They are two of the most accomplished and high-profile actors of the soap opera genre. Together, as General Hospital’s Sonny and Carly, their on-screen passion, drama, love story, and their unwavering devotion to their children, which know no bounds, makes them one of the most compelling duos on daytime television. Maurice Benard (Sonny) and Laura Wright (Carly) bring the couple known by their fans as “CarSon” to life, and with each other have formed a solid acting partnership that could be the envy of any performer’s careers. Both Daytime Emmy winners, Maurice and Laura, always handle whatever material given is given to them with heart, emotion, complexity, and fire.
On-Air On-Soaps caught up with Maurice and Laura to get the skinny on their recent storylines, and to get a tease of what is to come, plus how they said farewell to their longtime cast mate, Jason Thompson (Ex-Patrick, now Billy Y&R), who headed over to Genoa City and The Young and the Restless. And as GH fans know, Sonny has had to live his life for the first time paralyzed, but recent developments have illustrated there are big changes ahead! The mobster is getting up on his feet … and just in time! With Ava’s (Maura West) shading dealings with Paul Hornsby (Richard Burgi), and her continually trying to keep Sonny and Carly far away from his baby daughter Avery, and Julian (William deVry) about to walk down the aisle with Alexis (Nancy Lee Grahn), and never paying for his crimes, it looks like Sonny might be ready to deliver some payback with a twist!
One thing is for certain: chatting with Maurice and Laura was fun, candid, and cool. With big changes behind the scenes at GH in 2015, including: a pair of new head writers, Sonny and Carly’s enforcer and bff, Jason (Billy Miller) still struggling to regain his memory, and their son Morgan (Bryan Craig) battling bipolar disorder that he inherited from his dad, there have been plenty of game-changers in Port Charles. So, here’s what Maurice and Laura had to say about all things Sonny and Carly.
So, viewers just witnessed that Sonny has finally been able to move his legs, and get out of his wheelchair. This week Carly walked in on the big moment! Methinks, there are some major developments coming down the pike, since Carly and Sonny want to get back baby Avery from Ava, and Sonny wants to make Julian pay for his part in the death of Duke Lavery!
MAURICE: It’s going to be hinted at in the next couple of weeks what is going to happen, but you won’t know for a little while, but it’s a going to be an emotional explosion. I can’t give it away, but Sonny does something that I don’t think Sonny has ever done in the way that he is doing that … and that’s a fact.
Maurice, it has been very interesting watching your performances while you were in the wheelchair. As a viewer I was so drawn to your eyes, and there was so much going on within them … so much emotion. It’s interesting to watch an actor that you are accustomed to seeing walking around while they are performing, now in a more confined situation.
MAURICE: That’s a good point. I told this to Michael Sutton (Ex-Stone) when we started working together during the AIDS storyline. I knew that when he got on the bed to play the scenes when Stone was so sick, he started getting better and better, because there was no way out.
LAURA: I find that when I need to get physical. You stand there, and you own your space, and you sell your material.
MAURICE: So when I’m in the wheelchair it all has to be in my eyes. I like it, and I like the challenge. When I first started in acting class, I would move my eyebrows all of the time. My coach said to me: “On the big screen if you do that, you’re Groucho Marx!” So I started taping my eyebrows so I wouldn’t move them. Then when I started GH, you have to get rid of those things. Laura and I have a scene coming up that I hope will play as good as it felt doing it. You won’t know till they have cut it together and you see it.
LAURA: Those were great scenes, and so real.
The New Years Eve episode was so touching, especially the scene when Sonny wanted to be able to dance with Carly, but couldn’t, and the way Carly sat with him and talked to him, and when she showed Sonny how much she loved him. It was incredibly poignant, and yet sexy. What did you think about those scenes?
LAURA: Everyone loved the “New Year’s Eve” show. They had wanted me to say, as Carly, “We can still dance!” And then, Carly dances with him. I thought, “How rude!” I said, “No”. Our executive producer Frank Valentini then said “What do you want to do?” And I had just seen “Southpaw”, and Frank is a big fan of Southpaw. So we were all about the love, and the relationship, and how it’s got to be in our hearts. If Carly danced around Sonny that would be terrible, it would just be reinforcing to Sonny something he can’t do. But if I go sit with him at his level and I tell him, “I will meet you right here,” that’s the story I want to tell. Frank said, “I love it. Let’s go!”
What are your thoughts on how GH is telling the bipolar story with Morgan?
MAURICE: I told them when I did this story before, and it was focused on Sonny, it seemed too long and too dark. This story starts and ends with Bryan Craig. Let me tell you something, I have already kissed his ass so much that I’m tired of doing it, but the kid – and I knew this from day one – and I have had discussions with people – he had it in here, in his heart. What he is doing with being bipolar, I’m thinking how much I’m believing it.
LAURA: Bryan also asks really good questions to Maurice, when we are getting ready to do a scene. What I love is that Bryan is so honest. He will have moments where he is nervous, and doesn’t want to do something, but he listens. That nervous energy he has, he is able to funnel it, and it’s great!
MAURICE: Yes, he does know how to funnel it. If we didn’t feel that way about him, and if his acting wasn’t there, this story wouldn’t work. No matter how good Laura is, and what I do, it doesn’t matter.
It feels with head writers, Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman, that the Corinthos clan have become once again this core central family unit of the show.
LAURA: As they should be!
MAURICE: It is the best family on TV daytime or primetime … and a much better family than on Blue Bloods!
LAURA: Shut up! I love Blue Bloods! (Laughs) Maurice has seen me talking about it that is why he mentioned it.
How do you think Jean and Shelly are doing with writing General Hospital? What differences do you sense from the scripts, and your scenes?
MAURICE: I like these new writers, because there is more heart and sensitivity in the scripts. I just feel like it’s actually happening more, as opposed to me just going to work to do a scene, and then it’s over.
LAURA: It’s not plot-driven. The material is more emotional and character-driven. The scenes are longer, but they are also about family, love, and fear, and to be afraid and still taking a step. The stories are about all the stuff we have to deal with in life. In our reality in Port Charles, of course it’s heightened, because it’s a soap opera, but everyone has all those same challenges. It’s relatable.
Maurice, are you good with playing the Sonny/Carly relationship at this point in your career on GH? I know sometimes in the past you haven’t liked to play it, or revisit it. (Laughs)
MAURICE: Before Laura came to the show, I was so done with Carly that I wanted to go on to something else.
LAURA: Maurice wouldn’t even talk to me in our first meeting. He was giving me grief all of the time. (Laughs)
MAURICE: Well, that’s kinda true!
LAURA: I didn’t want to like Maurice! (Laughs)
MAURICE: Back then I was over Carly, but the timing now is so great, because it’s all making sense. The relationship that we are doing now is so much better than it probably would have been before …
LAURA: Oh, so much better …
MAURICE: So now the audience is getting a new relationship.
Do you think the writers will let Sonny and Carly stay together for awhile, before they rip them apart?
MAURICE: Yes, well, I mean …
LAURA: I hope so! And I hope that Sonny and Carly wouldn’t be ripped apart. I would hope that anything that happens really damages the moment, but there is still a journey back, because that is life in true relationships. These two have been through a lot together.
Will we see Jason Morgan finally in Sonny Corinthos’ orbit a bit more? The show hasn’t gotten to that place yet, although they teased it for a millisecond when “Jake” finds out from Carly that he is really Jason.
MAURICE: I like Billy Miller a lot. I think he is talented, but I don’t know where Jason and Sonny’s relationship is, because I don’t work with him. I did what I did in the scenes where Sonny finds out that “Jake” was Jason, but I don’t really know where it’s headed. I think there have been like three shows or days where I have worked with Billy, and so I don’t know how to really answer that.
Will we see Sonny heavily ensconced in the mob again soon? From his threats to Julian, it seems like things are going to erupt between the Jerome and the Corinthos’ families again. And, with Julian’s wedding to Alexis just around the corner for February sweeps, something tells me Sonny might make sure Julian doesn’t say, “I do”!
MAURICE: I think some of the mob stuff is coming back. Here is the thing: because I know how some of the viewers and fans feel about the mob storylines. As long as you have balance you’re cool, but too much of anything is too much. Too much of the mob is too much, and then too much balance is too much, because then you want to please everybody and then you don’t really please anyone. So you just have got to have it flowing in a good way, even-keeled, and then everything is good.
Congratulations are in order. You both received Pre-Noms for Lead and Lead Actress for Daytime Emmy competition. What scenes did you submit?
MAURICE: I submitted part of the bipolar story with Morgan, where I have a big monologue with him. Laura is in the scene, as well. There was only about a good four months last year that I had material. I’m not going to lie to you.
LAURA: I submitted when Carly was sitting at Sonny’s bedside at the hospital. I liked them because they were simple, heartfelt, emotional scenes.
GH seems to be surviving, but often times viewers and people are concerned about the show, and its struggles. What can you share about the health of the show at the beginning of 2016?
MAURICE: Before Frank Valentini came there was a huge worry, and I thought about six months ago when the ratings were down, I was worried. Honestly, now I am not worried at all.
LAURA: I think it’s good in a lot of ways. I thinks it’s good for us. I watch the show. I love watching bad Nikolas, and I love Tyler Christopher, and finally Nikolas is a bad guy. Nice Nikolas got screwed over all the time so I think the change in his character makes sense.
I wanted to ask both of you, how you felt sharing scenes with Jason Thompson right at the end of his run as Patrick on GH? Jason had expressed to me that he had always wanted to do scenes with you, Maurice. And at the very end, through Sonny’s paralysis storyline, you were able to work a tiny bit together.
MAURICE: We had a bit of scenes before Jason’s final scene. We had been doing some material, not a lot, but it helped make up for us not having a lot over the years. It was very cool, and I love him. Jason is such a dedicated actor. After the last scenes we had, I had to go downstairs to give him something. I gave him something I had in my room of Marlon Brando, and it’s painted in black and white, and Jason started to cry.
LAURA: I was just going to say, Jason had one more scene to do – and I said, “Maurice! You had to do that?” And then Jason had to walk off set to go behind something while he was tearing up, and it was so emotional. We were there on Jason’s last day, and we were honored to be there.
MAURICE: It’s nice that they wrote us in during Jason’s last day …
LAURA: … Especially Carly! I came in with a cake in the middle of Patrick and Robin’s (Kimberly McCullough) wedding ceremony going, “Oh, I’m sorry!” I am like “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass Robin … it’s bon voyage! (Laughs)
MAURICE: At least Sonny was making up with Patrick beforehand! (Laughs)
LAURA: It was actually a nice moment that Carly and Robin had at the wedding. Being on GH was a great life experience for Jason Thompson.
Recently, viewers saw some lovely, but brief moments between Robin and Sonny at Robin and Patrick’s wedding. Whenever Kimberly McCullough is in a scene with Maurice, it’s always so emotional.
MAURICE: They didn’t write that much this last time. But it’s history, you know.
LAURA: Right. That relationship is so embedded into the history of GH.
MAURICE: In the past, Robin always used to make Sonny cry, and nobody else really ever did.
LAURA: But now I can make you cry, Maurice! (Laughs)
Maurice, what is the best part about working with Laura?
MAURICE: Laura is 100% professional. She always knows her lines, and has emotions like a volcano, and I trust her.
Laura, your turn!
LAURA: I have to say the same thing. The number one thing for me as an actor is trust. As fast as we work, I never worry about any scenes with Maurice. If anything, I will get concerned about some dialog that I have, and I will say to him, “Can we go over this so I can get a rhythm,” and that is so I can then throw it out the door. I trust Maurice to the point where I don’t really know what might happen when we hit the stage. You don’t even have a plan in your head, because you know whatever is going to happen, it’s so magical, and authentic in the moment. It isn’t even a concern. I don’t even worry. It’s an easy day working with Maurice. Always, always with Maurice at the end of our day we always give each other a hug and a high-five. We do a high-five, because we know the scene and the moments were great. It’s so nice.
Everyone always wants to know if Maurice Benard is happy at GH these days. So, how are you? Are you enjoying yourself?
MAURICE: 2016 is going to be a good year. I’m happy as hell right now. This story coming up is going to be very interesting. I guarantee you that.
LAURA: Whatever is coming down the pike it was a baby in Maurice’s head. He didn’t write it, it was just a seed of an idea he had that everyone loved.
MAURICE: But I went to everyone else first!
LAURA: And he also let everyone know, he didn’t want any part in knowing how it was going to go down. But Maurice! I loved that you were like, “I don’t want to know what you’re going to do with it. I’m just saying this is a cool idea.”
MAURICE: Right, because I didn’t want to be responsible for Michael Fairman saying, “This story sucks!” (Laughs)
So, what do you think will happen next in story for Sonny and Carly? Do you think Sonny will get his revenge on Ava and Julian? Do you hope Sonny and Carly can stay together, and weather any storm … or do you think they will soon be pulled apart?
What did you think about Maurice and Laura’s comments on Jason Thompson, and being on set for his final tape day at GH? Do you hope Laura and Maurice land Daytime Emmy nominations in the blue ribbon round of voting for their work in 2015? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!