It’s hard to imagine a Port Charles without mobster Sonny Corinthos in it. But less than a month into his GENERAL HOSPITAL gig back in 1993, the dimpled Don’s portrayer, Maurice Benard, actually walked away from the role that would eventually earn him two Daytime Emmy wins and make him a soap opera icon loved by daytime audiences.
Yep, it’s true! As the bipolar actor detailed in his autobiography, Nothing General About It: How Love (And Lithium) Saved Me On And Off General Hospital, he suffered his most violent breakdown at the same time he joined the cast of GH, hearing voices and becoming completely delusional.
In an emotional Instagram post, the GH star and mental-health advocate shed some light on that day that he left it all behind while he was in the midst of that mental breakdown, his third. Posting a throwback photo from the early 1990s of him and famed GH producer and director Shelly Curtis, Benard made a heartfelt confession. “I remember when I started General Hospital, I quit three weeks into the gig,” he wrote. “I said I didn’t want to act again, I wanted to be a preacher.”
Thankfully, his bosses at GH and his wife, Paula, convinced the actor to go back to work on the soap’s set. But even after he did, Benard still wasn’t sure if he’d made the right decision. “I’ll never forget, I was in my dressing room with [producer/director] Shelley Curtis, crying like a baby on her shoulder,” he recalled. “I said, ‘There’s no way I can say a line.’ She looked at me and said, ‘We will do it page by page, line by line, word by word if we have to.’”
With that kind of unwavering support, Benard found the strength to never give up and was able to become the mobster with a heart of gold that legions of soap fans love and adore. “Thank you,” he concluded his post, tagging GH’s official Instagram account as well as co-workers who have become like family to him over the years, like Curtis, former executive producer Wendy Riche, Vanessa Marcil (ex-Brenda), Wally Kurth (Ned), Rena Sofer (ex-Lois), Steve Burton (Jason), Kimberly McCullough (ex-Robin), Sean Kanan (ex-AJ), and photographer Jim Warren. “Love you.”