The old saying "You can't please 'em all" especially rings true for daytime actors, many of whom face a daily struggle to keep thousands of loyal, passionate, detail-oriented, and very opinionated fans satisfied. Some take the criticism to heart, others couldn't care less what viewers have to say, and a few have faced their own personal journeys over the years to come to terms with the pressure their well-meaning fans dish out. Take General Hospital's Maurice Benard (Sonny Corinthos), for example. After 23 years of playing a controversial mobster, he knows firsthand how fan opinion can affect the work. And over time, he's learned to relax and just take everything in stride.
"I've heard all the audience criticism: 'Sonny never pays for his crimes! They're trying to make him a saint! Sonny has too many kids!'" he tells TV Insider. "Hey, you can't please everybody and maybe some of that is true. There are times when I pick up a script and just know I'm gonna get crucified. [In superhero voice] 'Here comes Sonny to save the day!'"
The extreme condemnation might have left Benard unsettled in the past, but these days, he has a different attitude about both the work and all that comes with it. "With acting as with boxing, which I've been doing for 20 years, the key to success is relaxation. That's where I'm at now," he explains. "When you're younger, you think you have to do everything harder, longer, faster. But, when you get to a certain age, you realize you don't need to do that. You don't need to prove anything. You just are."
And believe it or not, he has the same devil-may-care attitude toward Sonny's love life, whereas his younger self perhaps would have described the couple's current state as, dare we say, boring. "Working with Laura Wright this time around has been incredible for me. We're having a great time -- in fact, I'm having the best time working with her since we met," he says. "Now they're writing Carly and Sonny more happy, happy, happy, though it seems like maybe that's just for the time being. But it works. They have a lot of history together. They're comfortable together... I would have had a problem with that when I was younger, but I don't feel that need anymore. I feel like I've been down so many roads with Sonny that I'm kind of content with what is, as opposed to what could be. So this is cool. There's less stress. In the past, I would have fought tooth and nail for more. But this works, so let's get on with it."
Of course, some fans might have a different attitude about Sonny and Carly's relationship -- mainly, the Sonny and Brenda fans who are still holding out hope that the former supercouple will reunite. But what does Benard think about that possibility? Would he welcome Sonny and Brenda 2.0? "Look, if Vanessa shows up some day then we have a real battle on our hands, and that battle would be really fun to act," he states. "It would be good for the show."
And speaking of what's good for GH, though many viewers complain that Port Charles is too dark due to its long history of mob stories, Benard actually thinks the mob stuff makes the show better. "People are going to hate me for saying this but I want to do even more gangster stuff. It's what Sonny has done for 23 years and you have to honor that," he opines. "Of course, we need balance. I like being able to show the lighter side of Sonny -- the dad, the husband, the man who cares about his family more than anything else. But the mob stories, if done well, are what keep you on the edge of your seat. We need some of that dark, scary stuff. That's why I'm crazy about [the Showtime series] Ray Donovan, which shows a guy heavy into criminal activity who is still trying to be a good husband, father, brother. I think the mob part of GH works really well right now. You can have Sonny the gangster and Sonny the man. It doesn't have to be either/or."
Besides, as he points out, some of the show's most exciting stories have been Sonny fighting his various enemies over the years. However, his current foe is one for the books and just may prove to end Sonny's reign once and for all. "Right now Sonny is scared -- really, truly scared -- for the first time in his life because of Julian Jerome (William deVry)," Benard reveals. "But it's not like Sonny admits it. We just finished shooting scenes that had me thinking, ‘Wow. This is serious s--t. This Julian guy is a psychopath!' I think he'd slit Sonny's throat -- and probably his eyeballs -- if he ever got the chance."
For more from Benard on Sonny's past, present and future, check out TV Insider's full interview here.
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