On the latest episode of Maurice Benard’s State of Mind YouTube series, the Emmy-winning actor who brings GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Sonny to life sat down with his former TV dad, Max Gail (ex-Mike). During the informal living-room chat, the actors discussed how they first met during Gail’s audition for GH and working together on the acclaimed Alzheimer’s storyline that won both of them a Daytime Emmy Award.
Gail recalled that just before his GH audition, “I was going out for comedy pilots and stuff like that, but I wasn’t getting them. I knew I wanted to work, and I knew I needed to work.” But Gail wasn’t so sure that acting on a daytime drama was the way he wanted to go. “It was a little bit of, ‘Has it come to this?’” he confessed with a laugh, referring to the stigma often associated with soap operas. “Because there is a sort of hierarchy [in acting jobs]. So I looked you up, and I thought, ‘Boy, that guy has passion.’”
For Benard, there was an immediate connection with Gail from the moment of the BARNEY MILLER’s alum audition. “A lot of times when I audition people, there are a lot that are not good,” Benard explained. “This session, you guys were all great. And then you came in with your hair all long — I think you had a beard — and then you started acting and I swear to you, my heart hurt. It wasn’t a scene that we were emotional or anything, but my heart started hurting.”
The way that Gail ended his audition, Benard added, really struck a chord. “We finished the scene, you gave me a kiss on the forehead and you left,” he said. “And I remember going to the wall and I just started bawling. Now, who does that? The lead of a show finishes an audition and he’s crying like a baby on the wall.”
When GH’s executive producer, Frank Valentini, approached him to see if he was okay, Benard recalls, he was quite shaken up. “I said to Frank, ‘I don’t want to do this story,’” the actor shared. “And he said, ‘You’re the star of the show, you’ve got to do it.’ I said, ‘I liked the guy with the beard.’ And I left. I said to myself, ‘I’ll just deal with whoever.’”
The combination, of course, ended up being television gold. GH’s Alzheimer’s storyline was critically acclaimed by the daytime community and health advocates alike. From start to finish, the three-year storyline was handled with sensitivity, full of heart and passion, wonderfully written, and beautifully performed. It was daytime drama at its finest.
“What was difficult about the story was that you reminded me so much of my dad that it wasn’t acting anymore,” confessed Benard. “I’ve been there almost 28 years and it is my one best storyline I ever had. It was just special.” Agreed Gail, “It was a great ride.”