Now a fixture on ABC’s General Hospital for well over twenty years, Maurice Benard is a fixture in the soap world. While he’s sporadically made TV appearances throughout, including a three-year-stint on the now-cancelled All My Children.
GH fans have come to love his character, Sonny Corinthos, a manic depressive mob boss residing in Port Charles; a role the 45-year-old has embodied since 1993. However, Benard’s portrayal of a family man — mobster or not — translates into his real life as he not only advocates for those suffering from bipolar disorder but also adopted his 15-year-old sister-in-law. Collectively, he’e the father of four children and is a happily married man. However, life hasn’t always been easy for the daytime TV star.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Has Bipolar Disorder
Benard suffers from bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness. It’s defined as a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in energy. mood, activity levels and the ability to do day-to-day tasks, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Benard — discussing his disorder in the above 2008 video — was diagnosed with the disorder at the age of 22.
Benard is now a spokesperson with Mental Health America, a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of those with mental illness.
For the actor, the real-world meets the small screen as his Sonny character was written to have the same ailment. Benard’s on-screen son, Morgan (Bryan Craig), also suffers from the mental illness.
Benard has no shame in admitting his shortcomings with the illness. He told BP Magazine on November 8, 2007 about the suggestions he’s received throughout the years to go off his meds and method act.
“Now, I’m not stupid enough to go off my medication. I’m not that kind of method actor. Occasionally, a colleague will come up and say ‘You go off your medication.’ I say, ‘I’m not that stupid.’”
2. He Felt Possessed by the Devil When He Was Younger
As a symptom of his bipolar disorder, Benard admits that it used to feel possessed and volatile. He spoke to BP Magazine about an instance where he went after his mother, whom he told he was the devil.
“It goes on forever. I pretty much attacked my mother one night and told my mom and dad I was the devil. They called the cops and it was crazy. I asked my mom, ‘Who’s that?’—I heard her on the phone downstairs—and she said, ‘It’s the doctor.’ I replied, ‘It better not be the cops …’ and the doorbell rings. And it’s the cops. I looked at her the way Sonny Corleone looked in The Godfather. There was nothing they could do because I wasn’t violent at the time, so they just left. And the next morning, my mom and dad took me to the hospital.”
In 2006, General Hospital head writer, Bob Guza convinced Benard to go to that dark place in front of the camera. A 2006 story arc involved his character, Sonny, going through the rigors of a mental breakdown. Benard explained his psyche going into the character’s mental conflict.
“It was method acting without them knowing. In my mind, I always said, ‘I’ll make this guy bipolar.’ He started out being a bad guy, a really bad guy. And I thought to myself ‘How can I make this guy come off in a way where it’s justified, in his head, what he’s doing.”
3. He Adopted His Then-15-Year-Old Sister-In-Law
In 2008, Benard and wife Paula Benard made the decision to adopt the latter’s then-15-year-old younger sister, Heather Ann Smith Benard. Heather Ann’s mother died unexpectantly. Benard told ABC Soaps In Depth that himself and Paula “can now give [Heather] everything that she couldn’t have had before.”
On April 20, 2014, Heather Ann — to the right of Benard — posted the following photo of her family.
4. He Has a Wife, Four Children & Several Pets
Benard tied the knot to Paula on August 11, 1990 and the two have three biological children aside from Heather Ann. Cailey Sofia, 21, was born on September 18, 1994. Cassidy Rose, 16, was born on April 18, 1999. Joshua James, 11, was born on December 5, 2004.
Benard and his family reside in Temecula, California. The actor — along with his wife — has several pets, which include a rose-breasted cockatoo, military macaw, a Senegal, an outdoor aviary, quaills, rosellas, three dogs, two cats, four rabbits and several chinchillas, according to Bird Channel.
Benard told the bird lover website that his colleagues like to give him a hard time about his plethora of pets.
“They make fun of me at work. They call me Dr. Doolittle.”
5. He Has an Estimated Net Worth of $2 Million
Television aside, Benard has also accrued money in film. Celebrity Net Worth reported that he has an estimated net worth of $2 million.
According to Celebrity Glory, Benard’s net worth and salaries are broken down in the following increments:
Net Worth Breakdown:
Expected 2015-2016: $270,588
Her Wicked Ways: $349,650
Mi Vida Loca: $216,450
To Face Her Past: $162,338
Operation Splitsville: $138,581