Soap Opera Digest/Performer of the Week, Maurice Benard 6/08

Emmy-winner Maurice Benard is no stranger to this column, having infused what should be an unsavory character with dignity and humility. In his 15 years of ruling the mob in Port Charles, Sonny has survived highs and lows, love and loss, bullets, bombs, explosions, even a harrowing bout with manic depression. But Sonny entered a whole new world of heartache when his son, Michael, took a bullet meant for him.

As he sat vigil with Carly, who refused to admit their boy wouldn’t recover, Sonny gently tried to ease her out of her denial. “We have been dealt something horrible and we have to accept that,” he said, voice wavering. “When you go upstairs, look at that little boy in that bed, and you will know. He’s already gone.”

Sonny had to be strong for Carly, he owed her at least that, having taken responsibility for their son’s condition. But Benard showed his character’s torment, too. Pretending his eyes were tired so he could secretly wipe away a tear; catching his breath before calmly responding to Carly’s outbursts, Benard showed us the toll the situation was taking on Sonny.

Finally, Carly realized Michael would have to be sent to a treatment facility and she melted into Sonny’s arms. Benard buried his face, and then glanced up in anguish and pain, holding her even tighter.

Though the armor was intact, Benard’s empty eyes showed us the soldier inside had crumbled. Sonny has been hurt many times, but never has he appeared more wounded.