General Hospital star Maurice Benard welcomed the Daytime Emmy-award-winning soap veteran and recent Young and the Restless alum Jordi Vilasuso on this week’s video podcast of YouTube’s State Of Mind. The actors had much to say about shared history, family, and mental health.
Maurice Benard And Jordi Vilasuso: Cuban Origins And The Acting Bug
Maurice Benard (Sonny Corinthos, GH) got the ball rolling with questions about Vilasuso’s (ex-Rey Rosales, Y&R; Tony Santos, Guiding Light; Griffin Castillo, All My Children; Dario Hernandez, Days of our Lives) beginnings. The actor spoke candidly about his family life.
“My dad is a Cuban exile. So is my mom,” shared Vilasuso. “There’s a strong Cuban community down there [Miami]. He’s a doctor. My dad’s dad was a doctor in Cuba. My dad’s brothers were doctors. Came here and really needed that education, first and foremost. I grew up there and earned my stripes.”
Having so many physicians in the family did not intimidate Vilasuso from his dream of acting. “I started acting at the age of 11,” he recalled. “I knew it from the get. I really wanted to do it. He [his dad] was the most supportive. My mom was scared. My grandparents were scared. They didn’t know. But my dad was open. He said, ‘Go for it.’ When they saw me do a play in high school…they had just opened a drama club at my Catholic grade school and I got the lead.”
It wasn’t long before Vilasuso landed the role of Tony Santos. “My training was really Guiding Light,” he revealed. “I moved to New York when I was 19 and started there. I worked with great people. I worked with Kim Zimmer [Reva Shayne]. I worked with Paul Anthony Stewart [Danny Santos] and I had great directors. I had directors from Juilliard. Brian Mertes. He was a director. He was a teacher at Juilliard.
Guiding Light: The Golden Years
“I remember I was 19. I was green,” he admitted, acknowledging his rocky start. “I was going out. People were inviting me out to go to the clubs. I remember one day I had not shown up at my best, with my best attitude or my best work ethic. He said, ‘You’re good, but remember what you are doing here and know your lines when you come to the set.’ And when I got that little [makes clicking sound] in the booty, I was like, ‘All right.’ And from that point on I really came to work ready to go.”
His time on the show was an incredible experience. “It was a great character,” he recalled. “I won an Emmy [for Outstanding Younger Actor] in 2003. That was fun. My parents all bought tickets for everyone. My grandfather came out. It was beautiful. He used to record all my shows on VHS. I have these decks of tapes of the shows with tapes, tapes, tapes with the dates. He was very diligent about putting all of the dates of the shows.
“In this genre, when you are given a great story, and that is not always the case, it’s theater,” he enthused. “It’s like The Actor’s Studio and you’re working on something but when you get great stuff and you’re able to let go, and you are like, ‘I don’t know where the f**k I went but something happened!’ That’s my currency. That for me is why I do what I do.”
Jordi Vilasuso On Finding “The One”
It wasn’t long before Vilasuso shared the story about how he met his wife, Kaitlyn Riley. “So, my wife used to watch me on Guiding Light. She grew up in a CBS family. They used to watch all the soaps on CBS, As the World Turns, Guiding Light. When I started on the show, she was a Florida actor. She was in Fort Lauderdale and I was in Miami but we had the same manager, Margorie Morhaim, who did the casting for Miami Vice.
“Kailey had just done Monster, which was with Charlize Theron, the movie she got the Oscar for. Kailey played Charlize as a young girl, in flashbacks in Monster. So, Marjorie said, ‘Do you want to meet Jordi?’ and Kailey said, ‘Yeah.’ This is her telling me. I was 22 and she was 17.”
The young couple had their first meeting at the Broadway Deli on Santa Monica Blvd in Los Angeles and sparks flew. “Right away I knew,” he exclaimed. “It’s crazy but I did. There was just something there. I don’t know if it was a Godsend. She went away to college. And it was almost four years. I was almost going to get engaged and then she sent me a Facebook message. And when I got that Facebook message, I ended that relationship and went straight to her. And I snagged her. She was 24. Right when she got to town, I said, ‘Come and live with me.’”
Sometimes You Need A Little Help
It wasn’t long before issues popped up that many young couples face and needed to be addressed. “I remember we were sitting in our house. We were living in Florida at the time. I was shooting All My Children, and they tried to do like a Hulu thing. We had our 4-month-old, Riley, sitting on her lap, and she said, ‘We should get divorced.’
“When she said that it was like she went for the red phone,” he revealed. He went on to describe the scene. “It was nuclear. I said, ‘Whoa! That word is not in my vocabulary. I don’t feel comfortable in that space.’ So, right away I started looking for therapists in the area.”
He told the story of their initial couple’s session. “The first thing she said to us was, ‘Do you have love for each other?’ And we looked at each other and said, ‘Yeah.’ And she said, ‘Don’t forget that you guys are lovers and friends.’ For whatever reason, that put us in this framework of like, ‘I’m your friend. I got your back. We are on the same team.’ We decided to do this together. Riley [their daughter] is here because of us, and God, but we needed to unite. And that put us in more like a teammate position, where we could get on the same page together.”
Jordi Vilasuso: Communication Is Key
Vilasuso had a lot more to say about his early upbringing, his acting inspirations, his early days on Guiding Light and All My Children, his Benard connections, the importance of being vulnerable, addressing rage, and how he wants his daughters to see him. The actor spoke out about media, the curriculum in schools, yoga, and staying grounded. Watch the full episode here.
Don’t miss Maurice Benard’s ideas on future mental health discussions regarding the younger generation. For more couples advice, check out Jordi and Kaitlyn’s podcast here. Follow Vilasuso on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Maurice Benard on Twitter, Instagram, or State of Mind.
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Jordi and I talk about his childhood and acting, but things get deep when he opens up about his relationship with wife Kaitlin.
— Maurice Benard (@MauriceBenard) June 26, 2022
— Maurice Benard (@MauriceBenard) June 27, 2022