“General Hospital” star Maurice Benard talks about the soap’s 60 years


April 1, 2023 | 08:00

On and off screen, loyalty is everything for the ‘General Hospital’ star Maurice Benard60.

For three decades, he played mob boss Sonny Corinthos on the hit ABC series, but initially feared it would be a short gig.

“When it started… it was my third bout of mania,” Benard, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 22, told The Post.

“So it just stuck in my mind how loyal and amazing they never kicked me out. If I want to leave or something, I always think about that time.”

Benard has won three Daytime Emmys in his decades on the show, and is the longest-running scripted drama on television.

On Saturday, it celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Viewers first entered General Hospital on April 1, 1963, and Benard and his cohorts continue to stir up love — and drama — every weekday afternoon in the fictional upstate New York town of Port Charles.

The recipe for success is “a lot of hard work” and “the most loyal fans of any fans in the entire world,” according to Benard.

Maurice Benard and Vanessa Marcel had a lot of drama as Sonny and Brenda in the ’90s.
ABC/Everett Collection

The actor first transitioned into “GH” – as the show is known by his die-hard fans – when he was a teenager.

“I watched it when I was sick when I was about 13,” he said. “I watched ‘All My Children’ and ‘General Hospital,’ and I ended up on both shows.”

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He got his start on All My Children, appearing on the now-defunct ABC soap as bad boy Nico Kelly from 1987 to 1990. Three years later, he headed to General Hospital.

When offered the choice of playing one of two gangsters on the show – Sonny Corinthos from Brooklyn or newly born gang member Damian Smith – he chose Sonny.

“I said, ‘Ah, that’s a great name!'”

It wasn’t meant to be a 30-year job.

“It was actually a six-month contract,” said Benard, whose character was initially more of a villain than an anti-hero.

With Sonny and Carly (Laura Wright), Maurice Benard develops his second super duo “GH”.
ABC via Getty Images

“And then I decided to stay, made a few different choices as a character actor, and the audience started to like him.”

‘General Hospital’ hit pop culture heights with Luke’s wedding (Anthony Geary) and Laura (Jenny Francis) in 1981.

Sonny becomes one half of his soap supervillain later in the 1990s, as a dark and dangerous older man seduces trust fund singer Brenda (Vanessa Marcel).

He was initially hesitant about the plot development.

He said, “I didn’t feel like we were ready yet to be this super couple because I thought Vanessa wasn’t that strong as an actress yet.” “So I took Vanessa under my wing, worked her butt off, and became an amazing actress.”

After becoming a sweet couple with Brenda (Vanessa Marcil) in the ’90s (right), Johnny Morris-Benard is now romantically involved with Nina (Cynthia Watros).
ABC/Getty Images; ABC/Everett Collection

After Marcel left “GH” to pursue a career in prime-time television, from “Beverly Hills, 90210” to “Las Vegas,” the era of Sonny and Brenda faded away.

However, Benard’s alter ego — who also suffers from bipolar disorder — has found super chemistry once again with scheme queen Carly, played by several actresses, including Sarah Joy Brown, Tamara Brown, and now Laura Wright.

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“But there was one that didn’t work,” he said of Jennifer Bransford, who played Carly briefly in 2005 before being fired.

But the “GH” love interest, Benard wishes he would have had but never did Demi Moorewho played Jackie Templeton on the series from 1982 to 1984.

Demi Moore played Jackie Templeton on the soap from 1982 to 1984.
ABC via Getty Images
Maurice Benard has been the mob boss residing in Port Charles on “GH” for three decades.
ABC/Everett Collection

Still, it was a great run.

And after years of being a fan of the soap, Los Angeles-based Benard — who has four children with wife of 33 years, Paula Smith — has come to embrace his age, including his gray hair.

“Sometimes my stylist paints my hair a little more, sometimes less,” he said with a laugh. “It is what it is.”

Just don’t ask him to do any of the love scenes he’s famous for before.

“I don’t want to do that,” Benard said. “I’m kind of more than that.”

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