One Mo' Time

In the 11/23/10 issue, Digest celebrated its 35th anniversary and GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Maurice Benard looked back on his time as Sonny. Here’s a peek at what didn’t make it into the issue….Soap Opera Digest: Digest is turning 35.

Maurice Benard: Wow, that’s great, I’ve been here for 17 years. I was 31 when I started. I’m 47 now.

Digest: What’s been one of your highlights?

Benard: I think one of my highlights has to have been winning my Emmy [in 2003],

Digest: I still remember the roar of the crowd when they called out your name at Radio City Music Hall. How’d that feel?

Benard: It was several years in the making. I’d been nominated five times since I was there [at GH] and the response, I’ll never in my life forget. I was crying inside. Everybody was there. Jill Phelps [executive producer], my wife, my kids. You can’t do it again. That first thing that you win, you can’t duplicate it. Afterwards, we had a great time. We partied. My mom and dad were there. It was just amazing.

Digest: A lot of people thought you’d take home the gold again for Sonny’s manic depression storyline in 2005-06.

Benard: It was hard to watch that.

Digest: That was something you pushed for, since you were diagnosed with bipolar disorder years ago in real life.

Benard: That was a personal achievement of mine, to give back to my own disease. They did an incredible job here, Bob [Guza, head writer] and Jill, to make sure I was really all right while we were doing it. It took a little longer than it was supposed to and they kept asking me all the time, “Do you want to stop it?” and I said no, and then my wife, without me knowing, stopped it. It was probably best she did. And I think after a while, the audience didn’t want to see it.
Digest: If our mail is any indication, you really shed light on the subject.

Benard: I tried to bring it as real as I could and after a while, I had an anxiety attack at the end of it. But I’m very happy the show decided to do it because it was important, not just for me but for everybody out there who struggles with it and struggles with someone they love who’s bipolar or has any kind of mental illness.

Digest: That was also when Sonny was paired with Emily, which ruffled a few fans’ feathers.

Benard: That’s kind of my thing — they pair me with somebody and nobody’s into it and then at the end of it, they’re like, “Why did you break it off [laughs]?”

Digest: That’s kind of similar to what just happened with Claire.

Benard: Yeah, I think that’s what happens with me initially. They don’t want me with anybody but who I’ve already been with. But, I think if you can change their minds quick enough, it’s good.

Digest: Could you ever see yourself doing another soap?

Benard: Look, would I want to go to Y&R and do a couple scenes with Eric Braeden [Victor] and Peter Bergman [Jack]? Because I’ve actually been watching that, to be honest with you. It’s interesting to see them in action. Sure, I’d love to do that but as I said before, in all my years here, I’ve never gotten bored — and that’s amazing,