To Face Her Past (Digest Online 1996)

Current Role: Sonny Corinthos, GENERAL HOSPTIAL
aka: Nico Kelly, ALL MY CHILDREN
aka: Desi Arnaz in the TV movie, LUCY AND DESI: BEFORE THE LAUGHTER
Birthdate: March 1, 1963
Birthplace: San Francisco, CA
Family Ties: Wife Paula; 2-year-old daughter Cailey

GH Heartthrob Maurice Benard co-stars with Patty Duke, James Brolin and Tracey Gold in the upcoming CBS-TV movie, TO FACE HER PAST (Tuesday, Nov. 12; 9-11 p.m. ET/PT).

Remember the Lesley Lu/Nikolas bone marrow story on GH? Well, get ready for some eerie similarities in this new teleflick. Patty Duke and James Brolin play former sweethearts with a disturbing secret -- they gave a child (Gabrielle Carteris) up for adoption. Now Duke's married daughter (Tracey Gold) is dying of cancer. Can Carteris save her? Benard -- in a complete change of pace from his moblord Sonny Corinthos role -- plays Gold's straight-arrow husband; and GH pal Susan Brown (Gail) is cast in the supporting role of Carteris' adoptive mom.

Here's what Benard had to say about TO FACE HER PAST ... his happy home life ... and Sonny's not-so-happy clashes with Brenda on GH....

DIGEST ONLINE: Tell us about your role in TO FACE HER PAST....
MAURICE BENARD: I play Tracey Gold's husband, he's a nice, caring guy. The character's name is Jesse Malina. He has no edge, though, which was difficult for me. I had to play that my wife is dying of cancer.

DIGEST ONLINE: How would you compare the making of this movie with LUCY AND DESI?
BENARD: You have to remember when I did LUCY AND DESI, it was my first big thing and I was in every shot [of the movie]. I was the lead, so I was very enthusiastic about just doing it. I didn't care about the long hours, whereas everybody else was complaining about them. We shot LUCY AND DESI in 18 days. People were like, "This is crazy," but I thought, "Well, this is the way it's supposed to be," but it's been a long time since I've done a movie. Compared to doing GH, there's a lot more waiting around, there's a lot of boredom, there's a lot of feeling lonely.

DIGEST ONLINE: How many days were you on this shoot?
BENARD: Two weeks. [TO FACE HER PAST was filmed in L.A.]

DIGEST ONLINE: Was it hard to work your GENERAL HOSPITAL schedule around it?
BENARD: No, it worked out great, thanks to Wendy Riche [GH's executive producer]. She gave me two weeks to do the move, and I only had to work one day on GH, which was on a Saturday to do the [Brenda/Jax] wedding. That was nice, because it would have been very hard to play Sonny and this guy Jesse at the same time.

DIGEST ONLINE: How did you occupy yourself during free time on the movie set?
BENARD: By reading a lot. Reading magazines, books, whatever. I made friends with a few crew people and we'd hang out, and there was a TV in my room.

DIGEST ONLINE: What kind of books do you like?
BENARD: Biographies. I'm reading something right now -- [the collected] Peter Travers interviews for Rolling Stone -- and I just read a trashy book, "You'll Never Make Love in This Town Again."

DIGEST ONLINE: Isn't that book the one that exposes what goes behind closed bedroom doors in Hollywood -- and isn't Jack Wagner mentioned in it?
BENARD: Oh, yeah [laughs] I guess everybody reads it, man. It's a pretty trashy book. And then I'll try to read something that makes me seem smart, like by Scott Turow. The first week on the set I didn't how to occupy my time, so I was more bored. The second week I figured out and I was less bored.

DIGEST ONLINE: How did you enjoy working with Patty Duke?
BENARD: She was absolutely incredible -- and very generous. We kind of connected and it was great. There was one scene I was worried about, hoping I would do well. In movies of the week, the scenes are short -- you don't have a lot of time to do stuff. Everything's gotta keep moving. There was a scene where I only had maybe five or six lines, and I had to break down in front of her, and then she comes around and she hugs me and I'm crying. I did it [and Patty Duke was very helpful] but who the hell knows what's gonna come out on screen. But it felt all right [filming it].

DIGEST ONLINE: What about Tracey Gold?
BENARD: She played my wife. She was right there, man. She was really good.

DIGEST ONLINE: If we can segue to GENERAL HOSPITAL for a moment: We got a lot of mail about your fight scene with Jax -- the one where you came to the penthouse and punched him. Were you comfortable doing that scene?
BENARD: I was against doing it. The way they had it [originally], I was just gonna come in and punch him, and I just thought, "We're not kids here." This is like a guy [who runs] the mob, and he doesn't go around punching people. But the way we played it -- where Jax grabbed me or whatever he did -- then it kind of worked. Actually, I have a pulled groin, so it kind of hurt after I threw the punch.

DIGEST ONLINE: Was the pulled groin a result of punching Ingo?
BENARD: Oh no, I've had this thing forever, man.

DIGEST ONLINE: Will it require surgery at some point?
BENARD: I Hope not.

DIGEST ONLINE: What do you think the future holds for Sonny and Brenda?
BENARD: [The relationship] is terrific, people get so into it. [As for the idea of Sonny and Brenda getting back together] supposedly, that's what they're doing. I guess it's going to be a slowly but surely kind of getting back. It has to be slowly but surely, otherwise it doesn't make any sense to me. At this point, I like that Sonny and Brenda are fighting it a lot -- that's kind of fun. I'm just having fun fighting it. Now Sonny's having fun fighting with Brenda, as opposed to before when he wanted to tear her head off. It's different now.

DIGEST ONLINE: Recently, they've been showing flashbacks of Sonny remembering beautiful moments with Brenda....
BENARD: I've heard about that, but I haven't really [seen it]. I've said to Wendy [Riche], "You know, what's happening? I mean, I haven't had scenes with her for six months. Why would he be doing this?" She said, "Well, he's had flashbacks."

DIGEST ONLINE: This summer, you had a dynamite scene on the docks with Jason. The writers gave you this terrific monologue where you talked about how tired you were of living (in the wake of Lily's death). You basically said you didn't even care if your crime empire came tumbling down....
BENARD: I loved it! That scene was the best. That monologue, I've got to tell you, first of all it was wonderfully written. The writing was right there, and I knew I wanted to nail it. I worked hard on it, and Steve Burton is [Jason] is great to work with. He's even come over my house and we've worked on stuff; that's why we can bounce off each other so well. That monologue is probably the best I've ever done. I'm pretty critical of my work, but in terms of acting, I was really proud of it.

DIGEST ONLINE: Would you submit that scene for Emmy consideration next year?
BENARD: The problem, as far as Emmys or any [other award] goes, is that's all I had that day. I had another little scene, I think, and that's it.... Anyway, that's another story. And I'm not going to do that again. If I don't feel like I have the shows, I'm not submitting myself next year [for an Emmy]. I know what it takes to win -- enormous shows, good work obviously, but you have to have big, big scenes. Now I pretty much know what it takes, and I know last year I didn't have a shot [as Lead Actor]. I thought I might [when I was nominated] but I knew that I didn't have the two shows [to submit]. This year I would, but they're not working me, so I dont. I have something in the beginning of the year, and then hopefully ... I don't know ... maybe in the next couple of months. But you're right about that one monologue.

DIGEST ONLINE: Who are your buddies on the GH set?
BENARD: I love working with Steve Burton [Jason], and Stuart Damon [Alan]. I like to get in his face, it's fun. Stuart's really good. I joke around with everybody -- Stuart, Steve, Ron Hale [Mike], Tony Geary [Luke]. We're always having a good time. When I first started, I was very serious, you know, and that's the way I kind of always am, and then once I start opening up, I start becoming a goofball.

DIGEST ONLINE: Was it hard then, walking onto the set of TO FACE HER PAST for the first time, where you had to deal with total strangers -- where there was no sense of camaraderie?
BENARD: Oh yeah. I used to hate it when I was a kid. The first day of school for me was like the worst -- it was like a nightmare for me. I was always so scared, so nervous, so shy. It always felt like I was being abandoned, that my mom and dad just left me in the streets [laughs]. So that's the way it feels on a new set -- and it's been a while -- so when I went to do TO FACE HER PAST, that's the way I felt, you know the "new kid." And then I walked on the set, and the director announced, "Okay, Maurice Benard's here" and everybody started clapping, I was like "Oh, this is school, man, this is like school!"

DIGEST ONLINE: We know you're devoted to your two-year-old daughter Cailey. Do you plan to raise her differently than you were raised?
BENARD: I'm gonna have her be more independent. You have to learn from other people's mistakes or even your own mistakes, and try not to pass them on to your daughter. Paula and Cailey visited me quite a bit [on the movie set]. It was funny; I would miss them a lot. When I'm at work here [at GH], I don't miss them as much because I know that I'm coming home, whereas on the movie it would be nighttime and I'd still be in this trailer. It was very lonely.

DIGEST ONLINE: What kind of father/daughter activities do you thrive on?
BENARD: Cailey and I just love movies. She'll watch "Jumanji," "Babe," and "Lassie" with me.

DIGEST ONLINE: Speaking of movies, does Maurice Benard have any more primetime flicks in the works?
BENARD: No, but in the next 4 or 5 months who knows? Hopefully, something good would come up. There was something I was interested in called THE LAST DON, it was a mini series. Marlon Brando was going to play the lead role, but he backed out, and it's about the Mafia and stuff. Who knows? Talk is talk.

DIGEST ONLINE: It must be hard getting time off from the soap?
BENARD: Well, THE LAST DON was a four-month shoot, so I don't think it might have happened.

DIGEST ONLINE: Who do you hang out with off the GH set?
BENARD: I socialize with Ron Hale and Steve Burton, that's basically it.

DIGEST ONLINE: You and Mike have a really interesting dysfunctional father/son relationship....
BENARD: Oh it's cool, man. It's like all he does is either yell at me or ask me questions, and I yell back at him or I get defensive, but it's cool because the love is underneath. That's why I enjoy that relationship.

DIGEST ONLINE: How do you feel about your future on GH?
BENARD: Well, they've done such a wonderful job of the writing this role ... except for the last five months, but we won't get into that.

DIGEST ONLINE: No, guess we'd better not....
BENARD: Because then I'll get all angry and frustrated. I know it's a soap opera, but as long as they keep it --as much as they can -- true to reality, then I'm happy. You know I had a problem with bringing back Miranda from the dead or whatever, and [her] plastic surgery and all that, because then it's like,"Oh, please." But as long as you just keep Sonny doing stuff that I believe is as realistic as they can possibly make it, given the circumstances, that's cool with me. I'd like to keep going in the mob because that makes it interesting. They're doing some drug stuff, and I like that, because I am so against it -- I've had two cousins die of drugs, of crack. I know what drugs can do to people, so I like that aspect of the story, that's cool. I hope they'll do something with that storyline, we'll see.

DIGEST ONLINE: You know, the Sonny fans are out there in legions. They just want you front and center....
BENARD: I want me front and center, but I can't get greedy, and I can be a supporting role for a while, until I get tired.

DIGEST ONLINE: Are you looking forward to watching TO FACE HER PAST?
BENARD: I'm nervous about it, really nervous about it, because I haven't seen anything in it, that I've done. I hear good things, but you don't want to believe everything you hear. It's such a difficult role -- so, oh man, I'll be just nervous [Tuesday night]. If it was a Sonny role I would be like, "Woah, it's gonna be cool!"

DIGEST ONLINE: You said Jesse is a nice guy. Does he have any layers beyond that?
BENARD: Well, you know he has layers, layers that I hopefully brought to it. The layers would be his emotions. A lot of it is going be what's said in my subtext. Let's put it this way: if this were a role where his wife wasn't dying, you wouldn't be able to do much with it. It would be like, "Hi, honey. Hey, want some bread? I'll go get some bread."

DIGEST ONLINE: Ironically, you had to deal with two dying wives on screen in one year?
BENARD: Yeah, that's true. But this would be more like Stone. When Stone died, it was a slow progression. So that's kind of a similar thing.