INTERVIEW: Maurice Benard Is Coming To See YOU - Part Two

In Part One of our interview with Maurice Benard, the beloved Emmy-winning actor previewed aspects of his upcoming summer tour, why Sonny Corinthos is so warmly regarded by fans, as well as the struggles of coping with Bipolar Disorder. In Part Two, he shares more about his experience of portraying Sonny, keeping the role fresh, dealing with Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo (Brenda) leaving the show, as well as his own future aspirations. What does Benard think daytime needs to stay vital? Find out below!

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: When you’re on the road with your family who is taking care of your animals?
Maurice Benard: You had to bring that up! My wife’s brother is staying at our house. I have a ton of animals. My main concern is my dog Cain who is like a big bear. I don’t know how he is going to do that long without me. I walk him, people think I have a bear.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I’m disappointed I won’t be seeing you at Emmy Awards this year. I’m going to be there covering it for We Love Soaps TV.
Maurice Benard: There’s no way we could do it. Even if I could fly I don’t think I could do it. It would be leaving my family. But the fact is I can’t fly, it’s like no way.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You have been nominated six times now, and won once. Many say you could win it this year.
Maurice Benard: Maybe, we’ll see. Every time I think I am I don’t. Then when I don’t I do.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What else would you like to accomplish in your career?
Maurice Benard: I just did a film called “Duke.” Carmine Giovinazzo, Vanessa’s husband, is the lead. It was a great experience. I played a bad guy from Peru who is a cop killer. It was such an interesting character, an interesting scene. As I was doing it I realized it was something I really wanted to do. I go through periods. At the beginning of my career I wanted to do movies. Then I was just happy doing the soap, just working on being good doing this. Then I did this movie two months ago and a part of me would like to get into that.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: There are a lot “Indie Soaps,” ie, continuing story dramas that are now being told exclusively on the Internet. Have you seen or heard any of these?
Maurice Benard: I haven’t seen anything.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It’s an interesting time. Many of us feel that is where the “soap opera” genre is ultimately heading, much like the origins of soaps on radio 80 years ago.
Maurice Benard: How is it looking?

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Some of it is really great, some of it is okay. What’s wonderful is that it gives writers and creators the freedom to tell diverse stories in a way that serves their visions. These are stories we have never seen on network television.
Maurice Benard: That sounds cool.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You have been open in interviews about struggling with boredom on GH. How do you maintain a level of excitement and energy for Sonny?
Maurice Benard: I am someone who has always gotten bored easily. This character has kept me not bored for quite some time. There are times I get bored. I ask, “How many pages can I memorize, how much can I do?” But I found lately that just the simple fact of getting in the scene and enjoying it moment to moment and telling the truth in the scene, being truthful and honest, makes me feel good all the time. So I don’t care who I’m working with. As long as I get that going, I’m happy. It doesn’t have to be a great story. It’s that great connection and that honesty that keeps me alive.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I think that makes sense for any job. When you seek truth and you bring integrity to your work it does not get boring.
Maurice Benard: When you lose sight of that you get into the negativity of boredom. Lately it’s not like I’ve had great story. But I get up on that set and it is like acting class. I find ways to make it interesting, take chances, and I’m having a good time.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So many of the scenes you share with Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo have been fascinating for me. The Sonny and Brenda story was so unfinished 14 years ago, and we have really seen it come full circle. They are more mature, more experienced. But now, Vanessa is leaving.
Maurice Benard: Yes. [Pause] It’s sad for me. It’s a partner I have...it’s like a machine that is oiled really well. We know each other so well. We get in there and we challenge each other every moment. I mean right now, as we’re talking, I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do upstairs [on the GH set] because I know she is going to come at me in a certain way [laughs]. But that’s where we’re at. She’s leaving, and that’s it.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: From a creative stand point it is interesting. We’ve always known that Brenda was the one who got away for Sonny and she always had a piece of his heart. Now they’ve been married and she’s leaving. In a way that can emotionally free him up.
Maurice Benard: As much as I’ll be sad about it, as much as I love working with her to death, it is a new chapter. My way of thinking is that I can’t wait to see what that new chapter holds. I think now with Sonny, especially with Bob (Guza) gone, things have to be different. I don’t know how you make it different because I’m not a writer. But things have to change and be different in order to keep the show rolling. I think with the way it is going to change we can do that.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What would you like to see happen for Sonny?
Maurice Benard: I know this is going to sound corny. But I truly believe he needs a ton more romance. I think we’ve done the angry and beating people up and whatever that is. That’s cool too, his dark side. But I think he needs more romance. I don’t know where he’s going to get it, how he’s going to get it, but I think he needs it.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: At the end of 2011 there will be four daytime soaps left. I know you’re not a writer, but you have been working in this industry for most of the past 25 years. What, from your perspective, do the remaining four need to do to maintain the viewers they have left?
Maurice Benard: You know what, I hate to say it again, but there has to be a lot more romance. Soaps in their day were about couples and romance. We’ve gotten away from that. I’m not saying they should only be that. But you need to develop a couple, make it more romantic, make it more loving, and go from there. I just believe we have lacked that for awhile.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: For me that is what I have loved about soaps. The psychological elements behind relationships, seeing the reasons why people do the things they do in relationships, and watching couples overcome adversity, is what made soaps captivating for me.
Maurice Benard: Yes! We have tons of actors on our show that are great. If you have that sort of chemistry...I mean, look at shows like CASTLE. I see these two interacting and you want to watch. I don’t know if they’re a big deal or not, I just know I enjoy watching those two. In any show, if you see a man and a woman who have a certain thing, and then the writing is great, you want to follow it. Like MOONLIGHTING.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: And even THE SOPRANOS had that. Did you watch THE SOPRANOS?
Maurice Benard: I watched enough. I didn’t watch it every week. Maybe it’s because I was too jealous [laughs]. But I watched it to know why it worked. Maybe I’m going down the wrong street, maybe it’s something else that soaps need. But I think how those couples were back in the day need to be brought back.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: When you write for complexities and psychological depth it hooks people in. This is why we are still fascinated by Sonny and Brenda after 17 years. Claire Labine’s creation of their dynamic was so strong.
Maurice Benard: Vanessa and I have talked. We just want to make it as real as we can. It's like we are arguing at home. We’ve done that even more so recently than back in the day because I think we’re both grown now. Sometimes it may not come across, but this is how we would be arguing in real life. That’s what I love about it. We haven’t had much romance, but that’s besides the point.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How would Sonny Corinthos describe Maurice Benard?
Maurice Benard: Sonny would describe Maurice as too goofy. He would say Maurice is pretty cool, but not as cool as him.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thank you for reading. Please enjoy Maurice Benard daily on GENERAL HOSPITAL, and come visit with him on his upcoming summer tour.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist in New York City who specializes in treating depression, stress management, anger management, ageism, and grief/loss issues. He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve," currently available at Amazon.com. For more information about scheduling an appointment or a speaking engagement, please email him at Shouldless@gmail.com.

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