Maurice Benard and Steve Burton have returned to the General Hospital set, slipping right back into their roles of Sonny and Jason. The iconic duo talked to HollywoodHI in an exclusive upclose interview. Sure, there is a lot of joking around between the two two-time Daytime Emmy winners, as they look back at their years working together at GH. But, who knew an explosive revelation would be exposed — one that will change their working dynamic –forever!
HI: Hey you guys! How have these last four months, being quarantined, been going for the two of you?
Maurice: Go ahead, Jason!
Steve: Well, the quarantine has been okay. It’s not ideal, but, I can’t complain. It could have been worse — I know people who have dealt with worse things than I’m dealing with. Like my friend, Maurice, sitting right here. It’s been tough for you, man.
Maurice: Well, what matters, truly, is that I’m back to normal. It’s taken me four months to feel good. I had anxiety for most of the the time, and just now feel like I’m finally back to normal.
HI: And, is that from being at home or from not working?
Maurice: Just being in the same place, yes at home. And, dealing with all the things regarding the book, and then not going to work…it’s a whole combination of things. It took a long time but better late than never.
Steve: That’s right. Good. So you feel back to normal now?
Maurice: Yeah – in the last week.
Steve: All right. So you’re ready to hand your crown to me now, so you can just go off into the sunset? I know you have your farm already – the horse, the cowboy hat. Just give me the crown and you could go on your merry way.
Maurice: You and Carly can get together.
Steve: I thinks it’s time, honestly. Don’t you think it’s time?
Maurice: Ah, you know what’s funny?
Steve: It’s not a joke. I’m asking you, don’t you think it’s time?
Maurice: I’ve always said to Steve, ‘I want to retire, I want to retire now’. But these last four months have made me go, ‘I’m not sure about retirement’!
Steve: You lied to me!
Maurice: No, at those times, I really wanted to.
Steve: Oh, man. So all these years you’ve been saying, ‘I’m going to retire and hand over the crown’ — now you’re not?
Maurice: It took Coronavirus to slap me in the face.
Steve: I’m really disappointed.
Maurice: Yeah, it’s funny. Now I have to rethink the whole thing. When you’re creative you have to create. And, Steve, you’re busy doing your thing with Stonecold and the Jackal – and all that. So, That’s fine. But, you’ve got to stay busy.
Steve: Yeah. You definitely have to stay busy. So, just to be clear, you’re not retiring?
Maurice: Maybe when I’m 63. Steve: Oh, now you have a new age? Now we have a target date? Why 63?
Maurice: Because, that’s when people retire, at 63 or 64?
Steve: Who said that?
Maurice: That’s when you get your
Steve: Oh, from where? There’s no money left!
Maurice: I don’t know. That’s what I heard.
Steve: Well, I think from SAG, I think you can take money that early, but I think it’s later now.
Maurice: Oh, geez.
Steve: I think it’s like 65 or 67.
Maurice: Oh it is? Maybe I should wait. Wow.
Steve: So we’re breaking it here on HollywoodHI – Maurice Benard is not retiring – at least until he’s 63 years old.
Maurice: That’s about right. Steve: And how old are you?
Maurice: 57. But I look like I’m 42. Look at my dimples, man!
Steve: Oh, that’s not that far away, bro. It’s right around the corner.
HI: So Maurice, let me ask you. You started with saying you are finally feeling good after four months. And you kind of insinuated that the virus had something to do with the new situation, staying at home. But now you’re saying after being at home for four months, you can’t wait to get back to work. So where is the line there?
Maurice: Well the line is… When you have to spend let’s say three months in a house not being able to go out and you’re riddled with anxiety, it’s horrific and it’s like every day…it’s just the worst thing. But aside from that, now that I don’t have anxiety, it’s still not ideal even if I could go places. I can’t do anything – I got to stay in the house most of the time. At least I can enjoy the goats.
HI: And, your wife and kids.
Maurice: The what?
HI: Your wife and the kids.
Maurice: Yeah, but Paula and the kids, they’re actually happy!
Steve: Is the goat not happy?
Maurice: The goat’s always happy, man. But, I can’t enjoy all that when I’m feeling down.
Steve: Is it the actual acting you missed or is it the routine of going to work?
Maurice: I think it’s the routine.
Steve: It’s the routine, right! But, do you miss acting?
Maurice: Not really.
Steve: All right, cool. Then it’s time for you to step down!
Maurice: It’s not the acting anymore, like it used to be. Yeah. But, just getting to the set and act –
Steve: It’s been fun.
Maurice: It’s good!
HI: OK, so you guys are good. Maurice isn’t retiring, even though it seems like Steve –
Steve: Maurice, our whole career, don’t you think people are always wanting us to be fighting about something? Some people want the controversy!
Maurice: Yeah, I think they are still waiting for it..
Steve: All the time.
HI: Well, it’s never too late.
Steve: No, it’s not. But, sorry, the thing for me is, I’m always happy to be this guy’s right-hand man, for forever! He’s helped me so much in my career.
Maurice: Steve never had a problem – knowing his role on GH. Other actors, when you have that problem – its going to be a big problem.
Steve: Yeah, we’ve seen it on other shows.
Maurice: Yes. And you’ve also seen it on GH with actors who come in playing bad guys – who act like……. their hands are bigger than mine. You know what I mean?
HI: And who were those actors?
Steve: Well, we’re not naming them – but nice try.
Maurice: And, I’m not saying most of them, I’m saying a lot of them would come and think that they could take me down a notch, or whatever. But, I’m cool, I’m cool with whoever’s cool with me. But, if you’re not cool, well… then I’m not cool.
HI: Is there anything that Steve does that drives you crazy, that maybe you haven’t told him? Now’s the time!
Steve: This guy (gesturing to the interviewer, laughing).
Maurice: I know, I think he’s trying to get us in a fight!
Maurice: There’s only one thing that Steve does —
Maurice: He doesn’t really do it as much anymore. OK. If I’m doing a monologue with you, a lot of times I’m saying my dialogue – and your mouth will be saying the words.
Steve: You know, it’s weird because sometimes when I do stunt fighting I’d make the sound effects, also.
Steve: One time we had this big fi ght scene on GH. It was on a boat, and it was this long fi ght scene. Afterwards I’m like, ‘that was awesome’. They were like, ‘but, you were making sound effects the whole time’.
HI: And you don’t know you’re doing it?
Steve: No, I didn’t know I was doing it.
Maurice: Yeah. Because I don’t think you know you’re doing it when I’m acting with you. I think it’s just a habit.
Steve: I’m probably just rooting for you that you get through the scene.
Maurice: Yes, I know!
HI: Now I’ve never heard this before, but if it was anybody other than Steve doing this, you’d certainly tell them to ‘knock it of’?
Maurice: Well, you know with Steve, I knew he wanted me to get through it because he probably thought I would forget a line, which I don’t do a lot. But, I know he’s rooting for me, I know that’s what it came from. Yes, it’s a bit distracting. But, then I just started to look in another direction when he started doing it.
Steve: Dude. That’s hilarious, bro. Read my lips!
HI: But in all your bad moods you’ve never once said, ‘this is not the day. What are you doing’?
Steve: This guy’s trying to start something, Maurice.
HI: No. I just can’t believe that he never told you to cut it out.
Maurice: Now if it’s someone else doing that, maybe I would have said something, to the younger actors. I’d be like, Bryan or Chad, ‘you’re saying the lines, what the #$%&@# is that’? Sorry, I didn’t mean to say #$%&@#.
Steve: Yeah. Well now I’ll never do it again! Not after this.
HI: Steve, what have you learned about yourself, not having the luxury of going to work, but just going through the same routine of going to the beach?
Steve: Well, first of all – it wasn’t the same routine of going to the beach! Definitely going to the beach did help a lot during this time, for sure. I had a routine because I was working on so many different things. I had to get up and I had to edit , and then Bradford and I had to shoot stuff for the podcasts. And honestly, going back to work is a break for me. So, again, Maurice mentioned it, it’s a routine, man. I made sure I got up. I did what I was supposed to do, spent time with my kids and my wife, I’d worked out, and then went right back to editing – and it was pretty much just kind of the same thing every day for the last three or four months.
HI: But, I think you being able to go outside, the beach, fresh air, the water, the world. It’s something not everyone is able to do.
Steve: It’s amazing. It’s a gift. I mean, during these times, it’s a gift. We’d walk down to the beach almost every night. So that definitely helps. That’s why I love the beach. It’s kind of, I don’t want to say its therapy, but there’s something awesome about being on the sand and just listening to the ocean and hanging out. So for me, it’s great. And I’ve been able to start surfing again. So it’s been awesome.
HI: Maurice, your version of what Steve just said, is that literally just being in the outdoors, even hanging out with your goats, that’s good for your head?
Maurice: Well, yeah, it’s the equivalent of the beach, but it’s not water. It’s nature and rocks and a big space. Yeah. I mean now I’m enjoying it. I sat out there yesterday and the day before that I’m sitting out there, and my eyes get teary, man.
Steve: That’s awesome.
Maurice: Because it’s just so peaceful and you’re like, wow, this is…
Steve: Well, this is what retirement is.
Maurice: Well, yeah, but you know, I didn’t feel that for three and a half months. You see it with a different set of eyes.It’s been real.
HI: Maybe you can do one of those tv shows like Wife Swap? Can you two imagine, Maurice, living at the beach with your family, and Steve, you spending all day with goats.
Maurice: I can live on the beach. That’s all great. It’s just that I don’t surf or really do anything at the beach.
Steve: I think Maurice’s wife, Paula, is an angel and a saint. She can deal and handle and help Maurice get through everything he goes through. And I honestly don’t know if there are a lot of people that could — she’s amazing.
Maurice: Yeah. I’m with you. And even with Paula being as perfect as she is, in that way, I was feeling like after a while, it’s the first time I ever felt that it was just getting to her.
Steve: Were you feeling like you were burdening her?
Maurice: Yeah. Yeah.
Steve: Yeah. Interesting.
HI: Is that the first time that you felt that way?
HI: Now. What if it was the two of you, you two were stuck somewhere for weeks at a time. Which one is going to crack first? Which one of you would just totally lose it, kill the other person?
Maurice: Oh, I would crack first for sure. Oh yeah…
HI: So you’re basically giving Steve a lot of credit. There’s something about Steve’s personality and your friendship that you hold a lot of regard for him?
Maurice: Well, yeah, of course. Steve has been one to have my back and always protect me. So he’s a lot like Paula in that way.
HI: So, between the two of you, I assume Maurice is the most moody, just because of, all his stuff.
Steve: Meaning what?
HI: Because of all his mental health issues, which he’s talked about and written about it in his book.
HI: And? In his New York Times Bestselling Book?
Maurice: Just don’t forget to say that part. Steve doesn’t forget it, you don’t forget.
HI: Is one of you more moody when you come in to work?
Steve: Well by the time I get on stage, I’ve been up for three and a half hours already. Sometimes Maurice will just kind of roll in. And I always get a gauge right away of how he is doing. And then I’ll know if he’s in a joking mood or not a joking mood. If he’s hungry – if he’s hungry, everybody runs for the hills.
Maurice: Yeah, basically.
Steve: And then they just say, ‘Hey, go get your omelette and we’ll see you later’.
Maurice: Yeah. You know, back in the day, years ago, I was a hell of a moody man. And especially when I would go to work. I was always thinking about what I have to do or who I have to work with. It was just crazy. The last couple of years, I’m much better at not being in those moods.
Steve: Yes, Maurice might be the most moody, in the morning. I just get quiet.
Maurice: Yeah. He gets quiet.
Steve: I can get quiet. I don’t joke around. And Maurice knows that too. He knows that I’m not really in a joking mood, but then he continues the joke and then he pokes the bear in the cage and it keeps going. He wants to see if I’m going to snap or crack.
HI: Snap out of it?
Steve: That’s what he does. No, not snap out of it. Snap.
Maurice: That’s funny.
Steve: He does. He’ll keep saying stuff like ‘Oh, your best friend Josh Morrow came by the other day.’ He just does that stuff just to poke me, just to see how far he can push me.
Maurice: He’ll be on the running thing – – –
Maurice: Right, the treadmill! And I know when he’s working on his lines because he’s got his earphones in and he’s mouthing his lines and I come in. So I can’t be joking around with him.
Steve: Or I didn’t give you the properrecognition as you walked in. I didn’t stop and I didn’t applaud. That was the thing. When he walks in the room, I’d usually clap. And he goes, ‘Hey, thank you so much. Thanks for coming.’
HI: Okay. When Steve left General Hospital, Maurice. How much of that did you feel he was leaving you versus leaving his job?
Maurice: Well, I was all good with Steve leaving. That’s all well and good. The only thing I wasn’t cool with was it was like he left to go to another world. It was impossible to get a hold of him.
Steve: That’s a lie.
Maurice: Oh, but he has his friends over at Y&R like Joshua Morrow and Doug Davidson – all his best friends, and they’re hanging out. I always saw them in magazines.
Steve: Did you get jealous?
Maurice: Well, I was just like, I thought that I kind of was there for you in the beginning. And then he leaves and I’m suddenly nobody. Then he comes back — and I’m cool with it, I didn’t like be angry or anything. I let him come back (they both laugh). So, we did our scenes together. We cried, we hugged each other. And I thought ‘I’m back’, we’re going to be best friends again. And all of a sudden, there’s a new guy in town, or kind of an old new guy. Spinelli! Yes, and there is Steve going ‘let’s do appearances all over the world’.
HI: So, in review, all is well now.
Steve: Yes, I’m really excited now that Maurice is not going to talk about freaking retiring anymore. Please, I don’t have to hear it for at least seven years. Right? Can we say that?
Maurice: I don’t know!
Steve: Because you know, obviously we were joking when I said, ‘give me the crown’, but you know, you did talk about retiring a lot. Because I don’t want you to retire. And I said, ‘you’re not retiring’. And you’re like, ‘I’m retiring’. And now we just heard that you’re not retiring for at least seven years.
Maurice: Yeah. Seven years. But every week, every month, is different.
Steve: It sure is. You could be back for a month and be like, ‘I’m retiring’.
HI: Exactly. Any conversation with Maurice, give it a couple days, you can have a different response to any question.
Steve: Yeah. Yeah, totally.
HI: And Steve, what about you? To me, when you came back to GH, it’s wasn’t that you were a different person, but I think Maurice doesn’t need to pass you the baton. But one of these days Maurice will leave. I don’t see you as Jason to his Sonny, you’re JASON. And even though you should have tons more story being Jason, you do have have equal importance on the show. Your stature on GH is a leading man with Maurice, not less than.
Steve: Yeah. Well, thank you.
Maurice: That was a long-ass question.
Steve: That wasn’t even a question.
HI: Yes, I realized that, just as I was fading out.
Steve: But Jim, to your point, I’ve had a lot of support on the show. Stuart Damon was a guy who really supported me when I was Jason Quartermaine. He always fought for me, like Maurice did. He was like, ‘Hey, give this guy a shot, give him a story. Let’s see what he can do’. And that was very generous and nice of Stuart. And then Maurice kept saying it, too, and we slowly started working together. And then it was almost like he was okay with giving me, I don’t want to say the reins, because that sounds stupid. But when Maurice left for that year, suddenly Jason was basically written as both Jason and Sonny for that year. I was running the freaking mob and I was doing other stuff. It was crazy. I’m like ‘I’m not sure I want to be Sonny! I just want to be me again and be hiding in some bushes.’ Maurice sat at home for a year and watched TV – then, thankfully, he came back!
Maurice: That’s what it feels like all over again. I’m so glad we’re back to work!
Steve: Yes, I’m so happy back to work. It’s fun to act again. I know that.
Maurice: Yeah. It’s great. So glad that General Hospital is back.
exclusive to HollywoodHI