How General Hospital’s Maurice Benard Saying ‘I Don’t Want to Do It’ Nearly Changed Sonny Corinthos Forever
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!
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!
<p>When Maurice Benard made his<em> General Hospital</em> debut in 1993, Sonny Corinthos wasn’t yet the underworld overlord that he is today. He was but a low-level flunky of big kahuna Frank Smith’s, the proprietor of a strip club where he enticed underage Karen Wexler onto his stage and into his bed.</p>
<p>As Sonny became more of a mover and a shaker in the Mob, he became the target of not just rival mafiosos but Cupid: When the cherub took aim, the smooth criminal fell hard for Karen’s former high-school classmate Brenda Barrett. If only she hadn’t gone and worn that wire on him…</p>
<p>Over the years, Sonny suffered one loss (wife Lily Rivera and their unborn child) after another (ward Stone Cates). But after brain damage turned would-be doctor Jason Quartermaine into hired gun Jason “Stone Cold” Morgan, the racketeer finally got a BF whom he could call a BFF.</p>
<p>Determined to keep Brenda from renewing her vows with Aussie interloper Jasper “Jax” Jacks, Sonny attended the couple’s ceremony with a surprise guest: the groom’s “late” wife, Miranda. As you can see, Brenda was extremely displeased to have her seating chart thrown into disarray.</p>
<p>After Sonny won Brenda back — only to leave her at the altar for her safety’s sake! — he got involved with her lookalike, Hannah Scott. Upon learning that his new honey was a federal agent, not a waitress, he wound up having hate sex with Jason’s ticked-off lover, Carly Benson (then Sarah Brown).</p>
<p>After Sonny and Carly married to ensure that she couldn’t be compelled to testify against him, they wound up developing real feelings for one another. But when she tried to “help” him leave the Mob, he showed her the door and knocked up his attorney, Alexis Davis.</p>
<p>As time went on, Sonny and Carly (then Tamara Braun) broke up and made up like clockwork. All the while, he was beset by threats ranging from half brother Ric Lansing to the Alcazar twins, Luis and Lorenzo. Somewhere in there, Port Charles’ Don Corleone also found time to have affairs with Sam McCall and Emily Quartermaine and discover that he had bipolar disorder.</p>
<p>Sonny thought that he’d managed to leave “the business” in order to start a new life with lost love Kate Howard — until the bride was shot on their wedding day. Reeling, he married back into the Mob by taking as his bride Mafia princess Claudia Zacchara (yep, Brown again).</p>
<p>After stealing away son Micheal from biological father A.J. Quartermaine, and having kids with Carly (Morgan) and Alexis (Kristina), Sonny discovered that he also had a grown child… only <em>after</em> he had shot in cold blood Dante Falconeri, the undercover cop who’d been trying to bring him to justice.</p>
<p>When Brenda returned to Port Charles, Sonny finally managed to put a ring on it — only for her to bail on their new marriage in order to protect newfound son Alec from a stepfather who was so unscrupulous, he’d frame Jax in order to ensure that Carly got custody of their daughter, Josslyn.</p>
<p>Following Brenda’s hasty retreat, Sonny reconnected once again with Kate, who turned out to be suffering from multiple-personality disorder. And to put it mildly, her alternate personality — Connie Falconeri — was <em>not</em> a fan of his. So on their wedding day, she revealed that she was already hitched to Johnny Zacchara. Bazinga!</p>
<p>When Sonny caught A.J. throttling Ava Jerome, he permanently “removed” the longtime thorn in his side, unaware that Michael’s dad had just cause to wring the Mafia donna’s neck: She was framing him for Connie’s murder. In the aftermath, Sonny cheated on new squeeze Olivia Falconeri — you know, Dante’s mother — with Ava, who just happened to <em>also</em> be shtupping his son, Morgan.</p>
<p>Though Carly (now Laura Wright) became engaged to reformed serial killer Franco Baldwin, she threw caution to the wind and strayed with her ex, Sonny. In retaliation, Franco got her made man on the side sent up the river for life for A.J.’s murder. Of course, “for life” really turned out be more like “for a few months.”</p>
<p>Nelle Benson hit Port Charles with an axe to grind — preferably in Carly’s back. So she pretended that she and Sonny had slept together, then handed off her son with Michael to Brad Cooper to raise in place of <em>his</em> short-lived baby. Honestly, she was lucky that <em>this</em> was the kind of “hit” that was taken out on her.</p>
<p>As Alzheimer’s disease took an ever greater toll on Sonny’s estranged father, Mike, the two of them were finally able to make peace with their past. In the end, if they were left with one regret, it was that they hadn’t taken better advantage of the time that they had while they’d had it.</p>
<p>As they are wont to do, Sonny and Carly remarried (again and again) and did their best to keep any more of their children from meeting as untimely a demise as Morgan had. But the fates refused to leave them alone for long. So after Sonny tried to neutralize the threat posed by new Big Bad Cyrus Renault, he was left to struggle to remember who he even <em>was</em> after an amnesia-inducing tumble from a bridge.</p>
<p>Though Nina Reeves discovered that Sonny had only lost his memory, not his life — as Carly & Co. believed — Nelle’s vengeful mom kept that little tidbit of information to herself and accidentally wound up falling for “Mike,” the Mr. Nice Guy that the gangster could’ve been if his life had gone down a different path.</p>
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