For the first time in nearly 30 years, former GENERAL HOSPITAL co-stars Cari Shayne (ex-Karen) and Maurice Benard (Sonny) reconnected when the former was a guest on his State of Mind YouTube series. The pair’s conversation not only covered Benard’s 1993 mental breakdown on the soap, but Shayne revealed that she had a breakdown of her own while they were working together!
As longtime fans will remember, Sonny was introduced to the canvas as the owner of Port Charles strip club The Paradise Lounge, and he hired an underaged Karen Wexler to dance. Within his first month at GH, Benard had a nervous breakdown and quit, but eventually was convinced to return to the soap. “I did not know that until a little bit later because you told me,” Shayne told her former screen partner. “You were very vulnerable, and it made you human to me.”
With Benard back at the soap, the relationship between the two characters progressed to a storyline where Sonny began dating Scott’s daughter and eventually got the teenager hooked on pills. Shayne admitted that when she initially read the scripts, she thought Sonny wasn’t the nicest guy. “But the way that you played him was so human,” she said. “And it was so great that you did that because it also helped my character. I was like, ‘People are going to think, why is she hanging out with this dude?’ But you could see why. You were my father figure that I didn’t have.”
Shayne also admitted that she didn’t remember that Benard had quit the soap around the time of his violent breakdown… because she was going through a mental health crisis of her own. “I don’t think I remembered much about that time because I was also going through a breakdown, and I didn’t know it,” she confessed, adding that she told executive producer Wendy Riche and producer/director Shelley Curtis that she needed a break. “The character had gotten to me so much; it really affected me. I was so much a method actor, too. [The storyline] was all so heavy and dark and awful and to get to that place, I had to live there all the time. And I think that’s why I left, because I couldn’t live that way.”