On the heels of his 25th anniversary in Port Charles, GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Maurice Benard landed his second Daytime Emmy for playing Sonny — and that’s not all he’s celebrating. In the first half of 2019, the actor and mental-health advocate hit the big screen in the horror flick Nightmare Cinema, wowed Lifetime audiences as John Gotti and brought fans goats, giggles, inspiration and behind-the-scenes GH fun via social media. And now he’s got a book deal to boot!
The truth is, since his 2015 cameo in the movie Joy, Benard has seemed unstoppable. “For whatever reason, I’ve been able to almost have a second career at my age,” he marveled to Soaps In Depth. “It’s what I always wanted. It just never happened. But one thing’s led to another and then another — and [GH executive producer] Frank Valentini allowing me to do these projects is a big deal! So I’m just enjoying the ride.”
Benard is proud of the work he’s done both in and out of Port Charles of late, but that doesn’t mean switching gears when he leaves Sonny behind is easy. “The roles I’ve done in the last couple of years have all been intimidating,” he confided. “It was very difficult going from GH to the Nightmare Cinema set, for example, because it’s two very different characters. All my characters in the movies are different from Sonny, but I was playing a priest! And I was working with a guy I think is great — Mickey Rourke. Oh, man!” For Victoria Gotti: My Father’s Daughter, the daytime MVP fl ew to Canada on short notice and dove right in. “It was tough but exhilarating,” he recalled. “And when I was making Hold On, I just had major anxiety.”
No matter the hurdles, Benard never let his co-stars see him sweat. “What I do as an actor is I prepare very well, and when I go into the scene, I just tell the truth,” he revealed. “When they see my eyes, they see the honesty. No matter how hard some of these jobs have been, that’s what gets me through: the preparation and knowing I’m going to tell the truth.”
These days, Benard is also pouring that honesty into his memoir due out next April, Nothing General About It: How Love (And Lithium) Saved Me On And Off GH. “Recently, [my wife] Paula asked me if I wanted her to read me some of the chapters,” Benard said. “And when she was reading it, I was moved. I got chills, man! I was so happy. I think it’s going to be great.”
As indicated by the mention of the drug lithium in the title, Benard doesn’t shy away from his personal battles with bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. “There’s a lot about what I went through,” he promised. “A big part of my life has been speaking about bipolar, and I will not stop, because I know from letters I get and from people I speak to on the street and on Twitter that it helps them. Even if I didn’t want to keep going, I would have to just because of that. It’s too important. I was 21 when I started dealing with this, and now I’m 56. I haven’t had a breakdown in a long time. I’m still dealing with the depression and anxiety, and that’s very difficult, but I’m much better. I got a hold of it… at least for now.”
In the midst of all this professional success, Benard has had a lot to celebrate at home, too. His daughters are graduating from college and getting married and engaged, son Joshua made his acting debut as a young Sonny on GH last year, Paula has officially become a talent agent, and his parents have moved down to Los Angeles. “It’s a good time,” he said. “I’m in a better place than I’ve ever been.”
The actor teases that he’s also got something else in the works — something big! But for the record, he still knows where his second home is. “GH is a family,” he grinned. “It’s the best job in the world, and I love my friends there dearly. I can’t even imagine leaving. But eventually that day will come… and you’re going to have to carry me out! You think the Emmy speech was bad? I won’t be able to talk. I’ll just be down in my dressing room, crying like a baby.”
For more from your favorite GH stars, keep reading the ABC edition of Soaps in Depth magazine.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine
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