What is “General Hospital”?
With a premiere date of 1st April 1963, it’s little surprise that “General Hospital” (“GH”) is both America’s longest-running soap opera, and the world’s longest-running scripted drama series in production, as confirmed by the Guinness World Records. The longevity of the beloved show also makes it the recipient of the most Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series in history, Hollywood’s longest-running serial, and ABC’s longest-running entertainment program.
Originally, the show – which was created by Doris and Frank Hursley – was set in an unnamed fictional city which later became Port Charles, New York. The seasoned thespians John Beradino and Emily McLaughlin were in the cast from the first episode, and remained loyal to the series until their deaths in the 1990s. Rachel Ames, ABC’s longest-serving actress in a soap opera, was also part of “GH” from 1964 to 2007; together, the trio were the show’s most familiar faces.
After a few hits and misses with “Road to Reality” and other shows, ABC struck gold with “GH”, although its sister series “The Young Married” and spin-offs “Port Charles” and “GH: Night Shift” weren’t so fortunate, and only lasted a few seasons before being shelved. Over the years, episodes of “GH” have gone from 30 minutes to 60, and the show has been renewed for the 2023/2024 TV season.
Following a successful formula, the show has focused on the Quartermaine and Spencer clans since the late 1970s. Ratings went up in the 1980s with the wedding of Luke and Laura, the show’s most famous supercouple, whose nuptials were viewed by 30 million around the world. Elizabeth Taylor, James Franco, and Roseanne Barr are just some of the celebrity guests who have added a touch of glamor to Port Charles in the last decades.
The last episode of “As the World Turns” aired in September 2010, making “GH” America’s longest-running soap opera. Since 2011, it’s the only soap opera on ABC, and now has over 15,000 episodes and counting.
Michael “Sonny” Corinthos Jr. is the son of Mike Corbin and Adela Corinthos and one of the protagonists of Port Charles. A manic depressive mob boss, he’s been played by Maurice Benard since August 1993. Actor Joe Sobalo Jr. is used as a stunt double when necessary, whereas Joshua James Benard and Aramis Knight have played younger Sonnies in various episodes.
Mark Teschner, the casting director of “GH”, confirmed that Maurice was one of many actors considered for the role. Sonny’s character was only meant to last for six months, as Maurice was disinterested in soap operas after his time in “All My Children”. Apparently, he only joined the cast of “GH” to ameliorate severe financial problems that had left him on the verge of bankruptcy.
Initially, Maurice was offered two roles: that of Sonny, or that of mobster Damian Smith, which would come with a two-year contract. Maurice picked Sonny’s role because he liked the character’s name, and believed that it would be a short-term job. Just two weeks after settling in, he suffered a manic depressive breakdown and even stopped going to work, but the network waited for him to recover instead of firing him. Maurice left the role in September 1997, and returned full-time 15 months later.
Sonny was originally intended to be of Italian descent, and was raised in the predominantly Italian neighborhood of Bensonhurst; however, he actually has Cuban, Greek and Irish heritage. During Sonny’s childhood, his father Mike abandoned the family, and Adela began seeing her boss, Trevor Lansing, who was understanding of Adela’s sad situation, and let her bring Sonny to work, and even took them on expensive vacations.
Unfortunately, Sonny accidentally caused his pregnant mother to fall down a flight of stairs. Trevor gave Adela an ultimatum: Sonny, or their unborn child. Shortly after giving birth to Ric, Adela signed over her parental rights, and married Deke Woods, a New York Police officer, when Sonny was aged seven. Deke was an abusive partner and stepfather, and would frequently lock Sonny in a closet, making him claustrophobic for years to come.
Fiercely defensive of his mother, Sonny would act out so Deke would take his anger out on him instead of her. He was a religious youngster who attended a Catholic school; his peers and closest friends were Lois and Louie Cerullo. During his adolescence, Sonny and Olivia Falconeri had a brief sexual relationship, and she would give birth to their son, Dante, but hide the information from Sonny. Sonny was also romantically involved with Olivia’s cousin, Connie.
At the age of sixteen, Sonny was asked to move out by his mother, who noticed that the fights between her son and partner were growing increasingly violent, and feared that they’d seriously hurt or even kill each other. Sonny was homeless for a time but visited Adela when Deke was at work. Sonny was taken under the wing of the local mob boss, Joe Scully, after stealing his car; Joe gives Sonny a place to live, and some odd jobs to do.
Sonny visits Adela on her birthday, and finds her severely beaten and unconscious. He confides in Skully, and the mob boss orders Deke’s death the next day. When Sonny is nineteen, Adela passes away and leaves him alone in the world. Sonny and Connie plan to leave town together when she turns eighteen, but she runs away without him, and he begins working for Scully full-time.
Scully discovers that his son, Joe Jr., isn’t fit to run one of his many business ventures in Atlantic City, and replaces him with Sonny. At the strip club,named The Sea Breeze, Sonny befriends a stripper named Theresa, who Joe Jr. has a crush on. Joe Jr. kills Theresa in a fit of pique; Scully helps him disappear, whereas Sonny lies to the cops – including to her FBI agent brother, John McBain – about the circumstances of her death.
— General Hospital ✘ (@GeneralHFans) December 21, 2021
A prolific character, Sonny has ten children in total – five living, four deceased, and one stillborn – two grandsons, and one stepdaughter. His first son is Dante Falconeri, conceived during his brief fling with Olivia Quartermaine; Dante has a son of his own named Rocco, and shares several children with wife Carly: an adoptive son named Michael, a son named Morgan who is presumed dead, and a daughter named Donna.
Sonny also fathered two daughters named Kristina and Avery through separate one-night stands. Most of his deceased or stillborn children were unnamed, except for a daughter named Lila who his ex-mistress miscarried.
Sonny arrived at Port Charles as a minor mafia employee in 1993, running Frank Smith’s strip club named The Paradise Lounge. He soon began dating Brenda Barrett, formed a popular supercouple, and embarked on a business venture as joint partners of their record label, L&B.
Miguel, an artist on the label, made Sonny jealous by flirting with Brenda, who was then working as a model. Luke Spencer killed Frank to protect Sonny, so Sonny informed Hernando Rivera, a deadly mob boss, that he’d be taking over the organization. Hernando retaliated by kidnapping Miguel, Sonny, Brenda, and others. After escaping to safety, Sonny pretended to leave the mafia; he and Luke’s nightclub was blown up, and Sonny learned that Luke’s driver, Mike Corbin, was his biological father.
Sonny threw Brenda out after learning that she was planning to record him discussing his criminal activities and turn the evidence in to the police force. He and Lily McCall began a relationship, but he was arrested shortly afterwards. A desperate Lily reconciled with her father so he would help Sonny stay out of prison; the only condition was that Sonny would have to marry her. Sonny agreed, but she soon realized that he was still in love with Brenda and offered him a divorce. He declined – and just when he was about to ask for a divorce later on, Lily revealed her pregnancy, and Brenda had to let Sonny go.
SONNY SUNDAY THE LOVES OF SONNY CORINTHOSIt sure looks like a lot of women couldn't resist those dimples/ Of all the many loves of Sonny, I liked Brenda the best. Who was your favorite with?
These are just some of the storylines Sonny was a major part of during the first few years in the series, and which would make him a vitally important character of “GH”. Due to his mafia ties, he has been shot at, attacked, and kidnapped on many occasions, and also committed several heinous crimes. Some of his many business ventures include being the owner of Volonino’s Gym, Charlie’s Pub, Xtreme Motors, and Perks Coffee, and as the head of the Corinthos mob family – Sonny is always busy doing something he shouldn’t be.
Despite his womanizing tendencies and general callousness when it comes to killing his enemies, Sonny is a beloved citizen of Port Charles who fans of “GH” will be sad to see go when the day comes. When the show’s writers learned that Maurice suffered from bipolar disorder, they wrote it into Sonny’s character. Sonny had an onscreen breakdown in 2006due to his disease, which was a cathartic experience for Maurice, as he was going through the same experiences in real life.
Mauricio José Morales was born in Martinez, California, in March 1963, but grew up in San Francisco. His mother Martha was a bank employee, whereas his father, Humberto, was a bakery superintendent.
In 1987, he landed his first recurring role as Nicole in “All My Children”, leaving the show in 1990. A few years later, he was hired for “GH”, a role which has earned him nominations for various Daytime Emmy awards over the years. He won Outstanding Lead Actor three times between 2003 and 2021, and three Soap Opera Digest Awards in the same category in 1996, 2003 and 2005.
Other memorable roles include as Desi Arnaz in “Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter”, and a starring role in “The Ghost and the Whale”, an independent film which was executive produced by his wife. As his role in “GH” is a steady one, Maurice is lucky enough to be able to pick and choose projects that interest him, when not busy filming for the soap opera.
Unlike Sonny Corinthos, Maurice is very much a one-woman man, who married Paula Smith in August 1990; the couple share three daughters and a son. When Paula’s mother died, they adopted her younger sister Heather. Paula and Maurice began dating in 1986, and she doubled up as his girlfriend and manager before they walked down the aisle.
Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his early twenties, it’s little surprise that Maurice is a spokesperson advocating for treatment of the disorder with Mental Health America. He also agreed that Sonny should have the disorder to raise awareness of the condition which affects thousands around the world, and helps writers of the show keep things realistic.
Although Maurice is a very private individual who barely gives interview, a 1989 sit-down conversation with Soap Opera Digest reveals plenty about the charismatic star. Maurice was described as being “oddly shy for a public figure… not revealing much about himself and becoming embarrassed when approached by fans.”
Happy Anniversary Maurice Benard and Paula Smith! The iconic General Hospital star and his wife are celebrating 27 years of marriage today!
At the time, Paula and Maurice lived in Jersey City, as Manhattan was too expensive. The couple had a cat and two dogs named Charlie, Nico, and Mitzi. Maurice shared that his father was Nicaraguan and his mother Salvadoran, and that he changed his surname and went to a voice coach to neutralize his Spanish accent, in order to avoid prejudice in the industry and being typecast into stereotypical roles.
In high school, Maurice got into many fights as a way of gaining respect, and barely matriculated as he skipped out on many classes. After high school, he attended college for a year before dropping out, and worked as a supermarket cashier earning $11 an hour for three or four years. He didn’t consider acting until 22; “In the beginning, I was terrible, to put it bluntly. I was pretty bad. But then after six months, it [acting] started to click and then once I got into doing plays, I knew,” he said.
Benard also dabbled in modelling before landing his role in “All My Children”, but was unsuccessful in the demanding industry. Riddled with insecurities, he lied about his height and said he was 5”9 instead of 5”11 because otherwise he wouldn’t be given any jobs; he also had to develop a thick skin to withstand the constant rejections. Thankfully, it all worked out and these days he’s much more than just a familiar face on our TV screens.