As General Hospital prepares to celebrate 60 years of love in the afternoon with a primetime special, Woman’s World caught up with star Maurice Benard – who has played Sonny Corinthos for 30 of those years! The soap icon previews what to expect from General Hospital: 60 Years of Stars and Storytelling, and also dishes how he and Sonny are doing today, whether he’s game for a Sonny/Anna pairing, and what it’s like to have his real-life son, Joshua Benard, getting into the drama on GH.
Plus, in the wake of Jacklyn Zeman’s May 2023 passing, General Hospital will say goodbye to her beloved character Bobbie Spencer this month – while The Bay reveals other plans for the actress who spent 45 years in Port Charles. We’ve got everything you need to know about how daytime is honoring Zeman.
Maurice Benard talks character Sonny Corinthos
General Hospital premiered on April 1, 1963, and since hitting the canvas on August 13, 1993, Michael “Sonny” Corinthos Jr. has kept busy building and maintaining his reign over Port Charles. Having grown from street hustler to mob boss with a heart of gold, Sonny is both a dangerous, heavy and a fertile family man who has a tendency to play the hero. He also shares portrayer Maurice Benard’s bipolar diagnosis – and as Benard shares in his autobiography, Nothing General About It: How Love (and Lithium) Saved Me On and Off General Hospital, balancing Sonny’s dark turns hasn’t always been easy.
“I’m proud of what I created in the early years,” Benard tells Woman’s World. “Because it was more intense and darker. I wasn’t having as much fun… but the acting was pretty good!”
After decades of simmering conflicts and hot romances, Sonny’s bout of amnesia in 2021 allowed Benard to slide into the much easier-going character, “Mike.” Even when Sonny regained his memory and rebuilt his life with Nina by his side instead of Carly, he emerged a calmer man — and the actor has enjoyed taking it easy, on screen.
Off screen, Benard has enjoyed stepping into the role of grandfather and hosting the mental health podcast State of Mind with Maurice Benard, which features stars from the soap world and beyond.
With General Hospital so much a part of his own story, the soap veteran is also getting a special kick out of watching his real-life son, Joshua, get into the drama as troubled college kid Adam.
“Yeah, his character is a little whack,” Benard says with a laugh. “But wait to see what happens!”
“Joshua is a natural,” adds the proud father. “And I have to say, if he wasn’t good, he’d be gone. Some people think he’s here because of me, but it’s almost harder when you’re the son of the star of the show. I started teaching him to act when he was 13, and now, you see how relaxed he is. I was always real nervous and cared what people thought. He has none of that at 19! It’s so cool.”
Maurice Benard says the old Sonny is back
As Benard has found his own sense of calm in life, Sonny’s world has shifted again. With Pikeman and the WSB causing trouble and Cyrus circling, there has been plenty of mob business afoot – which has Benard bringing back the intensity.
“I’ve been playing the old Sonny again,” Benard says. “I’m in that gear, and I forgot how fun it was. When I played Mike, I had to change gears — and that was cool for three years. Well, that’s over now, and I love it. I like all the bad guys and danger. And Jeff Kober [who plays Cyrus] is a good actor. I’m into it!”
On the romantic front, Sonny and Nina’s happily ever after hangs in the balance. Not only did Nina take a shot at Carly — the mother of Sonny’s children with whom he’s said “I do” to five times! – but she involved the feds in her revenge scheme. It’s hard to know which part of the betrayal will upset the mob boss more.
Interestingly, while Nina has hustled to keep her machinations hidden over the past year, Sonny found himself thrust into danger alongside Anna. The mobster and the former WSB spy were not exactly friends in their early years, but Luke’s pals have now grown to trust each other.
“I love Finola,” Benard says, flashing his famous dimples. “She’s fantastic, and I think we look great together. I’m all for it for it. 100 percent!”
How General Hospital will honor Jackie Zeman’s Bobbie
Amid all the soapy fun and games in Port Charles, General Hospital has begun to honor Jackie Zeman’s 2023 passing by honoring Bobbie Spencer – the bubbly character she played on and off for 45 years. With the emotional goodbye culminating during the airshows on Wednesday and Thursday, January 10 and 11, Port Charles locals set to attend Bobbie’s celebration of life include frenemy and first love Laura and Scotty; children Carly and Lucas; old friends Anna, Felicia, and Lucy; and of course, Maxie, who inherited her daughter B.J.’s heart in an unforgettable storyline.
After Zeman brought Luke’s sister Barbara Jean “Bobbie” Spencer to town in 1977, the teen prostitute-turned-General Hospital student nurse played all the dirtiest, soapiest tricks to win Scotty from Laura and keep her hold on hunks like Dr. Noah Drake. Karmic revenge came in 1996 when Carly, the daughter Bobbie had given up for adoption, came to town to wreak havoc on her life.
After some wild turns, Carly and Bobbie made peace. In fact, over the course of her run in Port Charles, Bobbie grew into the hospital’s respected head nurse and a powerhouse grandmother who could still scheme with the best of them…but only used her powers for good.
Onscreen granddaughter Eden McCoy was not able to join the onscreen memorial, but is thrilled she got to be part of what turned out to be Zeman’s final episodes on the show last year.
“My last conversations with her were so beautiful,” McCoy says. “It was at Nurses Ball, and we had hours and hours off. She shared all these incredible stories. She just loved her life. That was an amazing lesson, inherently — just to hear someone be so passionate and loving in speaking about her time, on and off soaps. She was so freaking brilliant.”
As General Hospital lays to rest the character Zeman played until her passing at 70, The Bay series isn’t quite done with the actress or her psychic medium character, Sofia.
“I’m still editing an entire season that Jackie’s in, so there’s a lot we haven’t released yet with her,” shares The Bay’s Emmy-winning creator, director and showrunner Gregori J. Martini. “And I plan to keep her character alive in season 9. We’re going to go to the spiritual route, because that’s who Sofia was and that’s who Jackie was.”
Watch Zeman in the current season of The Bay weekdays at 4pm ET/1pm PT with encore presentations at 9pm ET/6pm PT and midnight ET/9pm PT, only on Popstar! TV. Season 8 will also be available on demand in early 2024 via multiple streaming platforms including Tubi, Prime Video, and more.
How to watch General Hospital: 60 Years of Stars and Storytelling
Before celebrating Jackie Zeman’s Bobbie on January 10-11, General Hospital will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a star-studded primetime special on January 4.
General Hospital: 60 Years of Stars and Storytelling will feature bloopers, behind the scenes fun, a special fan tribute, and nostalgic interviews with beloved cast members like Maurice Benard, Jane Elliot, Genie Francis, Finola Hughes, Kelly Monaco and Laura Wright, and fan favorites like GRAMMY-winner Rick Springfield (ex-Noah Drake), Emma Samms (Holly), Amber Tamblyn (ex-Emily Quartermaine), Dancing with the Stars winner Val Chmerkovskiy, and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith (Brick).
“It’s incredible what they created with this special,” Benard teases of the show. “I did a big thing on mental illness, which was cool, and then I had some fun with Stephen. It’s funny. It’s a lot of history. And a lot of Emmys! It’s amazing.”
Having won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Drama 16 times since premiering in April 1963, General Hospital is the longest running scripted drama and American soap opera in production.
The primetime special, General Hospital: 60 Years of Stars and Storytelling, airs Thursday, January 4, at 10:00 p.m. on ABC, next day on Hulu.
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