Maurice Benard – A Lover Betrayed
By: Kelly Kearney
Q) You are staring in the Lifetime movie A Lover Betrayed. Tell the fans a little bit about the film and how your character fits in.
Maurice: Well, it’s kind of a who done it sort of a thing with a lot of twists. I play a detective who’s trying to find out who did it. Basically, Jamie [Lunar] and Jason [Brooks] do the hard work, the emotional stuff, but there’s a lot of stuff that goes on in this film.
Q) Most fans know you as Port Charles’ infamous mob boss Sonny Corinthos on the long running soap “General Hospital.” Did you think it would be difficult to play a character in law enforcement after decades of playing a criminal? Was the challenge what drew you to the project?
Maurice: As a method actor, I was always taught to become somebody else so whatever I’m given, that’s what I’m going to do. So, it’s not difficult. I mean it’s only difficult if it’s a role I don’t want to do and I’ve done that before and it doesn’t work. With this movie I got the script and had my wife read it, like I do all the time, and then she usually says green light or not. So, then I read it and If I connect with the character than I do it. I’ve always wanted to play a detective and I really liked this character a lot so I did it.
Q) What made this film the right fit for the Lifetime network?
Maurice: I mean I think it fits right up their ally where a lot of things happen and it’s a kind of murder mystery type thing where you think one person did it and then another person and then you don’t know and then you find out. I’m sure that’s why it fits Lifetime, it’s what they do.
Q) I know the filming schedule for soaps are some of the toughest in the business. How were you able to film “General Hospital” and A Lover Betrayed simultaneously without dropping from exhaustion? Did you have any downtime at all?
Maurice: In the past two years, I’ve had a great time doing other projects. And like for twenty-two years I couldn’t get a job if I paid for it. [laughs] I actually did have to pay for it because I did my own movie about three years ago. My producer Frank [Valentini] is phenomenal at “General Hospital.” He just knows how to work the schedules. I have three movies coming out soon and in the past I did the film Joy, which was a hard one to get out for because I had to go back and forth to Boston. But thank God I have Frank because with anther producer it wouldn’t have worked out.
Q) You have done many films and television shows throughout your career. What is it about soap actors that makes them so versatile and is there a genre you haven’t tackled that you would like to try?
Maurice: Hmmm…Let me think. [pauses] I’ve done theater, TV and movies. I would just like to continue playing different characters in other projects. Soap actors, especially the top soap actors, they don’t get the credit they deserve. Look, we can do stuff in one take. I’ve had actor’s come on “General Hospital” because I’ve been there long enough that have done movies or starred in prime time and they’re eyes get big because they can’t believe they just get one take or maybe even two. It’s so fast now even compared to what it used to be. It used to be that you could get away with five sometimes six takes, but now it’s one or two. The other side of it is that it’s a great job. You are in and out. You do your scenes and you get out and go home. Now, there is a lot of work at home that needs to be done, learning dialogue and all that whereas with A Lover Betrayed I could’ve almost learned my lines on set because I’m in a trailer for hours. On a soap, you better come to set prepared or you are done. You know what I mean?
Q) Jamie Lunar, “Days of Our Lives,” alum stars opposite you in the movie. What was it like working with Jamie? Had you ever worked with her before?
Maurice: No, I never worked with her before, but I have got to tell you she can be emotional on a dime. It was really cool to watch. And you have to understand, I’ve had a couple of good years here, but I’m still immune to anything except soap operas and I was kind of sitting back and watching how things go like, “Wow! So that’s how that works.” They were so cool with me, all the actors and the directors. There was a lot of respect there and I just loved watching Jamie work.
Q) Of course, we have to talk about Sonny Corinthos who is an iconic soap “bad boy” that fans absolutely love. Are there any similarities between Maurice and Sonny?
Maurice: There always has to be because, as an actor, you are going inside yourself. For me, I personalize and use what’s happened or is happening in my life and I throw it right into the character. I think over the years I’ve allowed some of my personality to come out in Sonny, whether it be laughing or smiling or joking because in the beginning I didn’t do that. I was like this is who this guy is and this is his character and I did that for a long time, as you know.
Q) You’ve been playing Sonny since 1993 and throughout that time he’s been married multiple times, taken a few bullets, lived through a couple of explosions, had a few stints in jail and probably broke every law in the book… and that’s just small portion of what makes Sonny so popular! Out of all the obstacles Sonny has faced, what has been your favorite to play?
Maurice: Wow, now we are going way back! Hmmm… that’s like asking which kid do you like better! [laughing] That’s tough. So, I’ll go with the latest one where my son died. It was a really beautifully written and directed story. Everything was just great about it. It was probably the hardest I’ve done because the son had Bi Polar and you know I’m very close to that. That’s up there with one of my favorites.
Q) As the soap opera platform changes from network TV to online web content, what is it about “General Hospital” that’s kept it on the air and the fans still tuning in?
Maurice: You know with “General Hospital,” all I can say is it’s the audience. The history and how loyal the fans are – they are the most loyal audience I have ever seen in my life. It’s unreal how loyal they are. You know I was at the Emmy’s. I’ve been a few times. [laughs] I’ve probably lost too, but I remember there was these security guys who came up to me and said, “You know soap fans are the greatest because I’ve been security for the Oscars, the Golden Globes and I have never seen fans crazier than these fans are.” When I meet people and they come up to me they say they watched [GH] their whole lives with their mothers or grandmothers, generations man, you know? It’s unreal! Every day we are in their homes and it’s just a different closeness with fans that you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Q) Besides your busy acting schedule, you’ve also been extremely outspoken about your struggles and successes managing your Bi Polar disorder. What made you want to go public about this and what has the fan response been like?
Maurice: The story I used to always tell a long time ago…And back then and for many years I didn’t talk about it all. It was a letter from a kid whose brother killed himself because he had Bi Polar and he read something about me and it helped him get over his brother’s death. After that I said to myself, “You gotta start talking.” So, that’s how it happened. I did all the talk shows and Oprah helped out enormously. I haven’t had one negative thing said or that I’ve read about me speaking out. It’s all been positive. This thing is bigger than acting, I mean people are dying from not just Bi Polar, but depression, anxiety and all types of mental illnesses and I think everybody should be talking about it.
Q) Since going public you’ve really worked hard at fighting the stigma that sometimes comes with having Bi Polar disorder. Which charities are you currently working with and do you think putting a famous face to this cause has helped the stigma of mental illness?
Maurice: As far as charities go, I’ve worked with so many I would hate to tell you in case I forget one or get the names wrong. My wife she knows all of it and she could tell you. But as for the stigma, let me explain something about the stigma. At least now there’s a name to it. I say to people that Bi Polar is the new term for crazy, right? Instead of saying you’re crazy, people say, “Gosh, you’re Bi Polar,” and I don’t mean to chuckle but back when I did Oprah nobody even knew what Bi Polar was. People would be like, “Bi Polar, what’s that?” People just didn’t have a name for it. I have to say, with all the progress we’ve made there is still a stigma. I mean we don’t treat mental illness like we do other diseases. It’s just the way it is. Sometimes, when you say, “Look I’m going through this tough time,” people look at you and say, “Hey man, you can get over this.” Tight? So, there is still work to be done. I think I was the first male celebrity to talk about it, but Patty Duke really was the pioneer in this. I’ll tell you, now that we’re talking about it and you’ve got me all riled up, even now men don’t want to talk to talk about. They think by having a mental illness or being Bi Polar it makes them weak, but the reality is I’m actually proud of what I’ve accomplished while having Bi Polar because It’s given me a lot of strength. There’s definitely more work to do, but here we are talking about it now and I will continue to talk about it because I think with me people can see that I’m kind of this intense guy, especially the characters I play and there is no weakness there, only strength. It can only help if I continue to do things like this and keep on talking about it.
Q) Besides acting and your charity work, what do you like to do in your down time. Are you still boxing?
Maurice: Yeah, I still box! Listen, if I could quit acting and make a living at boxing…and believe me, I can’t [laughs] because I would get killed. I would because that’s how much I love it. I love to get in the ring and lace up those gloves. I mean I’m not going all out, but I will do six to eight full rounds of boxing. I have to work out or else I get myself in trouble. I’ll tell you a story since we just had that McGregor fight. A few years ago, I saw Floyd [Mayweather] at “Dancing with the Stars” and I went up to him to shake his hand and tell him I was a fan and he didn’t shake my hand. It got real, real weird there for about five or ten minutes. My first thought was, “I’m taking you down right now man!” Then, my next thought was, “Oh yeah, never mind this is Floyd Mayweather.“ [laughing] After that somebody came up and said something and then he said something negative and somebody sad something again. It got real weird, just weird, and somebody came in and grabbed him and he left. It’s funny, I’ve wanted to tell that story for so long and I hadn’t told too many people in the press and I wanted to tell my friend Stephen Smith on ESPN’s “First Take.” I wanted to tell that story on the show, but it slipped my mind. I mean, maybe it’s not good tell on a national level, but you leave that in. I like that story and I want people to know it. [laughing]
Q) Are there any other projects besides “General Hospital” and A Lover Betrayed that you’re working on that the fans can keep an eye out for?
Maurice: Yes! I have two other films coming out and I am so excited about both of them. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much about them. I can tell you…Ok, I’ll start with the first one. It’s called Hold On and it’s about an aspiring singer. When you hear this woman sing…She’s the lead of the film, her name is Micayla De Ette, she is going to blow your mind and I don’t say that lightly. I can be critical when it comes to singers and this girl can sing! It’s the story about her life and Luis Guzman plays a priest, Flavor Flav has a little cool role as a parole officer and I play a music executive. The good news is some really great film execs are backing the film and they work for Tyler Perry studios. It’s going to be released in February, press tour January and premiere in New York in October. The other one we will definitely talk again about because I am very excited about it, only they won’t let me say anything. All I can say about this one is that it’s a horror film and I’m working with a very famous Japanese director. I’ve been asking and my wife Paula has been asking when I can talk about it. I have all these interviews lined up. I’m doing “Good Day LA” and then “KTLA” and I want to talk about the horror film but I can’t. I can say my last scene, they signed an actor that when I got into acting I looked up to. My last scene I did I had done “General Hospital” that day. I had filmed thirty-two scenes in the morning working with Michael Sutton [Stone] and then went to film this scene with that actor for the whole night. I can’t say I was nervous to work with him, but he had cool energy and made me comfortable. I wish I could tell you what it was [laughing], but I did see the trailer and let me tell you something it is out of this world. So, I can’t wait to talk to you again. We will talk about the whole movie and you are going to love it. It was a great experience doing the film.