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GH’s Maurice Benard Talks On His Daytime Emmy Nomination, Sonny’s Journey with Bipolar Disorder, and His Advocacy for Mental Health

Photo: ABC

General Hospital’s Maurice Benard has often tapped into his harrowing real-life experience with bipolar disorder and manic episodes, and brought that to the inner life of the character of Sonny Corinthos. Over the years, Benard has been very open with his struggles with mental illness while becoming an advocate and shedding light on mental health through his You Tube series, State of Mind, his autobiography Nothing General About It: How Love (and Lithium) Saved Me On and Off General Hospital, and his numerous talk show and personal appearances.

In the early part of 2022, GH’s Sonny was on a downward spiral, off his meds, and in the throes of having his relationship with Carly (Laura Wright) hit the skids, while turning to Nina (Cynthia Watros) for comfort, help, and much more. Those moments and others, gave Benard powerful scenes to play, and it landed him a Daytime Emmy nomination this year in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series category. This marks the 10th time Maurice has been nominated. He has already racked up three Lead Actor Emmys previously: in 2003, 2019, and 2021.

Michael Fairman TV chatted with the popular star to get his take on: what this Daytime Emmy nomination means to him, how he sees the category in which he is included with four other talented actors, and how he hopes his road, and Sonny’s road to a better emotional place has helped others. We also reminisce on Maurice’s seismic first Emmy victory at Radio City Music Hall in 2003, and the lessons he’s learned for himself along the way, and come Emmy time.

Make sure to watch the 50th annual Daytime Emmy Awards on Friday night June 16th live on CBS (9 pm EST) and streaming on Paramount+.  Now, here’s what Maurice had to say.

Photo: ABC

Congratulations on this Lead Actor Emmy nomination. I understand that you submitted scenes dealing with Sonny’s battle with bipolar disorder. Can you tell me what was on your reel?

MAURICE: First, I have scenes with Michael (Chad Duell) where Sonny wants to reconcile with him, and we talk about how many people have died. You can tell something’s off with Sonny. Then, he has scenes with Carly, where Sonny wants to get back with her and she didn’t want to, and then he’s very emotional, and he leaves, goes to the nightclub and he’s manic. I love those scenes. He goes home with Nina and she has to deal with someone who’s manic. Those scenes happened earlier in the year, and I think it was kind of forgotten about, but I felt really good about them, plus it was dealing with bipolar disorder. So, I’m very proud of the work and the writing was phenomenal.

Photo: ABC

There is this scene where Sonny is sitting with Nina on a bench and he leans his head on her shoulder admitting he needs help. Is that on the reel?

MAURICE: Yes, that’s at the end of my reel.

Courtesy/ABC

I remember when I saw it.  It was an episode that aired at the end of January of 2022.  I wrote it up and I gave props to you and Cynthia, because that was such an amazing scene. Sonny was really lost and off his meds, and Nina had never seen him like this and didn’t really know what to do.

MAURICE: Yeah, he had grabbed her really hard before that on the wrist, and it scared her and scared him that he did that. Then, Sonny admitted right after that, he needed help.  They sat on the bench and he was crying.

So, was that a difficult scene to play for you … or are those easy when you have to go into playing the manic-version of Sonny?

MAURICE: Yes, but it’s only hard in terms of what it does to me. I honestly think, if I didn’t have a mental illness, I wouldn’t have as much fear, because I don’t want to have another anxiety attack.  So, that’s the reason when I do those scenes afterwards sometimes, I’m feeling like, “Oh, God. Why did I do this?”

Wasn’t there a time years ago that you couldn’t play those types of scenes at all?

MAURICE: There was a time when I did a bipolar story where the show had it last too long. My wife called them and said, “Stop this already.” I was hearing my mom and dad in the scenes, and I knew I was in trouble.

Photo: ABC

Based on the subject matter of your reel, and where we are in the world today with mental illness, plus how you use your platform on ‘State of Mind’, this kind of would close the loop on your entire journey if you were to receive the Emmy this year.

MAURICE: Yes, It would. I don’t really anticipate trying to win Emmys and this and that. I’m just so proud of the story, that after this I’m not sure I’ll get this kind of story again.

Photo: ABC

Winning the Emmy for these performances, would afford you the opportunity in an acceptance speech, to address mental illness.

MAURICE: Yes! Look, the only thing that made me happy was getting things, and that’s a false happiness. You have to find the happiness within yourself, then everything makes you happy.  I couldn’t do that for 58 years.  Now, this is the first time I got nominated where my initial feeling was like a normal person. Of course, it’s great to be nominated, but I don’t get overly happy, because what happens is when you get overly happy or whatever, you’re gonna fall if things don’t go your way.  So, this time I’m feeling so good either way, but I would love to speak on mental illness. That’s why I would really love to win.

It’s all so prevalent and topical in society today what you are speaking about. In recent weeks, the news cycles have been talking about studies on loneliness that is gripping America right now. People are suffering from loneliness and depression. It has been difficult since Covid, and coming out of that, for so many people. 

MAURICE: Yeah, and I think now is the time that it’s really getting tough because sometimes it takes a while for it to hit and kick in. They say after two years is when it kind of starts kicking in.

Courtesy/ABC

And this nomination, like you just spoke to, is different. The last two times you were nominated and won was for the Alzheimer’s storyline. Those were difficult for you to play too, because your dad was going through the same thing at the time. Correct?

MAURICE: Yes. Anything I do that has mental illness or anything like that is very close to my heart.  I was very proud of those two Emmys because of the Alzheimer’s story and because my dad died of it.

Photos: ABC, CBS, NBC

So, what do you think about the actors nominated with you for Lead Actor? You’ve got Peter Bergman (Jack, Y&R), Jason Thompson (Billy, Y&R) Billy Flynn (Chad, DAYS), and Thorsten Kaye (Ridge, B&B).

MAURICE: I respect all those actors. I really do. I’m not just saying that. I think they’re all damn good actors. I watch their work, each of ’em. I remember, I watched Thorsten Kaye with Jacqueline MacInnes Wood (Steffy, B&B), and it was about drug addiction, if I recall, and they were just nailing those scenes. I watched Billy because he was on my show, State of Mind. Peter’s always, you know, Peter, and Jason is Jason, you know …fantastic! So, I’m into it, man.

When we had my annual Daytime Emmy Nominations Special last month, Jason shared he was stoked to be in the category with you. Did you mentor him at all while he was at GH?

MAURICE: No, no, we just had great talks. I didn’t do what I do with the younger actors. He was a little older, and he’s a hard worker. Jason has talent and it’s amazing. You know, I told him on the State of Mind that it’s not easy to go from being popular in one role and then go to another show and be very popular also. That’s not done very often. So, my hat’s off to him.

Photo: ABC

I also was talking with Finola Hughes (Anna, GH) and the two of you were all over mainstream press representing General Hospital for their 60th anniversary.  How was it for you to go to New York and then do the all of the guest appearances in support of the show? I know it’s hard for you to fly and you flew alone.

MAURICE: Yeah, and I almost got off that plane, but thank God I didn’t.  It’s amazing. I never thought I’d get to a place where people talk to me as much about mental health as they do about General Hospital.  I love it.

So, you have experienced walking down the street, for instance, and people stopping you to discuss mental illness over asking what’s going down on GH?

MAURICE: Yes. The driver that drove me to the airport, you know, it’s just about mental health. Then, in New York on the streets. I love it, obviously, although it can be a little draining. I was just about to get on the plane and this guy was telling me his brother is bipolar, and he’s worried he’s going to commit suicide. I’m thinking, “Oh, man.” But, it’s all good.  I’m proud of Sonny … I’m proud of everything I do with mental health … State of Mind … and everything.

Photo: ABC

I remember your first Emmy win in 2003 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The fans were going crazy for you – it was so loud in there. The only other time I ever recall anything that loud was when Susan Lucci finally won her Emmy after 19 tries. The entire Felt Forum erupted.  Do you remember going on stage to accept the Emmy, and where you were at that point in your life and taking that all in? Everyone was so excited and happy for you.

MAURICE: That one felt like catching the ball in the end zone and we’re all just celebrating. That was a different feeling. I will never feel that again, obviously, it’s your first one. You’ve been waiting 10 years and then ‘boom’ it hits, and it’s at Radio City Musical Hall. I remember my dad was there. Then, the other two wins were a little more subdued, but the second win was difficult because I didn’t have any speech prepared. I thought I was gonna lose for sure, because nobody picked me to win.  So, I was like, “I’m good” And then ‘bam,’ it happens. I’m like, “Oh, man. I don’t have a speech!”

And to your point, I asked all the nominees if they think it’s better to have a speech prepared and or just wing it? How would you respond to that knowing what you went through?

MAURICE: It’s never good to wing it. Somebody said to me, “Well, you didn’t have a speech, but it was great.” I said, “But you could still be great with a speech and it’s not so hard on you.” When you have a speech, at least you have stuff that you can say, and it’s ready to go.

Photo: NATSS

Are you going to attend this year’s Daytime Emmy ceremony?

MAURICE:  Oh yeah, I’m all good. I’m good, win or lose, I don’t care. I’m in a different place. I can have fun now and not feel nervous, or whatever, inside.

That’s amazing. That has to be a relief where you don’t feel that kind of weight coming down on you.  I can only imagine that it makes you feel lighter, emotionally.

MAURICE: There’s no better feeling than where I’m at inside my myself right now. I used to get nervous going to the supermarket, and I couldn’t talk to people. I put my head down. It’s such a different vibe for me now.

Photo: ABC

How did you find out you were Emmy-nominated this year?

MAURICE:  I found out, I think, on Twitter. It’s not like it used to be for me, because I was more intense with it. You have to understand something. I was so crazy that the night before the nominations, I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t sleep at all. That’s where I was, and then if I get nominated or not, I’d have to go through that.

I know we all want some form of validation. I mean, let’s be honest. Of course, we all want to be validated for the work we do, especially in a creative industry.  I think everybody would love to win an Emmy, but as you were figuring out in your journey, it did not define you.

MAURICE: It’s like my friend.  He’s a billionaire, right?  I said, “What’s it like being a billionaire?” He goes, “Listen, I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”  That’s the way it is, right?  Of course, you want to get nominated, then not nominated, but it’s just a different feeling that I have now about it from what I used to have.

Courtesy/ABC

I was so touched to see Sonya Eddy’s (ex-Epiphany) name in the list of nominees for Outstanding Supporting Actress posthumously. I know you worked with Sonya over the years. What did you think about her receiving this nomination and what can you say about the loss of your colleague?

MAURICE: Sonya was just a ball of happiness. I mean, she was always laughing, always smiling. We had a relationship where I’d make her smile and then I’d kid with her. She was just a beautiful, beautiful person.

Sonny and Epiphany would have some run-ins, but she fought with her feelings.  She liked her friendship with Sonny, and even those he was a mobster, she found the good in him.

MAURICE: Exactly. It was just sweet. It was just nice. And you know, that’s the thing, in life sometimes only the good die young.

Photo: ABC

Lastly, the late Nneka Garland, former producer at GH, was so pivotal to these Emmy nominations and the reels, and working on them for the cast and the show.  I know you worked with her for many years and her passing has been hard on everyone.

MAURICE: That’s a tough one. Nneka was very close to my wife, Paula.  They talked all the time. It’s sad, another one gone, and it’s these people who are just good people. It’s interesting what life brings, but it’s part of life. Nneka cared for all of us at General Hospital.

Photo: ABC

Please note: Jackie Zeman (Bobbie, GH) passed away a few days after our interview with Maurice was conducted, which is why it was not addressed directly in this interview. However, Maurice did take to Instagram to share his grief on the loss of his beloved co-star, expressing: “This hit me really hard, a gut punch. I think because Jackie was such a sweet, delicate soul. And I got to know her really well in the later years, I just loved her spirit I keep telling people life is not fair, we just have to except what is. I will miss you, Jackie we all will✝️”

What do you think about the scenes Maurice chose for his Emmy-nominated reel? Showing Sonny being manic and being off his meds? How Maurice hopes this potential Emmy win might afford him the opportunity to speak to others who live with mental illness? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

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He’s so neat I need to watch GH again!!

Maurice is a treasure. The work he has done on GH with the character of Sonny, how he’s evolved with it has been a pleasure to watch. But even more important is how much Maurice himself has evolved as a person living with Bi-Polar. I listen to his State of Mind podcast often and find so much comfort in what he has to say along with his guests. I read his book and was blown away. He and Paula and their family have gone through so much but have remained strong together. Their story gives me hope that mental health will be continued to be talked about and by doing that, less stigmatized. Break a leg Maurice on Emmy night. I’m rooting for you! ❤️

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General Hospital’s Jophielle Love Talks On Violet’s Emotional Scenes with Finn, the Loss of Gregory, and Taylor Swift

During General Hospital’s recent episodes surrounding the death of Gregory Chase (Gregory Harrison), who succumbed to complications from ALS, many in the cast delivered touching performances; including Jophielle Love (Violet).

In story, Violet learns of her grandfather’s passing when she comes home from school and her father, Finn (Michael Easton) sits her down to explain that Gregory passed away in the middle of the night. Violet’s reaction was one of devastation and tears.

Michael Fairman TV caught with Jophielle on the red carpet at the recent 51st annual Daytime Creative Arts and Lifestyle Emmy Award ceremonies, where she was a nominee for Best Original Song for the song she co-wrote, “Shine.” The track was first heard back on a December 2023 episode of the ABC daytime drama series and is currently available on Spotify and other music streaming platforms.

Photo: ABC

When talking about the departure of Gregory Harrison, and Violet’s reaction to her grandpa’s passing, Love shared, “Well, I was very tired from the taping of the three-day wedding, so I already had the tears in me. I knew that I was always going to see him (Gregory Harrison) in real life, but I was also very, very sad he was leaving the show. He was such a delight to work with.”

When Violet saw how difficult it was for her on-screen dad, Finn, to cope with with the death of Gregory, Love shared, “It’s hard for Violet, but Michael and I, we still see each other and he’s always happy (in real life). But, those scenes were hard. I was comforting him.”

Photo: ABC

Receiving her first Daytime Emmy nomination as songwriter was a thrill for Jophielle: “Well first of all, I was jumping up and down and Frank Valentini (executive producer, GH) came and told me while I was on set. I was just so excited.”

Photo: JPI

Since pop superstar, Taylor Swift, started at a very young age as a singer and a songwriter, does Love see herself as a mini-Taylor? Jophielle emphatically stated, “I’m a mini Me“.  As to what she thinks of the record-setting Swift’s music, and if she likes her work. Love shared, “Yeah, yeah … so, so…”

What did you think of Jophielle’s performance during the passing of Gregory? And her comments here on Gregory Harrison, Michael Easton and Taylor Swift? Comment below.

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General Hospital Issues Statement Condemning Racist Attacks Directed at Tabyana Ali

After continued online racist comments directed at General Hospital cast member, Tabyana Ali (Trina), the series has issued its own statement on the situation across all of its social media platforms on Tuesday.

Ali, who back on June 9th took to X to stand up to the racist remarks sent her way, has been facing the same situation since joining the soap opera back in 2022 as a recast in the role of Trina Robinson.

Throughout her time on the ABC soap opera, Tabyana had been one-half of the popular young love story of “Sprina” along with Nicholas Chavez (ex-Spencer).

Photo: ABC

Now General Hospital is standing up and alongside Ali, with its statement which read: “General Hospital does not tolerate hatred or bigotry of any kind. Racism has no place in Port Charles. GH is for everyone.”  Since its posting, the ability to comment has been turned off on the GH Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts.

While the statement does not specifically name Ali, according to Soap Opera Digest, ABC has been communicating with Ali and her representatives about how best to navigate the situation. Once the statement was issued, Ali took to X and said, “I appreciate you so much ABC/GH.”

Photo: ABC

Back on June 9th, Ali opened up about the “hate” directed at her and then added, “To anyone that hates me, that’s absolutely fine. I don’t know you and you don’t me, but regardless I’m sending you peace, safety and prosperity.”

Several of Ali’s GH co-stars have posted the statement on their Instagram accounts including: Kirsten Storms (Maxie), Jacqueline Grace Lopez (Blaze) and Kate Mansi (Kristina).

What do you think of General Hospital’s statement that racism has no place in Port Charles? Are you glad they stood up for Tabyana, and moving forward for any form of racism related to the show and its cast? Comment below.

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John J. York Shares His Emotional Journey from Cancer Back to ‘General Hospital’ with ‘Good Morning America’

General Hospital fans are counting the hours till tomorrow, and the June 19th episode of the ABC daytime drama series, where they will see the highly-anticipated return of longtime veteran, John J. York (Mac Scorpio).

York has been through a physical and emotional rollercoaster fighting two blood cancers, myelodysplastic syndromes and multiple smoldering myeloma, and receiving a lifesaving blood stem cell transplant after months of trying to locate a match donor.

Now, on the other side of it, York sat down with Good Morning America this week ahead of his first episode back on GH, where not only do we see the moment he steps through the door at Maxie’s (Kirsten Storms) and is welcomed by her, Georgie, Spinelli (Bradford Anderson) and he will also meet the new young children playing the role of Bailey James, twins Riley and Miley Polonki.

Courtesy/GMA

Speaking with tears in his eye on coming back to work at the set of GH, York expressed, “Everybody has been very welcoming. Very welcoming, and here I go right off the bat (begins to tear up). I can’t tell you how nice it’s been to get the support that I have gotten.”

When asked by GMA’s Zohreen Shah, what he missed the most about being away from GH, while undergoing treatment, York shared, “I just felt so attached that I didn’t feel I missed anything. I just took a little break and a little vacation, I guess, and had to go through something, and now we’re here kind of on the other side of it.”

Photo: Disney/ABC

The story for Mac heats up on today’s June 18th episode of GH, when in a preview for the show, Cody (Josh Kelly) talks to Sasha (Sofia Mattsson) and finally admits he is having regrets about the time he wasted with Mac, after seeing how Chase (Josh Swickard) has been grieving the loss of his father, Gregory.  Will he fess up when Mac steps back into action and tell him that he is his biological son? Stay tuned.

Check out John’s emotional appearance on Good Morning America below. Are you looking forward to seeing Mac back in action on GH starting tomorrow? Comment below.

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