I'm the only one who has been here the whole time. I started out world-weary with a good heart -- a character with a good heart who made mistakes, who cut corners. I like the imperfect side of him. But I did not learn I came from Kentucky until I had been on the show for 7 years. At 10 years I learned I was an expert ballroom dancer. Twelve years in, I found out I was fluent in French."
Hendrickson says the most difficult part is that the audience currently knows much more than his character does. But he takes pleasure in small things like "Hal telling Jack (played by Michael Park), in effect, whatever went on with you and Carly, it boils down to my antlers are bigger than yours."
As a matter of fact, what Hendrickson looks forward to doing is further exploring the dynamics between these two men. And he admits to "having so much fun working with Maura. She constantly surprises me and always commands my attention."
The actor considers himself quite lucky in his chosen profession -- especially since the role started out as a one-day gig. During that time he was developing a reputation for his acting talent and his penchant for practical jokes. He says his best prank is unprintable, but he does admit to winning $20 from Scott Holmes (played by Tom Hughes) "by entering the make-up room flanked by four lovely co-stars wearing only panties and cowboy boots."
Throughout this interview, Hendrickson has been open and giving, but he has done little press over the years. Much of the reason had to do with his brother Steve's 20-year battle with a brain tumor. After Steve's death, the actor is opening up now partly to give visibility to the American Brain Tumor Foundation -- in tribute to his brother.
Hendrickson says, "I want to educate, to spread the word that with all the charities out there, they need grant money. We are so close to a cure in so many areas."
Steve had more than eight surgeries in the last five years of his life. Because the tumor affected Steve's comprehension, Hendrickson became his brother's keeper. His love is evident as he speaks of him: "He was a wonderful man. The only man I know who never told a lie."
With his best pal sadly gone, Hendrickson is in earnest when he invites fans who are fishing and diving enthusiasts to contact him, but he cannot resist a bit of levity as he urges, "Come on, I need diving and fishing buddies. All my friends work too much."