Maurice Benard, Joshua James Benard

Image: Jill Johnson/JPI

The mental-health advocate defused a tense situation with empathy.

In the latest edition of State of Mind, Maurice Benard (Sonny, General Hospital) reminded viewers that “I basically tell stories about my life… things that have moved me, things that have scared me… things that I find incredible.” Such as… a recent visit to Fatburger with son Joshua, 15.

“I thought [what happened] was profound,” said the Daytime Emmy winner, “but maybe… it just… it’s a lesson to be learned.”

As the soap icon and his offspring were leaving the restaurant, they were approached by a stranger. “I assume he was homeless,” said Benard. “Mentally ill.” As the man yelled at Joshua, the actor instructed his son to just get in the car. Benard’s instinct was to protect Joshua. But “that’s not a good way to show [him] that you take care of things with violence even though that’s what I used to do when I was young.”

Instead, Benard simply drove away, at which point the man approached the driver’s-side window. “I didn’t want Sonny to come out,” he recalled, “and so I rolled down the window and said, ‘What’s wrong, man?’”

In no time, Benard had de-escalated the situation, and to Joshua’s astonishment, he’d realized that the stranger was shedding tears behind his sunglasses. “I said, ‘Hey, man, you’re gonna be alright, guy,’” Benard related. “‘Keep your head up.’”

The moral of the story, the soap vet said, is that “you should never judge, because we thought he was this crazed person… and in actuality, he ends up crying. But in the end, we’re all human beings.”

To watch Benard’s full recounting of the drama, press PLAY on the video above. Then click on the photo gallery below to revisit some of the greatest trials Sonny has ever faced.