When Max Gail first appeared on General Hospital as Mike Corbin, Sonny’s father we hadn’t heard from in nearly a decade, the job was only supposed to last about two months. Well, more than two years and one Daytime Emmy later, Mike’s story is still moving viewers, with more to tell when the soap returns from its pandemic-induced production hiatus.
Max Gail: Telling Mike’s Story The Right Way
So, after appearing earlier in his career as an Emmy-nominated comic actor on the sitcom Barney Miller where he played Detective Wojohowitz, as well as in a host of other TV series and movies, how did Gail make it to the world of daytime?
“I got a call to read for a recurring part they thought would last maybe two months,” Gail tells Soap Hub. And then he heard this would be for an Alzheimer’s story.
“I thought that was really interesting. I’d done a play playing a guy with Alzheimer’s and there’s a lot to explore there,” he continues.
“Then I checked out Maurice [Benard, Sonny] on IMDB and saw that he certainly had a lot of intensity as an actor. And then I read about his history of bipolar and bringing that into the character and the show and I was drawn to that.”
The GH producers asked Gail not to watch the character’s previous incarnation as played by Ron Hale, so the actor decided to approach him as a new man who had gone through a transformation in his life since leaving Port Charles.
“So I thought, first of all, it’s been seven years and he’s somebody who’s gone through a significant life change.” And indeed he had, after recovering from a gambling addiction that took him from his family and changed the course of his life.
“I know a lot of friends who have been through 12-step programs,” Max Gail continues. “You can become a different person and find out more who you really are. So, I just felt that we would be finding our own connection.”
Gail is glad Mike’s progression with Alzheimer’s has been told slowly and was taken almost from the beginning when he took over the role. “It gave me something to work with and time to work into it because at that point, Mike was pretty much in denial that he was losing his memory.”
The last we saw of Mike towards the end of May, he had deteriorated quite quickly to the point where Elizabeth (Rebecca Herbst) was trying to convince Sonny to let him go, but Sonny couldn’t quite bring himself to do it. Then, classic GH episodes took over the airwaves because the soap needed to shut down due to safety concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
With detailed new safety guidelines in place, the latest word is that General Hospital plans to go back into production during the middle of this month. Gail says he asked Executive Producer Frank Valentini if he will be coming back to finish Mike’s story and he was told that indeed he would. He also adds that the show plans to consider Gail’s own age when they do this.
“[Frank] said ‘Our intention at this point is to do everything we were going to do.” However, he admits he would be the last person coming back to the set because he is the oldest cast member and that makes him the most vulnerable during this pandemic.
To that end, Gail is making sure he stays healthy but still living his life. “I have a bunch of grandkids I haven’t been able to get down to Austin to see but the ones that are here [in the L.A. area], I’m around them and I take a lot of care. I go with the mask if I go for a walk.”
So, if all works out, we should see Gail take us to the end of Mike’s journey in a unique way and give us more of what soaps are all about. General Hospital (GH) airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local listings for airtimes.