As soon as Sonny Corinthos downplayed getting his prescription for bipolar disorder refilled, General Hospital viewers suspected that Maurice Benard would be given an opportunity to play his character off his meds. Soap Hub gives Performer of the Week for GH honors to Benard, who showed the heartbreaking reality of his character when he isn’t on medication.
Maurice Benard – Performer of the Week
“I want your club,” Sonny informed Curtis Ashford (Donnell Turner) after walking into the Savoy, Curtis’s new establishment. “I just want The Savoy and I’m not leaving until I get it.” His odd request caught Curtis off guard and, as he was having a conversation with his newly discovered father Marshall Ashford (Robert Gossett), Curtis wasn’t interested in talking to Sonny.
Benard brought a manic, focused intensity to Sonny Corinthos in this episode and other episodes involving this story. His wanting The Savoy didn’t make sense to Curtis and, if pressed, Sonny himself might not be able to explain why this new idea was so important to him.
Sonny (Maurice Benard) dismissed Marshall and continued his insistence that he wanted the club, clarifying to a frustrated Curtis that he wanted to merely rent it for an entire evening so he could entertain Carly Corinthos (Laura Wright), likely hoping that this would win her back. Curtis was put off that his evening with his father was interrupted and he politely but firmly told the mobster it simply wasn’t going to happen.
“Nobody tells me what to do!” Sonny erupted, with an intensity we rarely see when Sonny is medicated. Curtis wasn’t aware that Sonny was having a manic episode as he firmly shot back, “In my nightclub, I do.”
Drew Cain (Cameron Mathison) tried to intervene but Sonny went off on him, too. First, he blasted him for trying to be his friend and get into his business. Then, Sonny made it worse by telling Drew that he was no Jason Morgan (ouch!). Just as Sonny looked like he was about to explode, he’d apologize, and then, he’d get angry again. Maurice Benard was playing a very hurtful side of Sonny — but it was clear he was the one hurting.
Going back and forth between being angry and being sincerely apologetic could have appeared comedic given the dichotomy of the two positions – but Benard made the scenes tragically dramatic. Nina stepped in, having figured out that Sonny was likely having a bipolar episode, and got him to leave with her after she pointed out to him that the police might arrest him.
Once home, Nina Reeves (Cynthia Watros) refused to leave as Sonny had ordered. She told him she knew a manic episode when she saw it even if she didn’t, as he claimed, know him. Nina drew upon Phyllis Caulfield (Joyce Guy) and the late Lenny Caulfield’s (Rif Hutton) relationship with “Mike,” telling him about when “Mike” was off his bipolar medication. Knowing the story didn’t really help Nina as Sonny’s intensity continued. She tried to reach Sonny by telling him that she trusted him with her life but she didn’t trust the bipolar disorder.
Sonny shot down Nina’s offer to call a family member for her and then told her whether or not she’d stay was up to her – but that she needed to get out of his way. The next morning, Sonny was clearly still having an episode. Wearing last night’s clothes still, he informed Nina that he’d be shoveling outside. He was clearing a path so his daughters could have a picnic outside. In the winter.
Nina tried to keep Sonny from going out by asking him what bipolar was like. “It’s like you have thoughts just zipping around in your head. You’re in a nightmare that you can’t wake up – you see people that are there but they’re not there. You’re exhausted but you can’t go to sleep,” This is something viewers know hits home for Maurice Benard, and as Sonny, his denial was palpable, insisting that that wasn’t what was happening now.
Through love, patience, and understanding, Nina got Sonny to realize something was wrong. She suggested that they go to General Hospital to find out what that was. Sonny not only let Nina take him in her arms, but also, agreed to get help.
We weren’t likely going to see more than a handful of episodes of Sonny off his meds given that the people closest to him would be aware of what was happening. However, in this story beat, Maurice Benard delivered powerful performances as a man who was reminded that mental illness remains a part of his life.
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