maurice benard birthday bash gh
Credit: Howard Wise/JPI

Sometimes saying no can be the best thing we could do!

Believe it or not, if things had gone just a bit differently, you might be sitting here reading a piece about that actor who briefly appeared on General Hospital back in the ‘90s playing a doctor… whathisname. You know the one. He was there and gone in a flash played by Nico from All My Children.  Maurice Benard! That was the guy!

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Fortunately, things didn’t go down that way, but they very well could have if not for the fact that Benard did not want to do General Hospital! Yes, you read that right! It was his very reluctance to join the sudser that gave us the Sonny Corinthos we all know and love.

“I was out of work,” Benard recalls with casting director Mark Teschner on a recent episode of State of Mind. “I owed money. Two years between playing Desi Arnez, then running out of money, then GH calls and I don’t want to do it. My wife says, ‘Yeah, you do.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t.’ She goes, ‘We’re broke.’ I go, ‘Alright, let’s go!’”

The actor can’t help but laugh at the memory that changed his life.

At this point, Teschner takes over the story, letting Benard know that by the time he met with him, executive producer Wendy Riche, and producer Shelley Curtis, the actor already had the job.

“We made it clear,” he recalls. “This wasn’t, ‘Let’s see how it goes. We want you.’” In fact, they wanted Benard so badly, they offered him two roles. And this is where it really gets interesting! (And also where Benard breaks into helpless laughter.) “You were offered Dr. Baranski, a series regular role, and you were offered a six-month role of Sonny Corinthos. You jumped at the six-month because you didn’t want to stick around.”

And 29 years later Sonny is still going strong! So what changed his mind about staying?

“You know beauty of GH,” Benard muses, “that’s probably why I’ve been there 29 weeks is because of the loyalty that you showed me after two to three weeks after I had my third nervous breakdown.”

Teschner recalls the time well, though he wasn’t aware of just how much Benard had been struggling practically from the moment he first showed up on set.

“There was a sense of, ‘OK, let’s work with Maurice to help him navigate as much as we can, all of this,” says the casting director. “And I think when you came back, I think work became a real anchor for you. It gave you this security and a way to express yourself.”

Check out our photo gallery of Sonny’s long life, since Maurice Benard has stuck around for decades!