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Benard says he didn't really have a direction before acting. "I didn't know what I was going to be doing, or where I'd end up," he says. "I didn't think I had any talent, or anything else. This girl I was dating at the time, she suggested I be a model—and you have to understand something, man, I was this tough guy with a mustache, and I was like 'model? How much money do they make?'" She said, 'I don't know, maybe one hundred, two hundred dollars an hour.' I said, 'How do you do it?'"

Benard attended what he called a "stupid modeling school" and started getting work. His career, though, turned out to be "very unsuccessful."

"I was way too short, but I always tried to act like I wasn't," he says. "And that was really not good. But the modeling led to commercials, which led to more acting classes…and that's how [my career] started."

Frankly, Benard's choice of occupation seems fraught with peril. Given the impact of stress on the health of a person who has bipolar, working on a daytime drama would itself seem to be a flirtation with disaster. New scripts, script changes, the pressures of one-take shooting—all are daily occurrences. Within this already edgy atmosphere, Benard, in effect, barges up to the precipice, acting out symptoms of his own illness, almost daring them to come on. It's this virtual placing of his head in the lion's mouth that earned his head writer's admiration.

"It was above and beyond the call," Guza says.

Unfortunately, it's had its cost. "Let me tell you something right now," says Benard. "I've been doing this 14 years, with some pretty intense story lines, and there have been times where I thought maybe I'd taken it a little bit too far. But it was nothing like last year, when I played, for over two months, a guy losing his mind.

"Now, I'm not stupid enough to go off my medication," he continues. "I'm not that kind of method actor. Occasionally," he laughs, "a colleague will come up and say 'You go off your medication.' I say, 'I'm not that stupid.'"
FROM: Exclusive: Did Bipolar Disorder Drive a Mother to Kill Her Child?
Published on January 01, 2006

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