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ICYMI Maurice Benard Interview

A lot of actors just want to direct — but Maurice Benard is not one of them, at least not anymore. He scuttled plans to direct a film and chose instead to helm an experimental project featuring some familiar faces from the GH universe, which he debuted on his YouTube channel on March 1, his birthday. “I did it for the fans,” he explains.

Soap Opera Digest: So tell me how this all came about.

Maurice Benard: It all started when I met this guy from Turkey, a friend of a friend of mine. I just got a feeling about this guy, Sergio [Santairas, videographer/cameraman/cinematographer]. I said, “Okay. Why don’t we do, like, a film or something, put it on YouTube?” So, we started doing it, and the film was a great idea — I play this gangster and this boy comes to my house and he says, “Can you find the people who killed my parents?” And the boy was played by Joshua, my son. So, I was going to direct and we shot it, I started doing these scenes, and they were cool, but Serge, he was learning, so he made a lot of mistakes. But I still believed in him, and my wife, Paula, was getting like, “Honey, you’ve got to figure this out! We’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do that.” We even shot Joshua with my goat, Buddy The Goat; it was a beautiful scene where he was crying. So, we wanted to tell this whole story, but then I realized, “I don’t want to direct, man! I’m not a director.” I know how to get performances out of people, but I had to stay up all night editing and all of that. So, Paula made a great suggestion — we kind of disagreed, but now I know she was right — and she said, “Honey, just make this a fun thing, so you take off the pressure of having it be a movie; just make it a fun thing with different scenes with your friends.” And then I thought of putting it up on my birthday. I said, “Okay!” And that’s where we’re at now.

Digest: And you got several of your friends from GH involved, including Ian Buchanan (ex-Duke), Steve Burton (Jason), Kin Shriner (Scott), Brooklyn Rae Silzer (ex-Emma) and Dominic Zamprogna (Dante), to name a few.

Benard: Yeah, when we first started doing it, it was still kind of this idea of the movie, and I did this scene with Dom and Kin Shriner, just one scene where they come in. Dom was on fire, Kin was great — I told Kin, “Contain yourself,” and I told Dom, “Do whatever,” and he played it like he was on cocaine and it was fantastic. It was one little scene. They’re my friends, so I used them, and I used Réal [Andrews, Taggert] and Ian Buchanan was funny as hell. I had a thing in mind where I think Réal looks like Mike Tyson in the scene, and then my cinematographer, Sergio, he’s just getting better and better and better. In the beginning, there were problems with sound and with lighting, but now, he’s on fire, so as it goes on, you see it improving and improving, but one thing I will say is that every performance, I’m very, very happy with.

Digest: Were you working from an actual script, or was it more of a story concept?

Benard: Paula would write a scene, and what I wanted to do — well, in the beginning, I want- ed to do everything in one take, and that wasn’t going to happen, so I changed it. So then I said, “Paula, just write a page, page-and-a-half, tops, and we’ll go in and improv a lot, but still do [the thrust of the scene].” Then, we improv’d too much and it made it so difficult in the editing, so we had to do it differently. I don’t want to give too much away, but there is some very, very funny stuff at the end. I have a scene with Buddy The Goat where he doesn’t want to be in the movie. There are these over-the-top comedy things at the end as, like, bonus stuff. There’s also a scene with Joshua and Brooklyn that’s from Titanic. It’s a fun thing that I have now, less pressure, and I think that the fans are honestly going to eat it up. In every scene, I’m the same guy, but everybody else is playing [a different kind of character than their GH alter ego]. I’m kind of Sonny with a beard, you know what I mean [laughs]? I didn’t do much! I was like, “I’m tired of acting! I don’t want to stretch! Let me just be Sonny with a beard!” But everybody else — Ian is just straight-up, straight-guy funny, and then you should see what I have with Steve Burton! I also have a scene with Bryan Craig [ex-Morgan], and I also have one that I want to keep as a surprise, but it’s an actress who used to be on GH.

Digest: What was it like to be in the director role with your GH co-stars?

Benard: Every actor brought it in their own way. The only thing that I, as a director, would say that I wanted was the truth in their acting. If they wanted to play a certain thing, I was cool with it, as long as it was honest. But I’ve gotta tell you, everybody was just on. They were good. I didn’t care what they played, they were doing their own thing. This wasn’t like a movie, where I would need something very structured. If I heard anything false, I would say, “Let’s bring it down 30 percent,” or, “Let’s rein it in 25 percent and let’s try it this way.” And that was it; there wasn’t a lot of directing, per se. It’s just tedious, man, afterward! It’s just a lot of work.

Digest: So this has pretty much killed your inclination to direct, huh!

Benard: Yeah! That’s pretty much what happened. I would not direct again, ever. No, I shouldn’t say that, because what I would like to do, maybe, is the idea that I told you about the boy who doesn’t know who killed his parents, I still may do that, maybe in the summer, as a short film. I think I would be into that, but it would have to be with my guy because we get along so well, there’s no tension, it’s easy. But after that, I’ll retire from directing [laughs].

Digest: Brooklyn was so young when she was on GH. What was it like to work with her and see how her talent has matured?

Benard: I didn’t know her that well because, you know, she likes Jason Thompson [ex- Patrick; Billy, Y&R] more than me. I told her, “That’s not right.” I just thought, out of the blue, that she would be nice [for this project]. She’s so sweet, and watching her with Joshua was really, really sweet.

Digest: The finished product you’re unveiling on YouTube sounds more like vignettes than one linear story.

Benard: Yeah, it’s more like an episodic, where you have different guests every week. I kind of wanted it to be like BARETTA, which was my favorite show back in the ’70s, with Robert Blake. He would do something serious and then the next couple of weeks, he’d be playing these over-the-top characters, but they were always coming from truth, and there was humor. That’s what I like about this thing, although it’s not over-the-top humor, except the stuff at the end.

Digest: Is there anything else you want the fans to know about why you decided to time this to your birthday and what you’re hoping they get out of it?

Benard: Well, I did this for them. I wanted to put something out there so that they can see how the actors from GH can do different things and how good they are in another setting. That’s what I really wanted to come across, and I think we’ve done it.