On General Hospital, the storyline of the death of Sonny (Maurice Benard) and Carly’s (Laura Wright) son, Morgan Corinthos (Bryan Craig) and its aftermath has delivered some of the finest moments, and performances on the ABC daytime drama series in recent memory. At the epicenter of it all is Daytime Emmy winner, and long-running series star, Maurice Benard. The set-up has provided Benard with a backdrop to showcase his immeasurable acting chops. Through anger, sorrow, frustration, and painstakingly raw scene after scene, the audience is witness to the emotional downfall of the mighty mobster, who is watching his entire family unit being torn apart at the seams.
In story, Sonny was hell-bent on making his arch-nemesis Julian Jerome (William deVry) pay for his crimes, because the justice system failed to put him behind bars. After he made the decision to take care of Julian once and for all, Sonny called off the hit after having a crossroads of conscious visiting the church, and talking to former priest, Griffin Munro (Matt Cohen). But somehow, in a series of dire and life-altering events, Sonny’s son Morgan wound up in Julian’s car, and yes, there was a bomb that exploded anyway that took his son’s life. When reverberations were felt through Port Charles, Carly left her husband, and moved out on him for killing their son! Now, Sonny is alone, vulnerable, and grief-stricken; not a good place to be for Sonny who has lived with bipolar disorder most of his adult life, and has experienced serious bouts of depression over the years.
On-Air On-Soaps chatted with Benard about this deeply affecting storyline, and how it has affected him personally, day in and day out, having to go to such a heavy emotional place. Maurice also reveals more on his final scenes with Bryan Craig, what he has thought of the performances of his cast mates, and his work, what he thinks should be the future of Sonny and Carly, and so much more. Throughout the years, if you have seen Maurice’s memorable performances, this storyline stands right up there with the best of them, and this just may be his most outstanding work yet in his prolific daytime career.
During our in-depth interview, Benard was candid, funny, self-effacing, and an actor’s actor explaining the material, the intent behind it, and more. We hope you enjoy this one as much as we did conducting it. Here’s what Maurice had to say about the latest in the life of Sonny C.
Last week, viewers saw such sorrow-filled performance between yourself and Kimberly McCullough (Robin), when Robin appeared at the bridge that has meant so much to both her and Sonny over the years, because of their past with Stone. She talks Sonny down from potentially ending his own life via a gun. What did you think of those scenes?
MAURICE: I have actually loved how they have written everything. That scene in particular was beautiful having Kimberly come back as Robin, and with the history that the two characters have. I am crying a lot in those scenes.
They are taking Sonny to the depths of despair. The audience is watching him become swallowed up by his grief. It’s been heartbreaking.
MAURICE: It’s funny, some people said, “They are going to do that again?” But what hasn’t been done on the soaps twenty times over? It’s not about what you did before … it’s how you’re going to do it this time. The actors are doing wonderful work. The only thing we can do is play it to the best of our ability, and I think everyone is striving for that.
It has been exceptional from the writing perspective, too. They are really breaking it down and taking the viewers on a birds-eye view of the grief and devastation of this family. While we have seen that before on the soaps and even on GH, this is so well executed!
MAURICE: People always say, “Sonny has never paid for his lifestyle!” I think I am acting in this story for all of those people. (Laughs)
What was your reaction when you found out Bryan Craig made the decision to depart GH?
MAURICE: You have to understand; Bryan truly on the show was like a son to me. He wanted to become this solid actor, and I believe he has what it takes. We became close friends, we worked hard together, and the stuff that he was doing in the storylines at such a young age just blew me away. Then, when he decided to leave, a big part of me wanted to talk him about of it, but I knew he needed to go. He can do it. As a matter of fact, as fans know, he is already shooting a movie, and so he is already out there doing it. I was sad that he was leaving us, but then they told me they were going to do this story. I was ready for this story. If this story had been done six months ago, there was no way in hell I could have done it.
You have been public in the past of noting when sometimes the stories they have asked you to play have brought you to a very dark place. So, you were in place this time where you felt could handle the emotional wear and tear of performing this kind of material?
MAURICE: My place of mind, and my state of mind, was so ready. People have been coming up to me after the scenes going, “Are you alright when you go home from work?” I said, “You know something? I think I have learned from the past. I am great when I go home.” When I am on set, it’s a whole different ball game. But when I am done and get to my dressing room, and get ready to go home, I’m good.
Have you then just been able to shake it off, and go do your thing, when you hang it up for the day as Sonny?
MAURICE: Yes, 100%. Many times before it had been an issue, and it was not good for my family, either.
Which were the last scenes you taped with Bryan Craig? How was your goodbye?
MAURICE: Morgan comes back from the dead at Halloween, and Sonny goes through a lot of stuff and sorrow. When they told us this was our last scene, I said to Bryan, “Let’s just make this you and me, man.” In the scene he is a ghost, in a way. There was a moment where I was smiling and laughing, and then he was smiling and laughing. It was just a great way to finish together.
As someone who deals with bipolar disorder in real life, and who has spoken out on the importance of staying on your meds, what did you think of the story point that had Ava (Maura West) switching the meds on Morgan with placebos?
MAURICE: A lot of people talk about that, but I guess it’s not cool, but it’s part of the story. Maura is so great! She will play it the way she plays it, and we will see how they all get out of this one. (Laughs) I don’t know how they are going to write that one. I think when Sonny finds out that will make for a great story, and it ain’t going to be ‘purty!’ (Laughs)
Of all the scenes you have shot thus far since Sonny has been reeling from Morgan’s death, has there been one that has been the hardest for you to play, or that you questioned if you could pull off?
MAURICE: It’s a weird situation with this whole thing. The only scene that I say I was really a little nervous about was the scene I recently shot at Morgan’s funeral, which the audience will see coming up. It was like I knew I had to do something I had maybe never done. I did a lot of homework for that. It was so well written and intense, and it took me to place that I have never been as an actor.
During the aforementioned bridge scene, while alone Sonny voices that he wanted to be a better father to Morgan. Right now, it seems no one is there for Sonny, at all.
MAURICE: I will be honest with you; in the past there has been these stories with Carly and Jason, and Sonny is left alone, and the town hates him, and the Quartermaines hate him. I always felt like I was fighting a gang fight with a toothpick. But somehow this story plays differently, and I don’t feel that way. As alone as he is, and this is just my opinion, it’s written very sweetly.
What does Sonny think about Nelle Chloe Lanier), who is seemingly worming her way to head of the Cortinhos house? (Laughs) No one in the audience trusts this gal, nor Bobbie! (Jackie Zeman).
MAURICE: Well, when you’ve got nothing, then anything is better than nothing. Nelle is there for him so he can talk at, or yell at, or whatever he needs to do. I like the relationship, because it’s just a little odd, and … I like odd! (Laughs). It’s a little out of left field, and maybe it’s not the way it’s supposed to be, but Nelle is there and he’s messed up. If Sonny did not have her there then who does he really have, in a sense?
What have you thought of your scenes with Laura Wright, and how they are seemingly breaking up Sonny and Carly? Do you think things would change in their relationship if she were to learn, and if it’s discovered, that Sonny was not the responsible party for planting the bomb in Julian’s car, (since he called off the hit) that led to the explosion that killed Morgan?
MAURICE: Laura and I have gotten to a place where we trust each other 125%, and she gives 185% when she acts. We honestly have so much fun now working together. I respect Laura, tremendously. But, I do like Carly and Sonny apart, because it puts them into two worlds, and then you try to get them back in the one world. The writers don’t have to rush that, because I think the nature of both characters is best apart and kind of fighting their attraction and the love. It’s not that we can’t be together and be in love, but this ‘apart thing’ is kind of cool.
Do you have any issue at all that Sonny has no one right now to really grieve with?
MAURICE: I will tell you the truth; I am Ok every so often with Sonny going through it. I loved the scenes that recently aired with Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis). She was right on in those scenes. In the past, the way it had been written was like this: “You’re bad, you’re bad, you’re bad, I hate you, and you’re bad.” As an actor, I can’t act and play opposite that too much. That’s not fun for me, but it’s not like that this time. I feel like this is a true story of two parents losing their son, and what happens.
Every episode of GH since Morgan’s death has featured riveting performance after riveting performance for those involved with this story. I can’t remember the last time it was cry-a-day episodes of this soap!
MAURICE: Every actor that I have worked with during this story is treating it like this is real. I did a scene with Genie Francis (Laura) last week, and man, it was so sad. I had to get up off the set. Genie is great! I could feel her energy and it was such a sad scene.
Billy Miller (Jason) and you had a scene where Sonny lets Jason have it for not being there for him, and not being the Jason of old. He even sort of blames Jason for Morgan’s death. Clearly, Sonny is missing the Jason that was his sidekick, and always there to protect and help him.
MAURICE: Look, on paper those scenes look different, but I try to convey what you just said. I tried to convey Sonny’s pain, and if I could just say to Jason, “Come back to me, man. I love you.” I was into those scenes.
Jason is about to get sucked back into Sonny’s world, since Jason is now hell-bent on getting justice for Sonny!
MAURICE: Well, I would hope so! (Laughs)
William deVry (Julian) and your on-screen rivalry has been fun to watch, and even more so now that Julian’s action have become so deadly, and despicable! What have you thought of Will’s work, of late?
MAURICE: I think ever since Julian tried to kill Alexis, he is now Ted Bundy! (Laughs). He has no emotion. It’s the greatest! I was sucked into that story. I said to William the other day: “You have to embrace your inner dark side. When you accept and embrace your dark side, I love it. Don’t try to act sensitive, or anything.” I said, “I’m in. I’m right there with you.” I have loved watching him play that over the last 4 months, or so. And speaking of other people I like to watch, I love to watch Donnell Turner (Curtis) and Vinessa Antoine (Jordan) … that’s chemistry, man. If people don’t see that … then, God help us! (Laughs)
Laura Wright told me even before these recent performances aired: “Maurice is killing it! Wait till you see him.” It’s been a good year for you, material-wise. I hope any naysayers out there realize the magnitude of some of your work in this.
MAURICE: In the past, I would sometime acts for awards, or to get this, or that. I am doing this now just for my fans that like me and appreciate my work, and the stuff you write that I read, and acknowledge and I feel great about it, and the way others have written about me, too. On the other hand, there are people who write not so great stuff about me. That also motivates me. I’m now doing the work, not for any other reason, but to try and be as great as I can be at my craft. That’s it. Now I come in and I know what I need to do. You don’t act this material, you have to kind of live it, but you don’t bring it home.
OK, let’s talk Daytime Emmys. While I know the ‘Emmy Gods’ have not been to kind to you in recent years in getting a nomination, you have to go for it this year.
MAURICE: Sometimes they don’t put me anywhere in the nominations! (Laughs). I am just glad that response has been so positive, and everyone is just kicking butt! I love to watch other actors do their thing … Laura … and Nancy, etc.
Speaking of Nancy Lee Grahn, the Alexis and Sonny relationship is another great one that I hope the writers continue to mine. Could you see down the line a re-igniting of “Sexis”?
MAURICE: I don’t know about that one, but I would really want more scenes with Sonny, and Alexis, and a friendship. There’s history, and Sonny is the father of her child, etc.
Will Sonny feel absolution if he finds out he is not responsible for the bomb that blew up his son?
MAURICE: I had to think about how I am playing it. I said to myself, “He is not going to do jumping jacks if he finds out he was not responsible for the bomb.” His son is still dead! It’s a good question, because if he finds out he was not responsible, one doesn’t want to play too happy, but Sonny for sure, would want to kill who ever did it!
Morgan’s body was not found, and if they do a recast, would you be OK with the fact they went through all this sorrow and drama, and it turns out in the end Morgan is alive? Does it nullify everything you and the other performers have accomplished, and given to the audience?
MAURICE: I am not into that; I have to be honest. The show will do what they are going to do, but I have been on the show now almost 24 years, you are not going to find anybody as good as Bryan Craig. Someone that could play bipolar and the depths of it, and someone you believe is my son. But let’s say for a minute they did find someone to play Morgan, doesn’t that make what we just did kind of not as important, or impactful?
I think soap opera fans get annoyed when a character is not really dead. They want to grieve and experience the story right along with the characters. They don’t want to go on an emotional roller coaster only to have it all nullified. We have seen that before where the character comes back with a new face and different identify, etc. Why not just have this character truly dead?
MAURICE: I am with you on that one. I would have liked them to have recovered the body. But that’s my opinion, but I will do my job for whatever they need me to play. But, I think it kind of takes away from what we have done here.
Do you want Julian and Sonny’s feud to keep going? Julian has not paid for any of his crimes, either!
MAURICE: Yeah, but so many people say that Sonny had never paid for anything, and that’s fine, too. I would say to them, “When your son gets shot and gets put in Coma, I think you pay for that.” But I guess they want Sonny to go to prison and hang! (Laughs)
“Sonny never pays for anything!” That’s the chant from many in the audience. However, this man is still the most tortured soul, and he has to carry around that burden day in and day out of the ramifications of his mobster life.
MAURICE: Hey! They want me to stab myself, or something? I can only play what I can play. I think I have had a few nervous breakdowns, and major anxiety along the way. (Laughs) But I get it. I don’t care whether Julian pays for his crimes. I like William opposite me as the bad guy, and I haven’t liked many bad guys.
Yes, it seems it has always been Sonny against the new GH mob villain in town! (I.e. Batman vs. the Joker, etc?)
MAURICE: Right! But with William deVry as Julian, there’s a certain swarmy quality that I like! (Laughs)
What does Sonny really think of his daughter, Kristina’s (Lexi Ainsworth) sexual confusion?
MAURICE: Sonny was brought up ‘old school’. So initially he was like, “How do I do this?” But he loves that girl so much that he doesn’t care. Ultimately, he just wants her to be happy.
Now what about his son, Michael (Chad Duell)? He is not there for his father in his time of need, and kind of hating on him … again! What do you think of that one?
MAURICE: Michael is a little traitor! (Laughs) He hates Sonny now! What’s up with that? I am like: “Enough, dude.” Yes, he was upset that Sonny shot AJ, but Sonny did go to prison for like … a day. (Laughs)
Has GH executive producer Frank Valentini said anything to you during this heartbreaking storyline?
MAURICE: Frank does, but Frank and I have a great understanding. I kissed his butt early on when he came to General Hospital, but now without saying anything, we know when it’s working for the show, and for me. What I love about Frank is that he is always on the set, and he is there for the actors.
Recently, your good friend and former on-screen scene partner, Steve Burton (Dylan McAvoy) made the decision to leave The Young and the Restless. A show he joined after over two decades on GH as Jason. What did you think of the news when you heard Steve was making his exit?
MAURICE: I love Steve. He is such a talented guy, but knowing Steve he will be doing something else major tomorrow.
Do you miss not having him around when there is a dramatic emotional story for Sonny?
MAURICE: I miss Steve, because we were like brothers, or maybe I am like an Uncle to him. He may say I was like a “father” to him, and then I would have to say to him, “Shut up, blue eyes!” (Laughs)
While at Y&R, there was not one interview I did with Steve that you did not come up in conversation, and where Steve did not sing your praises of what he learned from you during his time on GH.
MAURICE: Steve and Vanessa Marcil (Ex-Brenda) were both like sponges, and so too were Bryan Craig and Tamara Braun (Ex-Carly). They just took it all in on the set. When I got here, I just learned on my own. So when I was in a position to give back, I did. It was beautiful to watch, trust me. It’s beautiful to watch when you end scenes, and you are working with a young actor, and you see them slowly growing. Then all of a sudden, “Boom! It’s over. They got it!” Then, you are in a scene with them going, “Oh, boy!” I so remember doing scenes with Steve, Bryan, or Vanessa going, “Oh, man! That’s just too good. Now, what do I do?” (Laughs). It’s great when that happens.
Speaking of Jason, Billy Miller brings a whole different color and dynamic to the character. What can you say about what this three-time Daytime Emmy winner brings to the table?
MAURICE: Billy is a great guy, and I am friends with him. What I love about what he brings as Jason is that I believe his protection of Sonny, and his loyalty to him. He would take anyone down for Sonny. As I said, I liked the scenes that aired recently in the office, and the way they were very well written.
In closing, should GH viewers expect and anticipation more heartache and emotional wallop in the coming weeks for Sonny and the Corinthos clan?
MAURICE: If what you have seen is a lot, then this week is brutal. The editing to me is great, the music, the lighting, the directing, producing, and the performances throughout this entire story. More to come!
So, what have you thought of Maurice Benard’s performances in the aftermath of Morgan’s death? What do you think will happen next for Sonny and Carly … will they work at getting back together, or is this the end of CarSon?
Do you hope that Jason finds out who planted the bomb in Julian’s car, so Sonny is not sent to jail for a crime he may not have committed? What has been your favorite scene thus far in this storyline featuring Sonny and the Corinthos clan? Comment below!