INTERVIEW: How General Hospital's Maurice Benard finally learned how to have fun playing Sonny

Posted Monday, May 06, 2024 2:43:01 PM
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General Hospital's Maurice Benard reveals why he is finally having the time of his life playing Sonny

General Hospital star Maurice Benard just spent another week on the road, connecting with his fans, making them laugh, and giving them some food for thought with his one-man show for Coastal Entertainment titled You're Stronger Than You Know.

Soap Central caught up with Benard before his Pittsburgh, PA, appearance, where the longtime GH star explained just how special those nights are. While he riffs on Sonny's life and hilariously re-enacts the whole nine-month Nixon Falls story in a record amount of time, he also shares personal experiences while he lets audience members share parts of their own lives. Through it all, mental health advocacy remains a theme.

"My shows are very interesting," he told Soap Central. "They all turn into this quiet kind of mental health talk, and General Hospital, of course. There's both, but there's a lot of mental health...It ends beautifully with people spilling whatever they want to talk about with mental health. It's a spiritual connection inside that room, always."

Benard has been open about the depression he experienced during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, including a day when he considered taking his life. He got through that time, thanks to medication, and chose to help others with a mental health-centered YouTube show called State of Mind with Maurice Benard.

Over the last three years, Benard has interviewed countless soap stars and other celebrities about their own mental health issues, but he's also talked to people from all walks of life about experiences that have changed and transformed them.

"I do want to go bigger just because it is going to hit more people, but I like the homey of it, the quaintness of it, where it's at and people feeling safe," he said of State of Mind's future. "I wanted to get to the 100,000 subscriptions, and I used a lot of celebrities because I felt that would help, and it did, and I got that...and then I figured, don't worry so much about that, get the story. The story is the most important thing."

Benard, who has bipolar disorder, has been open about his diagnosis for decades, and it is a diagnosis his GH alter ego Sonny shares. In fact, when Soap Central asked what he would ask Sonny if Sonny were ever a hypothetical guest, the actor admitted he's already considered this.

"I wanted to do a show where I'm interviewing Sonny," Benard said. "I don't know how I would do that. I guess I can shoot all one know what? I may do it, now that we're talking about it. I would have all these questions and shoot all one side and shoot the other. It's not that difficult. But I would ask him, 'How's it been being bipolar?' How does he feel about being bipolar? Does he go to therapy? Does he breathe? Does he meditate?"

Currently, Sonny is not taking his bipolar meds as he should. He thinks he is following his regimen but doesn't know Valentin Cassadine made sure the pharmacist gave him the wrong dosage, meaning he is only getting one-quarter of the potency prescribed.

"Right now, he's all out of his head," Benard said with a laugh. "I am having the greatest freakin' time acting it, more than I've had in a long time, 'cause I get to kind of say things that normally Sonny can't say."

Benard acknowledges that fans often worry about him personally, thanks to on-screen tales. "They don't want to see Sonny suffer or me suffer," he said. "Even if it's good acting, even if it's cool to watch, they don't. They think that maybe it's affecting me."

The actor admitted that Sonny's troubles once did affect him when the cameras stopped, but they don't anymore -- mainly because he's learned to let go of the pressure.

"It has [affected me] in the past, and the reason that it doesn't is in the past, I wasn't having fun," he explained. "When you have pressure is when it starts affecting you. Pressure and fun don't go. You can't have pressure and have fun...So, now I'm having fun, but I don't have any pressure because pressure can't touch me. So, it's not affecting me."

Are you a fan of Maurice Benard's podcast State of Mind? Are you glad to know Benard can separate himself from the role and enjoy it more? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.

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