WE LOVE SOAPS TV recently caught up with Emmy Award-winning actor Maurice Benard who previewed his upcoming appearances on the East Coast, shared his thoughts about his soap roles as Sonny Corinthos as GENERAL HOSPITAL and Nico Kelly on ALL MY CHILDREN, and much more. Read on to find out more about the candid and funny Benard, who continues to give compelling performances year after year.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Tell me about your upcoming appearances in January. I haven't attended one of these before. What do you do at these events?
Maurice Benard: I act like a chimpanzee and do somersaults [laughs]! It's actually been eight years since I've done it. I love the East Coast and my fans. They're incredible. I haven't flown since I did Oprah about eight years ago. What I do is go on stage and the fans ask questions and I just roll off the questions. Sometimes it's funny and sometimes it's sad. Sometimes I cry. It's a whole different type of thing. And I'm bringing Nathan from GH.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How did that come about? People wouldn't logically think of the two of you together based on your storylines.
Maurice Benard: It's simple, he's just the best looking guy in the universe [laughs]. Seriously, he's also very talented so I asked him and he agreed. I have another tiny surprise as well. I'm not going to say what it is but it may steal the whole show.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So even more to look forward to!
Maurice Benard: Right. It's not going to be just me like it usually is. I've always talked about all kinds of different stuff, but there's a lot more going on with these appearances because I haven't done it in a while and want to make it great. I'm not saying I'm a comedian...
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: But you have made me laugh four times already.
Maurice Benard: [Laughs] I'm just really honest and I get into things. The fans know a lot about me so sometimes we go into deep waters.
EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information on Benard's upcoming January 2011 shows, visit mauricebenard.tv.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You were born in San Francisco and raised in Martinez. How did you get into acting?
Maurice Benard: I got into acting after being very unsuccessful as a model [laughs]. That led to trying to get into commercials. I wasn't great at that either, only getting one commercial. Then I decided I needed to do something I had a real passion for so I got into acting. I don't think I was good at all at first but I knew I had a passion for it.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Was anybody in your family in the entertainment business?
Maurice Benard: Nobody. They thought I was nuts! My Mom and Dad were actually incredibly supportive. But there was always a bit of, "Is this going to happen?" In my town, it was one in a million pretty much, so it's hard to believe it will happen, but they were very supportive financially and believing in me. A lot of people in the town were skeptical though.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Some of your January appearances will be in the New York City area. You lived here in the late '80s when you played Nico on ALL MY CHILDREN. I was a big fan of Nico and Cecily. When you look back on that now, what do you think?
Maurice Benard: For the time, it was funny and had a lot different elements.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You got to play a lot of comedy with Michael E. Knight.
Maurice Benard: He's one of the funniest guys I know. The problem that I have with it was I wasn't that great of an actor then. It was my first gig and I did what I could and I wanted to be good, but I'm very critical. But for the time and what it did for me, it was fantastic.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Earlier this year you appeared in ABC's web series WHAT IF with your former AMC co-star, Susan Lucci. What was that like?
Maurice Benard: I had a good time doing that. Susan and I like and respect each other and we just had fun.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: The ABC shows have always been very popular here in New York City. Did you get recognized on the street a lot when you were on AMC?
Maurice Benard: I got recognized some, but not a ton. But now when I go to New York, I hear "Sonny!" a lot.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I remember when the Emmys were in New York, every time they would call your name the crowd would go crazy.
Maurice Benard: That's hard to get used to. It's great though to have the fans on my side like that. The beauty of it is I lost four times [laughs]! When I won it was even better.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You get some great material to play as Sonny but sometimes it's more subtle and nuanced than what the Emmys tend to recognize. I think a lot of great performances get overlooked for more over the top scenes.
Maurice Benard: I can get what you're saying but the year that I won I had two shows that were very subtle. There was a lot of dialogue and I had a lot of stuff going on. But they got it that year and what I was doing. You're right though, a lot of my stuff is very subtle, but I make specific choices. That's what I do and I'll keep doing it. If I had a different character, I would play it differently.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You get the chance to do some different types of things as Sonny. A few weeks ago, Sonny was going out on a date with Brenda and, in some very funny scenes, Spinelli was sort of grilling him about his intentions. You went through a range of emotions tolerating him at first then getting frustrated by the end of it.
Maurice Benard: I made a specific choice in the past month to bring more humor to the character. Those scenes are where I started to make those choices. I think it's important for actors to get out of the box a bit and not be so predictable. I started to bore myself quite a bit and now I'm trying to make choices that are funnier and lighter. I'll still have the other stuff, but I'm trying to do that as well.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: One of the roles you took between ALL MY CHILDREN and GENERAL HOSPITAL was playing Desi Arnaz in a Lucy and Desi movie. I thought that was an extremely difficult thing to take on because he was so well known from I LOVE LUCY.
Maurice Benard: It was very challenging. Let me tell you a story. My wife and I watched it on TV a few years after it came out. There was a scene and my wife looked over at me and I said, "What did you think?" She got quiet and I said, "I know, pretty bad."
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: People can be there own worst critics though.
Maurice Benard: I had him down as far as an impersonation. I studied his voice and mannerisms. But if I were to do it again now, I would go way deeper inside into who he was. At the time I didn't know what I was doing as much, just working on instinct. I've had to learn to lie about that performance because a lot of people have told me it was great. I'm thinking, "Are you serious?" But now I'll just say, "Thank you, I appreciate it."
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: In 1993 you took the role of Sonny on GH. How did that part come about? Did you want to do another soap at that point?
Maurice Benard: I actually didn't want to do another soap but I had run out of money! I was studying acting like crazy at that time. But GH came up so I went in and met with them. I didn't want to sign a long-term contract. There were two roles - Damian, a mob guy with a two year contract, and Sonny, the head of a night club which was a six month role. So I said I liked Sonny because I liked the name and it was a short-term part.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Stay tuned for Part 2 in which Benard shares his thoughts about his time at GENERAL HOSPITAL and more.