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The Chad Duell Interview – General Hospital

© JPI Studios

If anyone had a trial by fire on daytime television it had to be young actor Chad Duell, of General Hospital. The circumstances surrounding his debut on soaps were shrouded in shock and controversy.  It came at a time when the character of Michael Corinthos III was front and center in the most major of soap plots…a murder trial.  While fans were hanging on to the edge of their seats, waiting for Michael to have his day in court on the witness stand to either fess up for the murder and get his father Sonny exonerated from charges, or have an emotional meltdown… behind the scenes the show decided to ax Daytime Emmy nominee, Drew Garrett, in the role of Michael, and do a switcheroo and bring in Duell.

With a resume that concerned some, from his roles on Disney kids shows, such as The Wizards of Waverly Place and The Suite Life of Deck, which was a far cry from Michael Corinthos, Duell had a lot to prove.  And this past April, when he emerged on to the Port Charles canvas, he had the daunting task of not only winning over the fans, but also gaining the respect of the cast which features some of the most heavy hitting power performers ever seen in the genre at one time!

But, there was more in store for Duell and Michael.  After his debut, and winning over his cast mates, and with his character being sent to lock-up, GH head writer Bob Guza created a situation that has become one of the hot button topics on daytime, and the Internet.  Was Michael raped in prison, or was he not?  And, in his first interview with On-Air On-Soaps, Chad gives his side of the “rape” story,
and addresses the fears, emotions, and ups and downs of taking over this key role
from another actor, and now how it all is seemingly coming together for him.
I caught up with Chad on Saturday at his first ever GH Fan Club Weekend shortly
before he was going to meet the fans, and here is what he had to say!

MICHAEL:

Chad, you came onto General Hospital in the role of Michael Corinthos, in the most pivotal and emotional part of his storyline, something that no actor would ever choose to do.  But, from what I have heard from your cast mates, you stepped in and did an incredible job of learning something like 50-60 pages your first day!  Then, you had to deliver a knockout performance on the stand in the Claudia Zacchara murder trial in the middle of this huge story.  The pressure and the awkwardness of it all must have been staggering for you!

CHAD:

Courtesy/ABC

To be honest, I remember looking at that script ahead of time, and I was scared.  I was still in the beginning stages of being on GH and getting to know my character, and I was nervous and freaked out. Truth be told, I was not at my best when I first started.  I was just trying to fathom everything.  So it freaked me out!  And when I was up there in front of the cast and on the stand, and got it over with, I was like, “Oh, my God.  Thank God.” I had a breakthrough of what I was capable of, and there is still a lot more I have to prove in the future on the show, but it was freaky.  Yet, it was so great to get it and have it under my belt and do well at it, because I was terrified when I first read it.  I am just glad I was able to do it, and do it decently well.

MICHAEL:

I felt so bad for you walking into this situation.  All your cast mates told me they were supportive of you, because they would not want to have to be in your situation.  In fact, I remember Carolyn Hennesy (Diane) telling me on one of our On-Air On-Soaps Podcast, that she told you something to the affect of, “Kid, you’ve got a free pass for a month.  Just learn everyone’s name and where everything is located, because we all know how daunting this situation can be!”

CHAD:

Yes, I had so much support, and especially from Steve Burton (Jason), as he worked with me on scenes and stuff.  I would not have been able to start doing well if it wasn’t for him.  He still helps me, but not as much, since I am more comfortable.  Steve is fantastic, and he is one of my best friends here at General Hospital.   He is like an older brother to me. 

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ABC

So you’re playing thee Maurice’s Benard’s (Sonny) son on the show.  How is Maurice with you, and how was it getting to know him through this casting shift scenario?

CHAD:

I know because of who left and who I replaced, Drew Garrett, that Maurice was very keen on him.  He was kind of down in the dumps after he left, and I know that.  But, now we are good friends.  After I did the courtroom scenes, he saw what I could do to a degree, and we started talking more. We talk about sports all the time with each other now, and Maurice is really cool and awesome.  At first, I was giving him a little space, but now we have become much closer.

MICHAEL:

Is this true, that you did audition for the role of Michael Corinthos originally when it came up, and you were the other choice for the powers-that-be, to be cast in the role of Michael?

CHAD:

I was pretty sure it was between me and a few others for the role of Michael when I auditioned for it originally.  But this time…it’s pretty cool how it came around full circle and I got the part.  The second time I came in to audition for a different role, and they liked me enough to make me Michael instead.  So, that is what happened.  It was pretty crazy.  It was a role they put on the shelves and decided to scrap, and they decided to make me “Michael” instead. That role was for Kristina’s love interest which was pretty funny because now I play her brother!

MICHAEL:

What do you think you’re bringing to the role of Michael, as opposed to Drew’s, version of Michael?

CHAD:

© JPI Studios

The last thing I want to do is emulate someone else, and Drew Garrett is a fantastic actor. I am just saying, the worst thing for me is to come in and do the same thing.  I see Michael as a disturbed individual.  He has brain trauma, and if people saw what I, as Michael, almost did to Warren Bauer on last week’s episode, which was almost kill him, you know that.  He snaps, but it builds up.  Michael bottles it up.  He tries not to show people his anger.  If he were to show people his anger, maybe what happened to him in prison would be more revealed to everyone.  I am trying to show the heart, soul, and sensitivity of Michael and the struggle that he is going through, more so than him being kind of an ‘in your face attacking’ kind of a person.

MICHAEL:

You have this fantastic role that many young actors would only dream to get the opportunity to play.  I mean, first Michael murdered Claudia, and we will learn somewhere down the line if he indeed was raped in prison, or not.  What do you think about that, when GH head writer Bob Guza said, “Chad, this is how we may write this… that Michael was raped.”

CHAD:

Well, that remains to be seen.   Here is what they let me do… they let me play it like I feel it happened.  So right now that is what I am doing.  I am playing it how I feel it happened.  Bob Guza did not say one-way or the other.  He did say to me, “You can play it”.  And that is awesome to do and hear as an actor.  I am just playing it a certain way, and so they are going to make a choice out of it from that. 

MICHAEL:

So, you have formulated in your own mind, what you would have liked to have happened to your on-screen alter-ego?

CHAD:

What I would have liked to have happened to Michael?  Yes, I know what I would have liked.  And, I have a pretty good idea what happened as far as how I am playing it, and of course, it is not good.  You saw the effects it had on Michael.

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL:

I have a whole other theory!  It could be something else.  I have an idea, which I am not divulging either!

CHAD:

(Laughs) It definitely could be something else. And as with any attack, or anything in prison, something happened to Michael.

MICHAEL:

But, we do know for sure that Michael was 100% attacked from the bruises on his body, right?  Jason took him for an HIV test, too.

CHAD:

Yes.  He had bruises on his face and on his body.  So you know something happened, and Jason took him for a blood test to check for HIV to make sure nothing happened to him with that.  Jason wanted to be sure.  What really happened will be revealed perhaps soon.  But, Bob Guza said, “It might be awhile.”  It might be five months for all I know!  It’s a challenge for me not to reveal too much in my performance, and that is what Michael would do, too. He would not want to reveal too much.

MICHAEL:

If he was raped, that would be so difficult for any soap character to have to be dealing with, without letting anyone know or help him.

CHAD:

If that were going to happen, it would be a struggle to tell it.  And to have it be told to all the people in Michael’s life, would be so emotionally difficult, and such a struggle for him.  If that was out there, I think Michael would feel even more shut off from everybody because they know your little secret.  But again, that is not for sure what happened, but I do like that people are having their own takes and perceptions on it.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ABC

Laura Wright (Carly), and you are so fantastic together as mother and son.  The scene where she comes to see you before you get carted away to prison was so sad and touching.  She is a great actress to play with.  How is working with Laura?

CHAD:

Laura Wright is amazing, how she can just hit emotions on a dime and be in scenes so quickly.  As for me, it takes me a bit.  I have to take myself to a certain place in my mind, but she is fantastic.  Laura is a great person and she has been helping me out, which I am totally for.  I want everyone in the cast to help me out with scenes and information.  It really helps me learn.  I asked Laura, “Anything you see, just let me know,” and she does. 

MICHAEL:

How are family members in your own life or friends, feeling about you being on GH?  What do they say to you?  Do they go, “Oh, my God?  Don’t wear your hair like that!” You know what I mean?  Mom’s say certain things to their acting children, as opposed to what friends might say or notice of your work.

CHAD:

My mom is a hair- dresser (Laughs) and she lives in Arizona.  My first day of shooting, my hair looked ridiculous and she saw it.  I did not notice it, but I had this poofy hair with this squiggle going down the center, and yeah, I thought it looked ridiculous!  So she talked about that, and I got it cut the very next day.  But, my friends are very supportive. They watch the show and they think it’s crazy, but in a good way. They are like, “Yeah, Chad. You paid your dues, and it’s good for you to have a little break like this.”  It’s been a struggle getting close to parts on shows as an actor, and then it gets taken away.   They are all happy that I was able to make that breakthrough!

MICHAEL:

© JPI Studios

What is the relationship between Michael and Kristina, really?  I mean, for all intent and purposes they are half-brother and half-sister.

CHAD:

I have a little sister in real life. And Michael and Kristina… well, their age difference is not too much.  I feel like she is a 7-year-old and Michael wants to be that protector for Kristina!  He feels very strong and loving of her, because she has been through a lot as well, and making sure that she is the best person that she can be. The last thing Michael wants is for her to turn out like him.  He wants Kristina to keep her head at a level playing field as much as possible.

MICHAEL:

Will there be a love interest for Michael?

CHAD:

Yes, I think I will be reading with her, or the girls up for the role, soon.

MICHAEL:

Do you want to play a romantic story, since Michael gets so many other less soapy types of story?  Would you prefer just to stick to all the drama instead of the soap couple formula?

CHAD:

I don’t mind.  I am sure there will be drama in any relationship Michael has with a girl, because Michael still will have a struggle.  With a girlfriend, it will be difficult perhaps for him to be physical with a girl, or even be affectionate with a woman. That is going to be a constant struggle after struggle as an actor, and for Michael, which is going to be nice to chomp into, because why else are we doing this? (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ABC

Last question, do you feel the fans are warming up to you? There had been such a groundswell of support for Drew on Twitter and message boards and online once he was let-go, plus he already had a huge fan base.  Has anyone said something really harsh to you?

CHAD:

Literally, everyone I have talked to has been consistently positive, but at first, I completely understood.  I was freaking out.  I wasn’t in many scenes and I was just trying to fathom it.  So, the first several weeks the fans were saying and feeling, “Oh, God. Please no.”  But now they are all staunchly supportive of me.  I greatly appreciate it.  And I do hope they stay supportive, because I am going to do my best as an actor to make Michael a very enjoyable character to watch.

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Kathleen
Kathleen

Awesome interview. I will admit it took me a little while to warm up to Chad’s portrayal of Michael but I have warmed up to him and he is doing an amazing job.

kara anderson
kara anderson

Dear Kathleen
he did great job

Peyton
Peyton

Chad is great in the role of Michael on Gh. I visit the boards a lot and fans have really warmed to him ! Personally I think he is great and would have loved to have him for a brother!

kara anderson
kara anderson

that is right I like that

Dan
Dan

I was admittedly very skeptical of Chad when he took over, because I thought Drew Garrett had done such a fantastic job, and I didn’t agree with the way GH dumped him the way they did. And I still don’t. But to Chad’s credit, he came in, and did a phenomenal job with all the court room stuff, the jail scenes and all that, and he’s won me over. I look forward to watching him continue to grow as an actor. He seems like a really humble, down to earth kid. Great interview, Michael!

jean miller
jean miller

What the old ugly gay guy?

Dan
Dan

Huh? I have no clue what you’re talking about.

kara anderson
kara anderson

he is not ugly and he is not gay

Kara Anderson
Kara Anderson

Me either

kara anderson
kara anderson

You are wrong Michael is not ugly you are

kara anderson
kara anderson

he is awsome young men

kara anderson
kara anderson

Good interview on michael

BelleTreasures
BelleTreasures

I admit I too was sceptical at first but I really like him and I love his portrayal of Michael.

kara anderson
kara anderson

Dear Belle Treasures
Why are you talk back to Michael

kathy
kathy

I must admit, I like everyone else was super bummed when Drew was replaced. I was screaming at the tv and having an emotional break down but I was always willing to give Chad a chance. It didn’t take long for me to enjoy watching him. I love the way he portrays Michael. Very loving and somewhat sensitive. I really hope they keep Chad for a long time. Great interview. This boy needs a website=)

kara anderson
kara anderson

that is right I hope he is I what to check it out

Carolyn Vogel
Carolyn Vogel

Chad is doing a great job… I look forward to seeing him on GH for a long time..

kara anderson
kara anderson

Me too

waldo doe
waldo doe

I was also skeptical at first, but now I’m like ” Drew who? ” He really has made the role his own. For someone so young, I am amazed at how talented he is, I mean really.

jean miller
jean miller

I HATE him!! HATE him HATE! and have stopped watching GH over this. HATE HIM..

kara anderson
kara anderson

Dear Jean miller
why you say that I like him why you hate michael tell me that now

kara anderson
kara anderson

He is so cute as Drew Garrett is

Doe
Doe

I like Chad in this role. He is more mature and has a sensitivity to him that makes him appealing. Drew was very commendable in the role, but I’m really liking Chad’s acting, especially with his loyalty to his family.He is very protective of his siblings.The relationship with Jason during his prison stay and now with Jason revealing that he knows something happened to him and helping Michael find a way to cope with that and to move on with his life. So they become closer because of this secret. Jason has always been the one who looked after Michael. I love seeing that… Chad is very smart and was a great Interview. Another good one, Michael………

kara anderson
kara anderson

Dear Doe

I know he is awsome person and great interview with him

reeblite
reeblite

chad, you give michael a quiet steadfast that drew garrett lacked in his portrayal of michael, which the fans are eating up. just wonderful, understated, less is more, acting. thank you for sharing your talent. you’ve got the “it”factor to be a major hollywood star. keep your acting the way you’re doing it now. it’s perfection.

reeblite
reeblite

i enjoy the michael/kristina scenes especially.

kara anderson
kara anderson

They are Brother/ Sister

Chad Fan
Chad Fan

This was a great interview. I became a huge Chad fan after watching him in the prison storyline. He brings a refreshing maturity to the role. I liked Drew Garrett as well, he was very intense–but his Michael was still very much a hot-headed teenager. As Steve Burton has said, Chad brings a vulnerability to the role which makes Michael a character one can sympathize and connect with. Clearly that is intentional on Chad’s part, since he wants to show Michael’s “heart.” Overall, I prefer watching Chad’s mature, subtle, performance.

kara anderson
kara anderson

Dear Chad Fan

Steve Burton and Drew Garrett I what them be Father/ son

convert
convert

I slammed Chad on some other message boards (Wizard’s of Waverly Place??) , and he started shaky but I have come to really see Chad as Michael and I think he is good.

kara anderson
kara anderson

Dear Convert

That is so awful i will not to trust me like that anymore

amy W.
amy W.

I didn’t like him at first but I saw him on Wizards of Waverly Place rerun and right there my attitude changed about him replacing Drew. I like him alot more.

kara anderson
kara anderson

Dear Amy W.
he is so good on the disney channel show and on General Hospital

Jessica
Jessica

Chad is a great actor. I love the Dante/Michael and MIchael/Kristina scenes.

kara anderson
kara anderson

I Adore Dante with michael I what them be brothers
and Michael / Kristina they are brother and sister

kara anderson
kara anderson

I like this site so much

Molly
Molly

I love Chad Duell as Michael and have from the beginning…I did not like Drew Garrett in the role at all~he was just angry all the time~no depth, no sensitivity…two of the many qualities Chad Duell brings to the roll. This new storyline, with Abby, is so poignent and sweet~the merging of two bruised souls.

Ashley
Ashley

I absolutely have to confess that I don’t miss the old Michael….at all.
Chad does such an amazing job. Period.
I’ll also admit that I even began watching General Hospital again purely because I thought Chad was pretty hot…
Phahaha.
And then I realized, he’s an amazing actor.
GO CHAD <3

Tess
Tess

Chad’s portrayal of Michael is wonderful. I
find myself glued to my seat
when he is in a scene. He
has depth of character, and
his anguish over what happened
to h

Tess
Tess

His anguish over his prison assault was
riveting. I could barely
breathe while watching
him. He is much easier to
sympathize with than the
previous actor

sophie
sophie

he is my brother

Linda
Linda

I have liked Chad in the role of Michael from minute one, while I miss him and Starr together for the moment Chad is the one I am a fan of so I can endure it until she comes back.

Breaking News

Brandon Barash Replaces Tyler Christopher At DAYS

According to reports from Soap Opera Digest and Daytime Confidential, former General Hospital favorite Brandon Barash has temporarily replaced Tyler Christopher, in the role of Stefan DiMera at Days of our Lives.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Brandon played mobster Johnny Zacchara on GH from 2007-2016.

Because DAYS tapes well in advance; look for Barash to hit the air sometime in early 2019.

What are your thoughts on Brandon as temp replacement for Tyler as Stefan O? Comment below.

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Breaking News

GH’s Maurice Benard Takes On Role Of John Gotti In Upcoming Lifetime Movie

Who better to use their mobster experience playing the iconic role of Sonny Corinthos on General Hospital, and put it to good use, when taking on the role of a real-life mobster than Daytime Emmy winner, Maurice Benard?

As revealed over the past weekend, Maurice Benard is hard at work filming a Lifetime Movie based on the life of Victoria Gotti called “The Victoria Gotti Story”.

Sharing the news via his social media, Benard expressed: “Thank you lifetime and everyone involved 4 a Beautiful opportunity.”

Recently, John Travolta played the notorious New York mobster in the movie Gotti released earlier this year.

The infamous Gotti, had a wife and a daughter both named Victoria.  So as to which point of view the film is focusing on is yet to be released.

So what do you think of the casting of Maurice as John Gotti? Intrigued to see the Lifetime Movie when it debuts? Comment below

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General Hospital

General Hospital’s Max Gail Opens Up On Portraying Mike’s Battle With Alzheimer’s & Making A Difference In People’s Lives

“What happens the day I wake up, and you guys are the strangers,” says Mike to his son, Sonny and his wife Carly (Laura Wright). “I left you before to my everlasting regret, but it’s going to happen. I’d do anything if I didn’t have to do it again, but it’s going to happen – one way or the other.  At least this way I could leave some good feelings, instead of disappearing before your eyes.”  Those words were said during a gut-wrenching scene on Friday’s episode of General Hospital, as Mike tries to come to terms with his deteriorating mental state in his battle with Alzheimer’s, and the hard realization that he may be better off in a care facility, instead of at his son’s home.  These scenes, as all the scenes in this storyline, have been exquisitely played by Max Gail (Mike) and Maurice Benard (Sonny).

When Max Gail arrived on the GH canvas as the recast Mike Corbin in a role made soap-famous by Ron Hale, viewers did not know what to initially expect.  What they did know was that Max is an accomplished actor with a body of work from primetime dramas and comedies, film, and the stage, and that if he is coming to GH, he must be coming on board for something major.  Before GH, suffice to say, Gail is most remembered for his role as “Wojo” on the ABC sitcom Barney Miller that aired from 1975-1982.

In story on GH, Mike, who abandoned Sonny as a child, once again re-enters his son’s life, but soon we learn that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and that the soap is tackling a story that is an important medical, social, and familial issue of our time.

Gail has been a revelation in this role.  A clear frontrunner for an Emmy, playing the facets, the levels, the characteristics, and the heartbreak of a person who is slowly losing everything they know near and dear to them, as in the end they are ultimately stripped of their dignity from this most horrific of diseases.

On a personal note, and as part of this conversation with Max, it was important for him and for me to share, that I lost my mother at the end of April of this year to Alzheimer’s.  So his work hits close to home, this story hits close to home, as it has also resonated for many viewers who have shared their stories on social media and when Max makes personal appearances.

Here now is this very special interview for Michael Fairman TV with an actor whom we can all agree is touching all of our lives.

You’re portraying a person suffering from Alzheimer’s and play the progression of the disease.  Do you feel pressure as an actor to get it right for those who have loved ones, or person’s afflicted with it?

Courtesy/ABC

MAX:  It’s more like an urge, or a calling to find some kind of truth in it that I can connect with.  One of the things I’m inclined towards showing is someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia often just drifts off somewhere else.  “Where am I going?”  This has happened to me many times in life.  For instance, when I was a youngster, I can remember getting in my car, and I’d driven a long way from some party or something like that, and I’d been drinking, and I didn’t remember it.  I knew I’d gotten home somehow.  So, it’s not out of my realm.  I’ve learned that there are no set behaviors really… other than that it usually ends up being really difficult for caretakers, and seemingly really painful for many, if not most people suffering with Alzheimer’s, and losing connection and losing the ability to just function.  We are kind of on the cusp of that in story at GH.  I think it was originally proposed that I would play the part for just a few months, and to give me an out if it wasn’t working.  Maybe, there was a placeholder idea to ship Mike off to a home or something, but the storyline has touched so many people that it has been continuing.

The story has been so effective.  You’ve done such an amazing job, and the fans love Mike and what you’re doing with the character, and they’re on board on this journey.  It’ll be interesting to see how far they will take this with Mike.  Will we actually see him not being able to communicate anymore?  How far will the writers go to show the horrific aspects of Alzheimer’s? 

MAX:  I’m not sure.  You know, I’ve had times where I’ve got the scene, I get the writers, and I get the heart of it.  Other times, I find where that transition is from where Mike is lucid and clear, and other times what that state of mind is and that switch is, and what that is in behaviors and energy level.  I think there’s an ongoing downturn for Mike, and for me as an actor finding something in the moment and finding how it works with things that he does remember.  They’re trying to find a place for Mike within all of the interwoven drama of General Hospital.  I, frankly, had no idea how complex the range of storylines was.  Mike doesn’t really have control over his story.  I don’t want that as an actor.  Mike has some intentions that are really important to him.  I’m trying to find that balance where there are times when he has a pathetic, very sad remorse about what he has missed.  I think that underlies his feelings for his son, who he never could quite reach, because of his own failings as a father.  Sonny’s formative experiences growing up were then with his abusive stepdad.  Finding all of that is really important to do in a way that doesn’t make Mike just this sweet older man with Alzheimer’s.   It’s a wonderful challenge to be presented with.

Courtesy/CBS

You brought up that Mike is seemingly very sweet in his demeanor now.  My mother, who I shared with you died a few months ago from Alzheimer’s was a strong-willed, feisty woman.  As the disease took hold of her, she became very sweet.   She became almost childlike.  The fire had gone out of her eyes.  You knew she didn’t know who you were, and so, all of that, as you know is so tough to witness as her son.  In terms of Mike and his ultimate care, everyone says they love him and want what is best for him, but that he needs to be taken care of because he gets confused, doesn’t know where he is sometimes. etc.  Sonny has been grappling with putting him in a care facility to be looked after, or to keep him with the Corinthos family under their roof.  However, Mike has come to a realization that he may need to be in facility all on his own, and doesn’t want to burden his son by living with him anymore.  That was a poignant moment, and another one of the best scenes has been when Mike couldn’t remember that Sonny was his own son. 

MAX:  Right and he doesn’t know if he’s around friends or around enemies.  This can be true of Alzheimer’s patients.

I had that happen with my mother when she came out to Los Angeles to see me for the last time.  She was out of her element, she was confused, and she broke down and cried in the hotel room.  She asked my father, “Why did you bring me here?” and he told her, “We came to see our son.”  It was heartbreaking.   Later, she had a moment of clarity and realized more of what was going on.  I think it’s those in-and -out moments that you portray so well on-screen.  I feel that they are very realistic to what I, and others, have experienced.

Courtesy/ABC

MAX:  I appreciate that and sharing that with me, because you never know as an actor.  That place of “Where am I?  What is this?” makes me think of that “Summer Wind” moment from the Nurses’ Ball when it wasn’t just, “I’m embarrassed.  I don’t remember the words.”  It was, “I don’t know where the f**k I am.  I thought there was a band there, but there’s not.”  So, in a way, I just had to be there on this big soundstage and just feel this big space around me.  I could barely see that there were people out there.  It’s kind of a terrifying thing to a lot of people, but I think Mike has something in him that makes him want to be okay with all of this.  He doesn’t have to freak out and get accusatory.

Courtesy/ABC

What has it been like working with Maurice Benard as your on-screen son?  Do you watch back your scenes together and ever go, “Oh, that was great!?”

MAX:  Yes, there have been a lot of those!  There are some scenes that are so emotionally focused, and we get a lot of delight in each other.  He has been playing this character in this situation for so long, so it’s just kind of in him.  Maurice has presence.  I think when I went in to read for the part of Mike, I had gone through pilot season and had gone in for some interesting pilots.  I didn’t feel like I was really connecting in the readings, because most things are by tape these days, anyway.  When this part came up, a soap hadn’t really been on my radar.  I knew I’d be going in to read with the actor, so I said, “Okay,” and I looked at the material, and then I checked out Maurice on IMDB.  One of the things that got my interest was that he has been diagnosed and takes medication to deal with bipolar disorder, and that’s become a part of his life, and it’s become part of his character.  I thought, “Wow, that’s really interesting.  This is a survivor, and he’s risen to something that takes a certain kind of balance and courage.”  I watched some clips, and when I went in for the reading of this kind of an amalgamation scene of what the story elements were going to be, I felt like we connected before we’d even started the dialogue.

Well, Maurice certainly loves working with you! He has been very supportive and vocal about that.

MAX:  It’s mutual.  We can take really little simple moments, and we can find something deeper in it, and it doesn’t have to be an, ‘I’m going to start crying now’ moment.  Although, I would love for Mike to have a moment of self-observation where he goes, “Gee.  I cry a lot more than I used to.”  I think there are people who are like that, and it’s okay for certain people to cry, and for other people it is not.

Courtesy/ABC

There was a part of my mom that knew something was wrong.  She’d go, “Why am I crying?  I don’t know why I’m crying.”  She got confused as to why she was feeling that.  She couldn’t connect it all, and at times she kept saying, “I don’t understand.  I don’t understand.”  Those were the things she would try to express.

MAX:  I have a feeling that Mike has those moments too, but he finds a way for it to be okay.  There may be a point where someone with Alzheimer’s can’t pull it off anymore, but how we find those and those specifics, I don’t know.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Working on a classic sitcom such as Barney Miller is vastly different than working on a daytime soap opera.  While now being at GH, have you found any commonality within the experience?

MAX:  If I can take a moment and reflect on Barney Miller, because it was a great experience and one that I found was not so easy to find again over the years.  One of the things that really resonates is that when we started shooting the studio audience laughed too easily.  We would end up retaking the scenes.  Sometimes, we didn’t have the end of the show written, because they tended to let certain things start to show up in the earlier parts of the script.  Danny Arnold who was the writer, creator and producer of Barney Miller would always take over the way Frank Valentini (executive producer, GH) does in a way … looking to be respectful of the director, but still seeing things on his own.  Frank has a really wonderful eye.  He’s much more connected into the overall storylines, the motivations that went into the writing, and what he sees in the moment.  I always welcome him on the set because the directors, who have a range of talents and sensibilities, are tasked with coming up with a whole lot of shots to cover, a whole lot of tricky angles, and all of that.

Courtesy/ABC

Vernee Watson has been amazing as Stella, who is also Mike’s social worker.  Does Mike have romantic feelings toward Stella?

MAX:  Vernee is wonderful.  I didn’t know Vernee had been on the show when I came on board.  She won an Emmy, and I’m not surprised.   She is so present and so specific, and she’s very bright and gets what all of these elements are, and so, I think they have a connection.  For whatever ways Mike has lived in his like, there isn’t some strange, exotic draw that she is black, and Mike is white.  I like that because both my first and late wife, and my second wife, with whom I’ve had children (and we’ve been separated for awhile, but have a great relationship) are African-American.  So, in my world that is not a big deal.   I think there’s an affinity there between Mike and Stella.  You know, he’s alive.  He’s old, but he’s not dead.  There’s an ease with women he likes.  I think there are a whole lot of reasons for them to not get involved.  One is just professional, and she’s a social worker.  We just shot something where I say something to somebody else about, “back when I still had all my marbles,” you know, he’s in another stage of life, which many people go into gracefully, while many don’t.

 

What do you think about how Mike knows about who was buried at Charlie’s Pub?  He was trying to keep the truth about Charlie Delaney from coming out, which turned into a gas leak that blew up the bar!  This storyline ties in to Sonny’s mobster dealings as well.

MAX:  Well, this is where they put this effort in the storytelling to connect Mike in some way and be intertwined with Sonny.  Of course, it reveals certain things about Mike that he’s never revealed to anybody before.  So, that’s kind of cool.  I think when he knows what and how much sometimes is not clear.  That’s why I started talking about Barney Miller because the other thing was a lot of times when we go together for the table reads, they didn’t have the end of the story.  They had a first draft, maybe. Dan would talk about it, and they’d say, “Next week, the main story is going to be this man in his fifties who is coming to terms with the fact that he is gay,” or whatever those underlying themes may be with the different characters reactions.  So, we knew elements going into it and that sometimes I  didn’t know what the writers are really intending.  In terms of Mike, he’s kind of back and forth in certain moments.  I have to resist the idea that they trap me by just being careless.  I’ve learned that just trying to fix the script often gets you into a place where you “rehearse yourself out of it,” as they say.

Courtesy/GoodDayLA

You appeared on the morning show Good Day LA  a few months back with Laura Wright (Carly), and Maria Shriver, who has founded the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement.  What was that like meeting Maria, and helping get the word out about the effects of this disease and the work Maria is doing?

MAX:  It was great to do.  Maria had sent out a tweet that is was wonderful what was going on, on General Hospital.  On Good Day LA, she talked about her work, particularly focusing on the fact that more women are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s than men.  So, then Laura and I sat down and did an interview alongside Maria.  We actually had a nice conversation before.  They did a web interview also as a follow-up.  That was very cool, because Maria is very smart, and I’d never met her, but it was great to see what she was doing.  Whatever we are dealing with in the show is sort of my opportunity in the real world to bring awareness and shed light on the subject.  I’d love to see an ongoing conversation online amongst people who can share their stories with each other.  That’s a lot of what they’re doing.  They’re raising money for research, but people need to be able to talk to each other when you’re a caregiver.  Coming out of the early sixties and early seventies when I was playing a cop on TV, I never was a fanatic activist.  I certainly got the behavior of the Chicago police at a certain time in terms of the energy and conflicts of the time.  There was something to think about, but at the same time, I had opportunities to kind of share that all cops aren’t bad, just look at the show, Barney Miller.

Courtesy/ABC

You were my favorite character on Barney Miller as Detective Wojciehowicz!  I think for many who watched the show you were, too!

MAX:  I think “Wojo” ended up being the heart of the show.

Max, you’re helping people through your beautiful performances including me.  Congratulations on that.   I’ll continue have to have a box of Kleenex handy as I watch how it all unfolds for Mike.

Photo: IMDB

MAX:  Well, I really appreciate your questions.  I’m just planting that seed.  That is really what I would like to do after talking to you and so many people.  That’s something I’d like to put out there.   We each have our own domains and responsibilities and all of it overlaps, and you can kind of get in touch with that; if you just go around the circle and share it, and then go around again.  I’m looking to help people out there in the world who are watching and are looking to share in the conversation.

So, what did you think about the heartbreaking scenes on Friday’s episode of GH between Mike and Sonny?  What have you thought of Max Gail’s performance throughout his GH run?  Have you experienced the loss, or are watching someone you love, or care about slip away from Alzheimer’s?  Share your thoughts via the comment below.

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Video du Jour

This weekend we mourn the loss of General Hospital’s beloved Susan Brown who played Gail Baldwin. Here is her final scene from 2004 when Gail and her husband Lee (the late Peter Hansen) showed up at Lila’s funeral and had an exchange with Alan and Monica. Share your thoughts on Susan’s passing via the link below. Leave A Comment

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