Film and Television veteran, member of the Actor’s Studio, and two time Emmy Award winner Maurice Benard most recently starred as John Gotti in Lifetime’s acclaimed “Victoria Gotti: My Father’s Daughter,” which aired this year; the horror film “Nightmare Cinema,” with Mickey Rourke, which opened the New York Horror Film Festival certified fresh on rotten tomatoes and was in theatres June 21st; the indie films “Hold On,” and “Equal Standard,” alongside Ice T; and Lifetime’s “A Lover Betrayed.”
Among his other film and television credits are David O’Russell’s critically acclaimed “Joy,” with Robert De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence; “Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter”; “Ruby”; and “Mi Vida Loca.” The indie film “The Ghost and the Whale,” produced by Benard’s wife, Paula, in which he starred as a bipolar man losing the battle with his illness after his wife’s death, was a labor of love underscored by his strong commitment to raise awareness about mental health issues.
Although Benard has always worked out of the spotlight mentoring individuals in mental health crisis, a letter from a young man whose brother committed suicide while struggling with mental illness moved Benard to begin a public commitment to mental health awareness outside the confines of “General Hospital.” In 2009, on “Oprah,” he shared with the world his own bipolar diagnosis at the age of 22 and the ensuing struggle to manage the illness, from surviving a stint in a mental institution as a young man to becoming a television star. Benard’s journey with mental illness has also been profiled in magazines including PEOPLE, LA LIFE, and BP. HarperCollins is publishing his memoir about the journey, Nothing General About It: How Love and Lithium Saved Me On and Off General Hospital on April 7, 2020.
He has also lent his face and voice to numerous organizations to further the cause, including International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), Mental Health America (MHA) and Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, to name a few. For his contribution to mental health awareness, Benard has received numerous awards, including IBF’s Imagine Award, NAMI’s Lionel Aldridge Award, and the Erasing the Stigma Award alongside Carrie Fischer and Rod Steiger.
In addition to testifying before Congress on mental health issues, Benard’s keynote speaker engagements detailing his experience include the annual conference for The National Manic Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association and to hundreds of students at the University of San Diego.
In August 2018, Benard celebrated 25 years on the award-winning series “General Hospital,” cementing his status as an enduring television icon. The popular character Sonny “Michael” Corinthos, Jr. originated with Benard in 1993, initially written as only a six-month guest arc; however, Benard’s powerful portrayal became wildly popular with fans around the world and the celebrated actor quickly took Sonny from a peripheral to central role in the fictional city of Port Charles. Benard has maintained lead status on “General Hospital” for the past 16 years, garnering nine Emmy Award nominations, in addition to taking the statue home in 2003 and 2019.
Benard was previously on “All My Children” as another popular character, Nico, from 1987-1990.
His many loyal fans have not only tuned in for almost three decades, but also repeatedly nominated Benard for a Soap Opera Digest Award, honoring him as a winner three times. Benard has also received a Prism Award and four Latino Media Arts Award nominations.
Benard’s “General Hospital” character has long been on the forefront of socially relevant issues woven into storylines like AIDS and Alzheimer’s awareness. He also pushed for his character to be diagnosed as bipolar so mental health awareness can be front and center on a daily television platform.