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Maurice Benard, Donna Mills, and Laura Wright Talk The Making Of JOY, David O. Russell's Praise Of Soap Actors, And Each Other!

Photo Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace

Christmas Day will be extra special this season for soap opera fans, because four of the genre’s most acclaimed and notable performers will be appearing on the big screen in David O. Russell’s latest film, JOY!

General Hospital’s Laura Wright (Carly) and Maurice Benard (Sonny), Knots Landing and GH star Donna Mills (Ex-Abby, Ex-Madeline), and former All My Children icon, and now Devious Maids star Susan Lucci (Ex-Erica, now Genevieve) all take part in scenes woven through the movie within the fictional soap, “The Joyful Storm”.

JOY pairs O. Russell once again with Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role in story inspired by the rags-to-riches real-life struggles of Joy Mangano, who became the entrepreneur/inventor of the self-wringing Miracle Mop.  Virginia Madsen plays Jennifer Lawrence’s soap-opera-obsessed mother, Terry, and throughout the film’s motif, there are dream sequences where the real life characters in the movie interact with the soap opera characters!  O. Russell also brings back along with Lawrence his other dream team cast members of: Bradley Cooper, and the legendary Robert DeNiro for his third collaboration after the Oscar nominated films, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle.

On-Air On-Soaps conducted an informative, humorous, candid, and genre-appreciating roundtable interview with Maurice Benard, Laura Wright, and Donna Mills to find out: what it was like to work with the famed O. Russell and his A-team on the set, how they were cast in the movie, their thoughts on meeting Robert DeNiro and Jennifer Lawrence, their gratitude for O. Russell’s recent comments on the qualities of the soap actors, and much more.  We couldn’t have more JOY than to bring you three of our favorites to mark this occasion for them, their fans, and daytime just as the film is set to open nationwide.

Each of you had a unique and interesting experience on how it came to pass that you landed your roles in JOY.  Laura and Maurice, is it true that Jennifer Lawrence saw you in a scene on GH, and got David O. Russell to watch it with her, and then they decided to get in touch with the both of you?

Photo Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace

LAURA:  I was told they saw the scene where Carly and Sonny both got arrested.  I was in one jail cell, and Maurice was in the other.  I believe it was after Sonny was arrested for killing AJ.  I was then called in and I actually auditioned with Jennifer Lawrence in front of David O. Russell, which was last November 2014.  It was an improv scene.  There are no “scenes” with David. (Laughs)  He just kind of gives you a scenario and he says, “Go!”

Laura, what was that like for you being there with Jennifer and David … a surreal moment in your acting career?

LAURA:  I am thinking to myself, “Am I really sitting here two inches away from Jennifer Lawrence (Laughs), and playing these emotional moments and beats, and doing improv with her while her dog is jumping all around us?”  It was the weirdest experience ever, but it was so awesome. (Laughs)

What happened with you, Maurice?

MAURICE:  I got a call that I’m going to Boston where they were filming.   So, I had to fly.  It has been ten years since I had flown.  It scared the hell out of me, but I did it!  But when I got on the plane I almost got off again, but my wife Paula looked at me with that look! (Laughs)  So, I stayed on the plane, and when all was said and done I had a great time with Donna and Susan, and kinda Laura. (Laughs)

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Donna, you actually first auditioned for the role of Joy’s mother in the film, correct?

DONNA:  Yes.  I got a call from my agent saying, “David O. Russell is looking for you!”  I said, “Really?  OK!”   David brought me in to read for the part of Joy’s mother. The part ultimately went to Virginia Madsen.  But, I had the same experience as Laura.  David brought Jennifer Lawrence into read with me, which was really nice.  It was all improv.  It was all, “Fall down on the couch and pretend that you’re comatose, and do this, and do that …”   David walked out of the room to take a phone call at one point.  Jennifer said to me, “I know this seems strange, just trust him.”  She then said, “The first movie I did with him (Silver Linings Playbook) I thought I will never work again in this business.  This is the worst thing I’ve ever done.”  She went on to say, “However, I trusted him, and it turned out great.”  Telling me to just trust him, and go with it, was really the best advice that I ever got.  So, I did not get that role, but then weeks, and weeks, and weeks later they called and said, “You got another role!”  I said, “Oh!  OK, great.  What is the role?”  They said, “Well, just go there. You’ll find out.” (Laughs)  That is how this all happened.  It was just wonderful.

LAURA:  Yes, they said to me, “Just go there and find out.”  Nobody had scripts.

DONNA:  Nobody knew what they were doing, until we actually got on the set!

LAURA:  All the crew laughed at us.  We were like, “Do we get a script?”  And they would go, “Umm. Yeah, but it doesn’t really meaning anything!” (Laughs)

Courtesy/20thCenturyFox

DONNA:  It was a very unique experience.  He is a very unique director.  I think a bit of brilliant, really.  David has such a vision in his head, and he knows what he wants.   I don’t think every actor could work with him, because it’s a very strange way of working, but he loves actors!  He loves what you can do.  So, just like Jennifer said, you just have to trust him.

LAURA:  David is also very passionate about it.  It’s his words, and his vision.  He is very supportive and wants to hear what you have to say, and he is a 100% part of the scene, because he is right there with you.

Maurice, what was the role you played in the soap opera “The Joyful Storm”?

MAURICE:  I don’t know! (Laughs)  I just play a guy.   David would tell me to say things and I would do it.  I had a nice scene with Susan Lucci.  It was scary, but it was a blast.  You basically get on the set.  David would say things like, “Maurice smile.”  You kind of had to listen, and not listen.  It’s a challenge, but I was into it.

Courtesy/ABC

DONNA:  David was usually shooting with two cameras, too.  So that one camera would be getting a close up of Laura, and one camera would be getting a wide shot, etc.  However, you never knew what camera was shooting what.

So Maurice, you don’t play a Sonny Corinthos-type mob boss then?

MAURICE:  I kind of decided to play it like the Sonny character, unless David would tell me not to do that, but he never did.  So, I just kept doing what I was doing.  We would kind of figure it out and then we just do the scenes.

Soap fans are trying to envision how the fictitious soap opera “The Joyful Storm” is woven into the movie.  It has an integral part in telling Joy’s story.  What can you share?

Courtesy/20thCenturyFox

LAURA:  The character Terry, that Virginia Madsen plays, is obsessed with soap operas, and that is basically how she kind of raised Joy in that world.  With the journey that Joy goes on, she flashes into this dream world of daytime television, and that’s where we are.  We are in our own world, per se.  We never worked directly with Virginia.  Susan Lucci had a bit more direct contact with Jennifer Lawrence, but it still was in a very dream-like state.

The stills from the motion picture reveal there are a lot of big soapy hair styles going on for the female soap characters!

LAURA:  I have to say at first I was so proud, because I was going, “I don’t have to use a wig!” But now, you don’t know how bad I wished I had used a wig!  Donna and Susan would walk in and put the wig on their heads and be done; meanwhile I am still sitting there in hair and make-up being teased and pulled – it was awful!

DONNA:  Well, that’s because you have great hair!

Courtesy/20thCenturyFox

MAURICE:  I had a wig on the whole time! (Laughs)  And, I did have sideburns, too!

DONNA:  We actually have four different looks in the movie spanning four decades.

Maurice, what did you think when in his Hollywood Reporter roundtable interview with other noted directors, David O. Russell called you the “Marlon Brando of soaps”?

MAURICE:  Marlon Brando was an idol of mine when I started acting.  I was just so humbled from David saying that.  Laura called me “Marlon Brando” just today!

LAURA:  Laura does NOT call him “Marlon Brando” (Laughs).  I call you some things Maurice, but I can’t say them here! (Laughs)

In several mainstream press interviews, David has commended very highly the talent, the work ethic, and the professional athlete-type qualities that actors in the soap genre bring to the table.  It has been such a major moment for this medium, when often old-school notions in Hollywood have always held that those who work in daytime dramas are the poor step-children of the profession, etcWhen you saw David’s remarks on how all of you impressed him, what went through your minds?

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

MAURICE:  I was talking to some people on the set of GH just the other day, a bunch of directors, etc.  I don’t think anybody ever, director or what not, has praised daytime actors as much as David has.  For us, we have so much respect, and so much love for that. We are not used to hearing that.  Would you agree with me, Donna and Laura?

LAURA:  You’re right, Maurice.  I have never seen this amount of press and praise to a group of actors in a medium that most people couldn’t even handle, especially the way we shoot the episodes now.

DONNA:  The way it’s done now, it does take an Olympic athlete to do it, I think.

Donna, you and I had previously talked that when you did your very first arc on General Hospital, you were trying to get a handle on the pace of daytime, nowadays.  It was very challenging for you at the beginning.   It is a far cry from when you first appeared on the daytime soap Love is a Many Splendored Thing at the beginning of your career.  Many who don’t work in the medium don’t understand, or respect the work that actors do, and the performances they are able to pull off with basically little to no rehearsal.  But someone like David O. Russell clearly got it, and the type of talent it takes to perform in the rigors of soaps.

Photo Credit: Francois Duhamel

DONNA:  Right, and even when I did do daytime on Love is a Many Splendored Thing, it wasn’t like it is now when I have been on General Hospital.   It wasn’t that kind of intense.  It was always sort of intense, but not like it is now, that’s for sure.  That was a hard transition for me to do.  I really loved the fact that David recognized what it takes, and because of the way he works, he tapped into actors who could do it in a second, who didn’t falter and pause, but just went and did it.  He loved that, because he is very in the moment, and of the moment.  David wants his actors to be that way, too.  We all could do that.  I think he was really impressed by that.  I wouldn’t doubt that somewhere along the line he will do something else with soap opera actors.

LAURA:  Also to what Donna just said, it’s so true … David is so in the moment.   He just goes for it, and gets so caught up in the scene.  I think that’s why it changes so much and no one knows what they’re doing, because as its unfolding his mind is going: “Now try this. Now do this, and do that.”  He loved that we were able to do that without stopping, and going, “Well, wait a minute. I don’t know …”  I think then it would sort of break him out of his moments of inspiration.  So, working with people who can really work on their feet, and can go with it, and trust that it’s going to be put together well, I think is very important to him.

Photo Credit: Francois Duhamel

DONNA:  David kept talking in the press interviews he did: “I told Susan Lucci and Donna Mills to have a catfight, and they just went and had the catfight.”  But it didn’t make into the picture.

LAURA:  The catfight was amazing!  It was so good.  I was standing right there going, “Oh, my God.  This is awesome!” (Laughs)

What are your character names in “The Joyful Storm”?  Susan Lucci’s is Danica, we know that much. (Laughs)

LAURA: I think mine was Clarinda.

MAURICE:  I think it was Jared, but I don’t know.   Donna, do you know? (Laughs)

DONNA:  Maurice, your name kept changing! (Laughs)  I don’t think I ever had a name. Wait, the name of my character was on the dress rooming door, but nowhere else! (Laughs)

LAURA:  So funny!

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

Did each of you work with Susan Lucci in your scenes?

LAURA:  We were all together a lot in the scenes. We would all go to dinner together, as we all stayed in the same hotel.

MAURICE:  Laura never invited me out, though.  But, I forced myself to go. (Laughs)

LAURA: (Laughs) The one time we go out Maurice’s wife Paula and I got lost, and Maurice was pissed off in the passenger seat, because we couldn’t get back to the hotel, and we missed the turn three times in a row!  Then we couldn’t stop laughing, and so we missed it again, and then I accidently stabbed Maurice in the face!

MAURICE:  Exactly, with her nail! (Laughs)

LAURA:  It was a mess! (Laughs)

DONNA:  And it was like two degrees in Boston at that time.  It was so unbelievably cold! (Laughs)

Courtesy/20thCenturyFox

When you finally saw the movie JOY, what did you think of it?

DONNA:  I was pissed off the catfight scene wasn’t in it! (Laughs).  I think the movie is really wonderful, unique, and different.  It goes right to your heart, and gets under your skin.  I think JOY is fabulous.  I think Jennifer Lawrence, and everyone one in it is fabulous. The cast is different than they have ever been before in David’s films.  I have never seen Robert DeNiro do a part like this.

LAURA:  I’m going to go see it Christmas Day when it opens with my kids.  I can’t wait!

MAURICE:  I haven’t seen it yet, either!

Did you all meet and work with the other Oscar winner on the set, the incomparable Robert DeNiro?

DONNA:  He came and introduced himself on the set going, “Hi. I’m Bob DeNiro.”  And we were going, “No, kidding!” (Laughs)

LAURA:  At one point, we were all on the set of the soap opera world together, because we were the soap opera characters, and then we kind of became their characters.  So, we went into the background as they came into the scene, and that is when we met Robert.  It was great!  We all just hung out on the set together like actors do waiting to perform.

Courtesy/20th Century Fox

Did the three of you have a pinch-yourself-moment of “Oh, my God.  This is thee Robert DeNiro?”

DONNA:  Oh, yeah!

LAURA:  Of course!

MAURICE:  When I was young, Robert DeNiro was like a God.  So when I was introduced to him I was trying to be cool, but you get nervous.  Robert could not have been nicer.  The other actors treated us great, and with so much respect.  It was truly a special experience for us.

So, what did you think about the comments from Laura, Maurice, and Donna on working on the film of JOY?  Can we score this as a major victory for the daytime genre, where these talented actors are being recognized for their performances and work ethic by acclaimed director/writer David O. Russell, and Oscar-winning actors Robert DeNiro and Jennifer Lawrence?  What do you think of the premise of  the fictional soap “The Joyful Storm”? Will you be hitting the theatres to see Maurice, Laura, and Donna over the holiday season?  Share your thoughts on our roundatable discussion in the comment section below!

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It would be even more fabulous if they had been hired for roles in the film not in the soap.

The soap portion is integral to the film, they are in the film.

It’s not surprising to hear that Jennifer Lawrence watches GH or that the other actors were so respectful to the soap actors. First, actors respect actors and they know it’s a crap shoot and a lot is left to chance. And a lot of people watch soaps, even A list actors. Maurice might be surprised at how many people on that set knew Sonny Corinthos. The man has been on network television almost daily for two decades.

It’s also nice and not surprising that Jennifer Lawrence, who might know a little something about acting, thought so much of Mo and Laura. I hear fans of certain other actors on GH constantly talking about how great they are. You don’t hear that a lot from fans of Mo and Laura because it’s a given, it doesn’t need to be said. I think being recognized by JLaw and David O. Russell speaks volumes.

People who watch GH sometimes forget that MB & LW are *not* Sonny & Carly because they are such good actors. When LW played Luke’s mother, it reminded people how good she really is because it was such a different character with the exact same face. It certainly made me appreciate her ability more.

I am glad that these actors experienced the praise they so deserve. I think that what they do on a daily basis is so spectacular. I can’t wait to see them in the movie, Joy.

I know the industry likes to separate actors and that there’s this hiarcchy with A list b list c list as a way
To distinguish them from one another but to me an actor is an actor. And these four are Emmy winners . I hope they knew that as far as talent go they are equal to their movie star co workers. I’m looking forward to seeing them on the big screen and eating my popcorn..

I’ve been obsessed with this movie since Donna talked about it in an interview months back. I’ll be seeing it at the cinema for sure & I can’t wait to see Donna on the big screen.

absolutely ready to see it. I love these emmy soap actors and think it was a brilliant move, not to mention Robert D is one of my all time favorite actors.I am proud of MB, LW and DM as well as SL casting in this film.

What a GREAT experience for them.

Can’t wait to see this film.

I have so much respect for daytime actors. Its good to see big movie stars respect them as well. Silver Linings was awesome and I would have seen this regardless but having Maurice in THIS makes it a must see over Christmas weekend!

I saw the film. Not Jennifer’s best. The minir soap plot in the movie was silly and insignificant. Everything really could’ve been better. Of course, soap actors are going to say great things about the movie because this is their opportunity to be seen on the big screen and it may open doors for them to do more features in the future, but really this movie sucked!

I WATCHED THE MOVIE AT HOME…WHEN READING THE CREDITS I SAW DONNA MILLS NAME..I AM A HUGE FAN…I HAD TO GO ON LINE TO SEE WHAT ROLE SHE PLAYED…NOW I HAVE TO WATCH AGAIN ..AND WATCH THE SOAP …SORRY DONNA…LOVE YOU…AND LOVED THE MOVIE…CR MILLS

General Hospital

Steve Burton Confirms ‘General Hospital’ Head Writer Switch Changed Jason’s Comeback Storyline

General Hospital viewers will see today, Monday, March 4th, the beginnings of the return storyline for Steve Burton and his character of Jason Morgan.

Just how did the recent head writing regime change at GH alter the plans for story for Jason’s comeback? As had been rumored, seems plenty. Back on January 22nd, it was revealed that Chris Van Etten and Dan O’Connor had been replaced by Patrick Mulcahey and Elizabeth Korte. At that time, Burton had already signed-on to return to the daytime drama for the first time since being let go towards the end of 2021.

Speaking with Soap Opera Digest, Steve confirmed that what we will see on-air is from the new head writers and that the direction of the story changed, “So apparently there was a whole different story planned and then the head writer switch happened and then they kind of rebooted (the story arc). I know Patrick (Mulcahey, one of the new head writers) a little bit, but I really know Elizabeth Korte (who was promoted to co-head writer).”

Photo: JPI

Burton added, “There’s no one in the building that loves that show, knows the history of the character, and is invested in it 100 percent than Elizabeth. There has never been a more deserved promotion, ever. Once I know that she was (one of the head writers), I was like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be good! I cannot wait.’ And it has been exactly that. Everything has been amazing.”‘

Photo: JPI

In addition, during an Instagram live on Monday with his podcast and comedy show partner, GH star, Bradford Anderson (Spinelli), Burton also commented on the upcoming story arc which brings Jason back to Port Charles. Steve expressed, “The story is not going to disappoint. The scenes are super deep. Frank (Valentini, EP, GH)  and the new head writers took some time to really think this out.”

Burton, being a longtime veteran of the soaps, said Jason’s return is not just isolated to be about him. “Great story on daytime should involve a myriad of people across the board and where it effects everybody,” he shared. The popular fan favorite feels that this story delivers on all levels.

So, what do you think about the head writer change and how it prompted the plans for Jason’s return? Comment below.

 

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Days Of Our Lives

Jason Cook Recalls Landing His Soap Roles as DAYS Shawn-Douglas Brady and GH’s Matt Hunter

Daytime fans remember Jason Cook when he became wildly-popular as Hope (Kristian Alfonso) and Bo’s (Peter Reckell) son, Shawn-Douglas Brady on Days of our Lives from 1999-2006. He later made a brief return in the role in 2015 for the series 50th anniversary.

After departing DAYS, Cook was offered a role on General Hospital as Dr. Matt Hunter, the younger brother to Dr. Patrick Drake (Jason Thompson) from 2008-2012. However, during his time on the soaps, and after, Cook has been focusing on his behind the scenes roles and passion as writer and a director of feature films.

Last week, the Michael Fairman Channel welcomed Jason, along with two of the stars of his latest film, Four for Fun, Brytni Sarpy (Elena, Y&R) and Jacob Young (ex-AMC, B&B, GH). During the conversation, Cook revealed his continued admiration for the soap medium and the actors who work in it, and how it came to pass that he landed his parts on Days of our Lives, and then on General Hospital.

Photo: JPI

Cook spoke on becoming the on-screen son of soap opera’s most iconic couples, Bo and Hope: “I auditioned for Fran Bascom. She was the Days of our Lives casting director at the time. I was never a great auditioner, I don’t think. She made me feel really comfortable. I remember that screen test. And then, I remember when I got the part, I was actually working at a company at a desk job. I got the call at work and I just screamed, and at the time I didn’t quit my job. But then, I got that contract when I was 19-years-old and it totally changed my life.”

Photo: JPI

But, was Jason aware how key to the show being Bo and Hope’s son would be? “Yeah, my older sister was a fan of the show. She definitely let me know that I better not mess it up, because I was gonna ruin her favorite couple,” he shared. “I remember she printed out the family tree and it looked like a physics diagram. It was so complicated. A lot of detailed work went into it. But, I was excited.”

After being a known entity with a large fan following, eventually Cook made his way to a new role on General Hospital. Jason explained, “GH was fun. That was a situation where Brian Frons (ex-ABC Daytime President) brought me over there. I just told him I didn’t want to be like or want to do Shawn. He’s like, ‘Well, what do you wanna do?’ I said, ‘How can I screw things up around here and shake things up?'”

Photo: JPI

From that conversation things began to formulate. Cook revealed, “We started talking about the TV series House. I think in soaps, there’s an assumption if you’re going on a show that everybody wants to be the hero. I was like, ‘I don’t want to (be). I want to screw everything up.’ And then, they wrote it in that Matt Hunter burns the hospital down within like six months. I was like really proud about that. The other part that I loved about that character is that Matt, and his older brother Patrick (Jason Thompson), were both neurosurgeons. And if you (an actor) resigned your contract (with the show) you go to Patrick, you see Patrick. And if you don’t resign your contract, you see my character, because my character was going to kill you every time.”

For more on the interview, make sure to check out the replay of the livestream conversation below with Jason, Brytni Sarpy and Jacob Young.  Now let us know, did you enjoy Jason as Shawn-D and Matt on GH? Do you hope someday he might return on-screen to the soaps? Let us know in the comment section.

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General Hospital

THIS WEEK on GENERAL HOSPITAL: “He’s Back” as Jason Returns; Sonny Sets His Trap for the Shooter

Monday, March 4th is the highly-anticipated return of Steve Burton as Jason Morgan on ABC’s General Hospital. In the newly-released weekly promo for the series, in the final moments of it, you see a man with his hands-up about to turn around which looks like it will be revealed to be Sonny’s former hitman.

In the promo, Dante (Dominic Zamprogna), Anna (Finola Hughes), Spinell (Bradford Anderon) and others are intercut looking shocked at who they find on the pier with voice-overs of characters saying, “It can’t be”, “It’s him,” etc.

The story has been building as to who has been behind the shootings seemingly targeting Sonny (Maurice Benard), Selina (Lydia Look) and others related to the mob. When they locate Jason … is he the Jason we knew prior to the tunnel collapsing him towards the end of 2021, where he was believed to have perished? How is this all connected to the intel that Olivia Jerome was apparently killed in prison?

Photo: ABC

Meanwhile, Carly (Laura Wright) and Drew’s (Cameron Mathison) relationship has shown its cracks. When Carly eventually sees Jason, will it eventually pit brother against brother for the love of Carly? And in this case, is Drew going to be portrayed as the bad guy due to his issues since his time at Pentonville which has shown he has become more obsessed with revenge on Nina (Cynthia Watros)?

Photo: ABC

Here’s a look at the rest of this week’s the teasers for the action in Port Charles below.

MONDAY, MARCH 4

Jason returns to Port Charles.  Selina and Sonny’s negotiation is abruptly interrupted.  Laura confronts Cyrus. Brook Lynn confides in Tracy. Heather attempts an escape.

TUESDAY, MARCH 5

Josslyn and Dex are in a frantic situation. Sonny hits a sore spot with John. Anna learns some tragic news. Marshall tells Curtis about his misdiagnosis. Laura acts fast in a crisis.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6

Anna questions Josslyn and Dex. Olivia and Sonny reconnect. Alexis is apprehensive. Cody and Sasha each make a confession. Spinelli and Ava are in for a shock.

THURSDAY, MARCH 7

Sonny and Ava share a loaded moment. Drew and Carly have their hands full. Maxie is stunned. Laura offers comfort. Brook Lynn opens up to Jordan.

FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 2024

Carly is taken aback. Nina corners Ava. Sonny gets an update on John’s investigation. Michael tries to convince Dex to stay. Alexis vents to Diane.

Now, check out this week’s promo for GH below. Then let us know, what state of mind do you think Jason will be in when he has revealed himself?  Share your thoughts in the comment secti

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Video Du Jour

Peter Reckell returns for a second visit with Michael Fairman following the wrap-up of his recent run as Bo Brady on Days of our Lives.Leave A Comment

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