General Hospital’s Maurice Benard and Chad Duell Unpack the Rocky Beginnings of Their Relationship: ‘Don’t Try to Defend What I Did’
The co-stars weren’t always as close as father and son off screen.
Any soap actor will tell you that it’s tough to be a recast. But imagine stepping in for someone else when you’re on-screen dad is squarely in your predecessor’s corner. Yikesville, right? But such was the case when General Hospital discovered Chad Duell during a 2010 audition to play Kristina’s abusive boyfriend Kiefer and, instead of give him that short-term role, hired him to replace Drew Garrett as Michael — much to the chagrin of Maurice Benard.
“I’m very loyal when I like somebody,” said Sonny’s portrayer during the January 31 episode of his vlog State of Mind, “and they had an actor playing Michael who I thought was good, and we got close. Then I come home on a Sunday, and my wife is on the phone with the exec producer [Jill Farren Phelps then], and she said they fired [Garrett]. I said, ‘Whaaa?’ I was pissed.”
Maybe Not the Warmest Welcome in History
The first day that Benard and Duell were at work together, the EP took the Port Charles vet aside to explain the change-up. “I said, ‘You’re the boss. It’s your show,’” Benard recalled. “At that time, I didn’t really believe that.
“Then she goes, ‘You wanna meet the guy?’” he continued, “and I say, ‘Not really, but if you want me to.’”
So, uh, yeah, there weren’t going to be any big “Welcome to the Family” hugs that day. “I gotta give Chad a lotta credit,” Benard said, “because I wasn’t a good person. He had to go up and do some scenes in court… I don’t know how he did it, ’cause I wasn’t nice, and I was right in front of him.
“Thats the gangster in me that isn’t cool,” he went on, “but at least as Maurice, I admit my faults, and I don”t like it.”
Trial by Fire
For about six months, Benard reckoned he wasn’t cool with his new son. Duell thought that it was less, but Benard didn’t want to be cut any slack. “Don’t try to defend what I did,” he implored Duell. Back then, the soap rookie was under incredible pressure from not just taking over his role but taking it over in the middle of the storyline surrounding stepmother Claudia’s killing.
On his first day, “I was so nervous that I sweated through two shirts. I almost vomited. I was having panic attacks,” Duell said. And who wouldn’t? “The headwriter and the executive producer were literally in my eyeline with their arms crossed [during taping].
“I knew everybody was just watching me,” he added, “looking at me like, ‘Oh, this is the guy that got [the other Michael] fired? We’ll see what he can do.’”
Of course, Duell pulled through, slayed and went on to nab half a dozen Emmy nominations as well as an Outstanding Supporting Actor victory in 2015. And as you no doubt know, he won over Benard, too. As Duell acted his butt off in then aforementioned courtroom scenes, “Dad” remembered, “You were killing it, and I hated it. But even then, I had to admit, ‘Dammit.’ That’s how much of a jerk I was.
“Then,” he went on, “we became like a real [father and] son, close.”
On that note of happy ending, spend a little more time with the Corinthos clan by climbing the tangled branches of their family tree with our photo gallery that reveals who’s who and how they’re related.
Video: YouTube/State of Mind