General Hospital’s Bryan Craig (Morgan) has been on an emotional rollercoaster of late, both on-screen and off. The young actor has been handed the most challenging storyline of his career, when the powers-that-be made the creative decision to have the character of Morgan Corinthos suffer from Bipolar disorder, which explains so many of the character’s impulsive decisions and behaviors since he became a young adult.
To make this story all the more gut-wrenching is the fact that Morgan’s father, Sonny (Maurice Benard) has been battling the highs and lows of being bipolar for many, many years. Since being bipolar can be hereditary and can run in the family, the ABC soap opera decided to tell this raw and important story, which once again puts Benard back on-screen utilizing his personal experience with the illness into his performances, which also helps inform Craig during his work in this storyline.
That’s not all! Recently, Morgan found himself a murder suspect in the death of Silas Clay. But when all came to light, it wasn’t just the good doc who was stabbed in the back! Morgan found out that the woman claiming to be Denise DeMuccio was actually the very much alive Ava Jerome (Maura West). During a major courtroom confession on the witness stand during the murder trial, Ava coped to her scheme. Since Morgan was now without a doubt sleeping with Ava this whole time, and since she was revealed to be so duplicitous, that relationship has seemingly tanked. But so too did Morgan’s relationship with his girlfriend Kiki. The young Jerome got an earful from Franco (Roger Howarth) learning that her boyfriend and her mother were having sex, right behind her back! Needless to say, she dumped Morgan. Now with no women in his life, and his behavior spiraling out of control, he shared his pain with his father, who told him that no matter what he would be there for his son, and loves him unconditionally, and will help him through this. But then came the irony; as the Corinthos clan gathers for Sonny and Carly’s (Laura Wright) wedding, Sonny is MIA … he has been shot!
Backstage, Bryan, who has had his share of unfortunate struggles with acceptance from some GH fans on Twitter, recently found himself involved in a heated social media exchange. Craig had informed his “haters” that the character of Morgan had some major on-screen material coming their way. Some viewers did not take kindly to the words in the tweet, and from there things took an unfortunate nosedive which included at various points: a soap fan having some choice words about Craig, the actor’s parents stepping up to defend their son on social media which also stirred the pot, and Craig, in defense of his loved ones, sending out what has become a controversial and inflammatory tweet due to its content.
On-Air On-Soaps chatted with Bryan to get his thoughts on: getting to play the bipolar Morgan, how he has prepared for this heavy emotional storyline, a preview of what viewers can expect next. Will Morgan get the help he needs … or will he continue finding his life out of control? The young star also talks about working with his co-stars: Daytime Emmy winners Maurice Benard and Maura West (Ava), the departure of head writer Ron Carlivati who gave Bryan the material and the opportunity to display some incredible performances, his take on social media now after all he has experienced and learned from, and what went down the day he proposed marriage to the love of his life Kelly Thiebaud (Ex-Britt). In a candid, heartfelt interview here’s what Bryan shared.
When you first heard that the powers-that-be were going to have Morgan become bipolar, what were your initial thoughts?
BRYAN: I was excited to have something different to play than I have ever played before. Frank Valentini (executive producer, GH) had me shave my head, which is cool, to go through a physical change for a storyline. Also, I was excited to play it, because Maurice Benard (Sonny) actually suffers from that illness, and so I knew that it would be a storyline that was close to home for him. I knew I could get a lot of information from him on how to play it correctly, and kind of have a “coach”, if you will, that would be right there. I was also excited to research it and educate myself more on it, because I really had no idea what this entails. So, it’s been a new adventure on the show that I have been able to take.
So, they felt by the action of the shaving of the head that it was more indicative of someone with Bipolar disorder? I know a lot of fans just thought you had made this decision to change your look as a personal style choice.
BRYAN: It was to show another way that Morgan can be impulsive, and it was a random thing that he just did. It was one of the first things that Sonny noticed when he said to Morgan, “You shaved your head!” And I sort of pulled away from him. Morgan tends to do these things out of nowhere. I just think it was a red flag, and it was a way for people to see Morgan in a different light. Morgan shaved his head off-camera, and it also felt to Frank that shaving it gave me a harder look, if you will, because they were kind of hinting at the possibility that Morgan may have killed Silas. They were just trying to get the audience to not look at me as young, soft, stupid Morgan.
It was so interesting to watch your reaction in the courtroom scene where Denise confesses she is actually Ava Jerome (Maura West), because when they panned to Morgan and Kiki (Hayley Erin), he had a very tense, but minimal reaction to the whole reveal, while Kiki was emotional.
BRYAN: I fought for that, because they wanted me to play surprised. I was like, “Absolutely not!” I was like, “Please, do not make my character look that stupid.” I said; “Let me at least take the angle of being angry, and of ‘You’ve got to be kidding me?’ Rather than it being: ‘Oh, my God! Ava!’”
It was so far-fetched anyway that Morgan would not know that Denise was Ava, when he was having sex with her over, and over again.
BRYAN: That was the hardest storyline I have ever had to play, and for believability. This is nothing that I haven’t already said in front of directors, and Frank, and that’s, “It’s just not believable.” On the soaps in general, there are a lot of far-fetched storylines, and they could be plausible sometimes, because you are watching television, and it’s not real. But this was just so far out that it was really hard for everyone involved in it.
Was the decision to have Morgan suffer from Bipolar disorder the idea of former GH head writer Ron Carlivati, before he was let-go from the show?
BRYAN: Yes, I think so. This was a decision I believe that Frank, and Ron had made. I don’t know who more so, but Frank was the one that gave me the big news about it. But that was when Ron was here writing the show, and that was not the start of the new material, and it was done phenomenally. I reached out to Ron and told him this story has been so awesome. I thanked him so much for obviously writing this material.
Ron gave you such a beautiful parting-gift!
BRYAN: What is really cool about it is it sort of wraps-around with my first year on the show. Ron wrote me that big wedding scene, which got me my first Daytime Emmy nomination, and that was a turning point. Coming in and being a new guy on the soaps can be tough. People don’t really take a liking to you, and that is the first time, I think, that people started to go, “Oh, maybe this kid is alright. Maybe he can act a little bit.” I felt like Ron truly came full-circle with it through this material that he just wrote for me a few years later on his way out. I found it ironic, and really cool.
So do you think then that the actions of Morgan Corinthos over the last many months were a device to plant the fact that eventually it would be revealed that he suffered from this mental illness?
BRYAN: Honestly, it makes so much sense that I don’t really know. But what a great excuse for all of those things he did! I don’t know if they had that planned all along, or maybe it was an avenue that they thought they may take at some point.
Where is Morgan at with his feelings for Ava and Kiki at this point in his life, after all the betrayals?
BRYAN: I think Morgan absolutely despises Ava, and hates her. I don’t see Morgan and Ava ever getting back together again. With Kiki, I think he really still loves her, and he knows he really screwed everything up. I think he has accepted that their relationship is gone, as well. So I think as far as women right now, he’s over it, and he thinks they are both out of his life. Morgan has no animosity towards Kiki. He has a ton of it for Ava! Morgan does not trust her at all.
You have played opposite Hayley Erin as Kiki, and before that Kristen Alderson and you were together on-screen for some time, when she played the part. I think Hayley has had an uphill battle for fan acceptance as well, something you experienced when you started on GH.
BRYAN: Kiki has been a tough character, and it seems that most of the audience has not taken to her, and that was even when Kristen Alderson was playing her. Hayley has had a pretty tough shoe to fill there. Not to mention, that although she has done soaps before it was a long time ago; and GH can be a tough set. There’s a lot of really strong women on that set, and a lot of really strong male actors, as well. It has been great working with her. She has been fun to work with. I don’t know if it matters who they hire for the role. I don’t know that the majority of fans like the character, as it seems that the character isn’t quite fleshed out. I think Hayley knows that. When I came on as Morgan, it was a character that had already been established, and there was room to go with the character. He has had a much different storyline, where he is likeable and then not likeable, but I feel like Kiki has just sort of been on flat-line since the character was created.
Your other leading lady has been three-time Daytime Emmy winner, Maura West. How has it been sharing screen-time and scenes with this dynamo?
BRYAN: I don’t think I could get any luckier than to be in storylines with Maura, and Maurice Benard. She is incredible. Maura and I are good friends, and Kelly and she are good friends, which makes what we have to do a lot less awkward. It’s already an awkward storyline because of our ages. She is such a great actress, and so professional. Nothing is hard to do with her.
Your scenes this past week with Maurice Benard in Sonny’s living room have garnered so much praise. The two of you delivered touching, raw, and heartbreaking performances, as Sonny tries to console and help his son admit he needs to get help to treat his illness, just like Sonny has. Have you had the opportunity to watch back the scenes?
BRYAN: I haven’t seen them yet! But, I have never gotten so many accolades from fans on Twitter, and actors on other shows, and even the network reached out to me. That felt really good. It was a tough day when we filmed those scenes. I did not sleep the entire night before. I did that kind of purposely. I was in a really bad place coming to work already. Maurice will tell you, and Frank will tell you, I came on to the set crying already, and really messed up. When the scene started and I saw Maurice, I mean that was not acting. Maurice was picturing his real-life young son and thinking, “What if my son grows up and has this issue?” You could see that in Maurice’s eyes. So, when I saw that it broke me up. Frank was on set for every single scene, and was right there with us. He was absolutely phenomenal in working with us. You could hear a pin drop on the set that day. Everyone was moved out that did not need to be there. It was just extremely well set up for us as actors, and that is another reason I think it turned out well.
It must be at times so painful for Maurice to delve into his real-life personal battle with Bipolar disorder, when having to tap into that when it calls for it in story for Sonny. How is it for you knowing Maurice has to deal with this off and on screen?
BRYAN: It was a hard month for him and me, both. You are right. Since Maurice actually deals with this in his real life, and to force him into this mindset at work when he doesn’t need to be, but he does it for his work, it’s tough. And honestly, me not being bipolar, it’s so exerting to try to put yourself there mentally, and to understand what it might be like that for the month we were shooting all the material surrounding the bipolar storyline, I was miserable outside of work. When I got home to Kelly, I had nothing to give emotionally. I went to therapy a couple of times – it was really an exhausting month. Maurice and I were in talks on the phone every day after work. It was really about me helping him keep sane, and him helping me keep sane outside of work.
This is where they talk about how the lines blur for actors; separating their real life and their work, and not bringing the emotional life of their characters home with them. Has it been hard for you to leave Morgan’s emotional state at the studio during this storyline?
BRYAN: It has. I have to say Maurice and I really wanted to do this one well, because there are so many people out there that have this issue, and a lot of them watch the show. It would be terrible to portray it wrong if half those people felt mocked. However, I have a ton of people from the bipolar community that reached out to me and everyone has had such great things to say, which makes me so happy. That’s all I wanted to do was to give it justice.
Will we see Morgan get help and get into therapy?
BRYAN: He has a long trail of crazy still ahead of him, and that I have shot. There are some things that he has done that are way over the things that have already aired. I can say, he goes off the handle even more. Maurice and I did go to Frank Valentini, and I kind of begged him to get Morgan on some medication soon, which I think is the goal. You just can’t keep playing this for so long, because in real life normally someone would get treated. I think Maurice and I would lose our minds if we had to play this for another two months. I don’t think they need to draw it out for that long. You will see him lose it, and then get some help … and then comeback from that. I think everyone wants to see that happen.
Sonny and Carly’s wedding was about to begin, and Morgan is there. Sonny went out to save a kidnapped TJ (Tequan Richmond) and just got shot. What can you preview that will be your involvement in upcoming scenes when the show picks back up with new episodes on Tuesday?
BRYAN: There are some very big six or seven person scenes at Sonny’s house. I remember having a lot of dialog to say. There are moments with Morgan and Carly, and more of the spotlight is on Laura Wright. She really kills her scenes! And there is a big reveal that happens soon with the wedding stuff, and then that segues into a whole new storyline, which I think people are going to really like.
Michael (Chad Duell) has had a contentious relationship with Sonny and Carly, and was not to keen on attending the wedding, but Morgan really wants to be there to support them, correct?
BRYAN: Morgan is all about being at the wedding of his parents, and I believe Michael’s only reason for going to the wedding is because of Morgan. But then after he does go … this storyline does take a turn when Sonny gets shot, and it kind of brings the whole Corinthos family together in a time of need.
You have somehow become somewhat of a polarizing figure on social media, and as an actor. You have seen people slam you, and they seem to either like you, or dislike you. I have seen this happen with so many different actors in the medium. People need to understand that actors are human beings, and are just trying to do good work in the roles they play that the public sees. Has it hurt you when you see negativity coming your way? I know there was the recent incident on Twitter where you took a lot of flack for what you said, and later realized the mistakes you made by your reaction and the words you used.
BRYAN: Yeah obviously, it sucks to read that people don’t like you, or people just want to say terrible things to you to get a response out of you. In a perfect world, it would be nice to go on social media and see all positive feedback and comments. But that is not how it is, unfortunately. I’ve slipped before, and I have retaliated on social media when I shouldn’t have, but at the end of the day we are all human beings. It’s the same if you worked at a Target, and your customers were saying you gave us great service, or you were the worst Target employee the world has ever seen. It doesn’t matter what you do with the negative comments, because after a while some people can say certain stuff that crosses the line, and they want to retaliate. I’ve made my mistakes on social media, but I have learned to just block it and move on now. If I read the negative comments and they say: “I really didn’t like your performance,” that’s fine. That’s their opinion and they are entitled to that. But I will block people that personally attack me, or personally attack my loved ones, or are saying things that are absolutely ridiculous and asinine, just to get a response. It sucks to have to do that, but I don’t feel that anyone has the perfect fan base. There are actors such as Robert Downey Jr., who in my opinion is an incredible actor, and there are websites such as robertdowneyjrsucksatacting.com. It’s crazy. There are people who like you, or hate you, but hopefully now I have learned to handle it in a more modest way, rather than retaliating. You know, I feel bad for kids in this generation, because growing up I did not have social media. Six-year-olds have Twitter accounts now, and it’s kind of ridiculous. I think it’s a great thing for marketing and promoting yourself or your company, or whatever it is you do, but it can also be a terrible thing when one person has so much access to so many people at a push of a button, and you can make fun of someone publicly, and in front of 30,000 people, in one sentence or one tweet. So, I think social media can be a good place, and it can be a bad place.
Did your fiancée and former General Hospital star Kelly Thiebaud (Ex-Britt) watch the episode this week that featured the emotional scenes between you and Maurice?
BRYAN: Kelly watched, and she was crying when she saw the scenes with me and Maurice. She was on social media and she said a lot of nice things there. I think she was very pleased with them.
It has been so fun and touching to see the photos that the two of you posted to Instagram accounts on your engagement! You both look so in love. What happened when you proposed to Kelly? Did it go off without a hitch? (Laughs)
BRYAN: I never thought I would be engaged at 23, but I fell in love with Kelly. We were ready a year ago, but it was more of a financial thing. I wanted to get the right ring. I wanted to do it in the right place, and she always wanted to go to Bali. I was finally in a position to make that happen. I proposed out there, and it was phenomenal. It was so crazy, because Kelly was kind of on to me about it, because she kept wanting to go look at rings. But, I was working, and I was busy, and I was like, “Hey! We don’t need to.” I already had a ring, but I couldn’t tell her that. So I said, “Babe, just hold off a minute.” And she was like, “Maybe, he doesn’t want to get engaged to me anymore?” So, on the flight to Bali I said to her, “I know it’s our two year anniversary, and you are expecting for me to propose. But baby, it’s just not going to happen on this trip. I just didn’t have the money; I spent all the money on the trip and all of that.” I had to break Kelly’s heart, and she was really bummed out at the beginning of the trip, and that was killing me inside! However, the first night we got there I said, “I did get you a little anniversary gift if you want to open it.” She goes, “O.K.” I had bought her this locket necklace and she goes, “Oh! This is so sweet.” And I say, “Yeah. You can put a picture in there, or whatever.” So when she opened the locket, the ring was in there, and it said, “Will you marry me?” And at first she said, “Is this a joke?” And I was like, “No!” So, I had to kind of manipulate it, because she was on to me. In the end, it worked out pretty well!
In closing, Shelly Altman and Jean Passanante are the new head writers of GH, and we will see their work debut in October. What are your thoughts on the writing regime change? Do you think it’s a positive move for the show?
BRYAN: Change is always nice, I guess. I don’t know Shelly and Jean. I hope they continue with what Ron has left them with in terms of where my storyline goes, because Ron has set this up beautifully. I would say certain people were unhappy with certain storylines that Ron was giving them, and I think it doesn’t really matter who the writer is – someone is going to be unhappy with what their storyline is. And not to mention, the ratings were consecutively low recently, and it just so happened that Ron was the head writer at that time. It could have just as easily been another writer that some actors were not happy with their storylines, so that writer left. I think it’s all circumstantial. As I said, I hope Shelly and Jean continue with what Ron left off with, and in my opinion, right now that’s pretty damn good. I just hope they can continue to make our show better and better!
So, how do you think Morgan will react when he learns Sonny has been shot? What are your thoughts of Brian’s emotionally-wrought performances of late as viewers are learning the true cause of Morgan’s manic behavior? What did you think of Bryan showing his appreciation and giving kudos and thanks to exited head writer Ron Carlivati? And as for the storypoint of playing the affair involving Denise, and that he wasn’t suppose to know it was Ava, did you appreciate Bryan’s candor as he shared the same feelings on this plot point that many a GH fan had? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.