Recasting a popular character is never an easy situation. It’s even worse when the actor who created the role is truly loved by the fans and critics. That’s the challenge that faces GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Tamara Braun as she steps into the shoes of triple Emmy winner Sarah Brown. Braun and Benard discuss the road that lies ahead of their alter egos.
General Hospital fans can relax about losing one of their favorite actresses, Sarah Brown. Maurice Benard says that daytime’s newcomer Tamara Braun definitely has the muscle to take over the coveted role of Carly. In this exclusive interview, Update sate down with both actors and talk about the adjustment and changes on set. Both agree that their new working relationship can be summed up in one word: Magical!
SOAP OPERA UPDATE: Tamara, is this your first daytime show?
Braun: It is. I’ve done episodic and sitcom, but never a soap. It’s completely different.
SOU: Looking at Tamara on camera, there are alot of similarities. Tamara looks like Sarah and some of the mannerisms are the same. Are you finding that, too, Maurice?
Benard: Yes, but Tamara brings out a certain vulnerability that’s her own. Sarah had her own. But Tamara has this other thing that actually makes her interesting and different. But I don’t like her that much as a person (he jokes as laughter flows between the two), just as an actress.
SOU: How long have you been working together now?
Braun: Two weeks.
Benard: We clicked in the screen-test.
SOU: Maurice, did you see the physical similarities between her and Sarah right away?
Benard: No that didn’t dawn on me.
Braun: I had dark brown hair at the time.
Benard: What happened was in the screen-test, I said to myself I wasn’t going to give unless I was forced to, because I just knew that if she didn’t force me to do it, she wasn’t going to work if she got hired. I literally went into say my lines and wait for somebody to kind of throw a punch back at me if I threw on first. And she did. I came in and went, “Okay, this is good.” Carly is ballsy. Sarah, the wonderful actress that she is, was not afraid . She had the courage and she would come after me. I figured that’s what the new Carly would need.
SOU: So, Tamara, this ballsy quality Maurice speaks of, is it you or is it just an act?
Braun: I don’t think people say, “There goes ballsy Tamara,’ but I know it’s a part of me.
SOU: Tamara, were you nervous in that audition?
Braun: Completely. I think if you’re not nervous you’re dead. But Maurice connected completely.
SOU: Did you know GH?
Braun: I know the soap from years and years of watching with my babysitter during the summers. Sometimes, I might watch it and I was getting ready for an audition, but I wasn’t a follower, so I didn’t know anything that was going on. I knew of Sarah’s work and that she was a wonderful actress, strong and smart, and ballsy–that seems to be a fitting word.
SOU: Maurice, for you as an actor, it had to be very important who was cast in this role?
Benard: Oh, it’s a big responsibility. I knew in order for the character to keep going, the new actress and I would have to have great chemistry. But I figured we did have it in the audition. When she started working the first day, it was shaky.
Braun: I didn’t have any dialogue that day.
Benard: But then we had more scenes and something clicked. I knew it could work and it will work.
SOU: Maurice, has Sonny changed as a result of playing opposite Tamara?
Benard: That’s a good question. I try to play the character true to form, and because Tamara has some of the same qualities as Sarah, it’s pretty much the same. It’s just that their vulnerabilities are different. So that’s what changes Sonny. You might seen him soften a tiny but more when he doesn’t want to.
SOU: Is this softening an unconscious thing?
Benard: yeah, because when I’m in a scene, I try to stay in the moment, and everybody’s different.
SOU: So, when you said earlier that you’re not going to give unless somebody pulls it out of you, she pulls just a little differently?
Benard: Yeah, yeah. I’ll tell you for being here just two weeks and the hard role she’s had to play, she’s done it with flying colors.
SOU: Tamara, how does that make you feel to hear that?
Braun: Maurice has been so helpful. He’s a pleasure and a dream to work with. This has been such a huge undertaking. I don’t think I’ve ever been this exhausted in my life.
SOU: So, do you just shut out all of the talk about you taking over this role and just focus on doing it?
Braun: I have to. If I thought about it, It would overwhelm me too much. I know how much Sarah and Carly were loved, and I have to say think you for that. I wouldn’t be here if she and the character were not so loved by the fans.
SOU: What has Maurice pulled out of you as an actress?
Braun: I have a safe place to express my vulnerability. Actors want to be as honest as we can be and break down those walls. That’s a beautiful thing as an actor to be able to do.
SOU: So this is almost magical. This kind of connection between actors doesn’t happen very often.
Benard: No, not at all. I’ve been in situations where you have to do a ton of work and eventually you get there. But things has happened quickly. You can’t come in and take Sarah Brown’s role and not be pretty damn good. It’s just not going to work. So this has to happen quick. I’m just glad she had it from the get-go. Look, I’m a good guy and I’ll try to be there for anybody, but if it were going to take months, I may not have that much patience.
SOU: what is the audience going to see?
Benard: Well, the audition is going to be upset because somebody has taken Sarah’s place, which is normal. But let’s put the cards on the table. Soap operas are truly about story. That’s what takes you on the ride. If you’re a good actor, it helps, but it’s the story to makes it grand. The good part about Tamara coming onto the story, I feel, is wonderful. I’m having a blast going the stuff that we’ve been doing since she started. So, if the audience can just say, ‘Let’s take this ride,’ I think it’s going to be fine. Now if Tamara came in and story wasn’t good, I don’t care how good an actress she is, it would be tough. Just bear with us. watch and see how well we connect with on another.