Soap Opera Digest: Wedded Miss (Cover Story, July 2, 1996)

As torrid love triangles go, GENERAL HOSPITAL has set up a beaut. Sexy mobster Sonny Corinthos broke up with beautiful model Brenda Barrett after she wore a wire to help the feds bust him. Despite tearful pleas for forgiveness, a stone-faced Sonny turned his back on Brenda in favor of a loveless marriage to mafia princess Lily Rivera. (At least Lily wouldn't kiss and tell.) Brenda recovered in the arms of Aussie charmer Jax (just Jax!), but her heart belonged to Sonny.

Eventually, Brenda and Sonny found their way back to each other, and Sonny vowed to break things off with Lily. Then, wham. Lily announced she was pregnant, Sonny called things off with a heartbroken Brenda, Lily was killed by a car bomb meant for Sonny, and Brenda married Jax on the rebound. So...what happens now?

Well, not a Brenda/Sonny reconciliation, teases Executive Producer Wendy Riche. Jax and Brenda will remain married-for now-while Sonny picks up the pieces of his life. "The loss of Lily and his unborn child brings a devastating realization to Sonny," says Riche. "He has caused harm to those around him and he is going to have a harrowing time getting over his guilt. He feels totally incapable of giving anything to Brenda right now; he will have to heal himself separately."

While Sonny is healing, Brenda will be thinking. "This is the most amazing triangle, because Brenda is going to be truly torn," predicts Brenda's portrayer, Vanessa Marcil. "That was never the case before. She was in love with Sonny and that was the end of it. She really decided to try and move on [with Jax]." Although some of Brenda's pals suggest to her that this is a rebound wedding, Marcil disagrees. "Marriage is a serious thing," maintains the actress. "It has taken her so long to get to this point-to make this commitment-and she wants to do it right. I really believe that she is scared of Sonny. She loves him so much, but she's never sure where anything stands, or if he's going to lie to her about something. I think for the first time, she feels what it's like to have comfort and security with a man."

Sonny won't learn of Brenda and Jax's nuptials until June 21. What will he do when he finds out? "Sonny is in so much pain right now, he doesn't care. About anything," explains Maurice Bernard (Sonny). "Sonny inherits $30 million from Rivera, and he gives it all to an AIDS charity in Stone's name. He's an idiot. He's not thinking. He's just going through the motions."

Riche points out that Brenda, on the other hand, has actually moved on with her life. "Brenda has finally grown to the point where she doesn't need to take from Sonny," notes the exec. "She sees where he is, and lets him be. Jax knows his wife needs to go [to Sonny]. It takes a lot for him to allow that, but he knows she needs it. The question is, how long can Jax trust Brenda to be alone with Sonny?"

How long, indeed? According to Ingo Rademacher, Sonny is no threat to his character. "[Jax] absolutely thinks Brenda will fall in love with him 100 percent," the actor affirms. "He's offering her everything." What if Brenda chooses Sonny? "If that happens, he'll walk away," Rademacher sniffs. "That's the kind of guy he is. He'll say, 'You don't know what you're missing,' and he'll walk away from it. He'll be sad for a while, but he'll get over it. He's not the kind of person who dwells on things. He's strong enough to say, 'Okay, if that's the way you want it, then I'm out of here.' He's done it before and he'll do it again."

In the end the choice will be Brenda's. But Marcil believes Jax doesn't have that much to worry about. "Brenda is really to let Sonny go," she says. "Not in her heart, but in reality. She is genuinely worried about Sonny and wants to be there for him. She realizes, 'I need to be here for this person as a friend because I really love him.' It's not about what I need, it's about what he needs, because that's what love is about. She's not really going to be as quick to want to let go of Jax, the person who was there for her when she was ready to just give up life. It's such an amazing triangle."

Both men boast that if their characters come to blows over the brunette beauty, they'll be ready. "Jax isn't going to be scared by this guy," insists Rademacher. "He might be a mobster, but I'm sure Jax being one of the richest men in the world could get him killed as well." And Sonny? "I'm short," cracks Bernard. "If we get into a fight, I'd better have a knife."

(Side bar)
Why Lily had to go
"Fans just freak out about Sonny and Brenda being apart," marvels Vanessa Marcil. "I get a lot of people who say they love watching Brenda and Jax together, but they say, 'Have fun with him for now.' They're Sonny and Brenda freaks." The character of Lily, though, was not fully developed, never seemed like a viable love match for Sonny and inspired little fan loyalty. "I didn't like her character, either," agrees Marcil. "I can understand why people didn't like her character. But I am so bummed out about Lilly [Melgar, who played Lily] leaving. We've been crying here for the last few days. I loved working with Lilly and wish we could have worked together more. We're really good friends in real life, so it's going to be her I miss more than her character."

"As the story the story of Sonny and Brenda progressed, it was clear that there was a tragedy in Sonny's future that would change their lives forever," explains Wendy Riche. Lily's pregnancy was a defining moment for Sonny, because his own father had run out on him and he could never do that to his own child. "That was a major character issue for Sonny," nods Riche. "Lilly Melgar is a lovely person and grew a lot as an actress while playing Lily. But it served the story to have her suffer an ironic death at the hands of her own father while he was trying to show his 'love' for her by killing her husband. It's a sick world she came from."

(Side bar)
Love Me Do?
While Marcil admits she's torn over who Brenda should wind up with, she does love seeing the effect that the love triangle has on Ingo Rademacher. "Ingo will not leave my door," laughs Marcil. "I can't say that Brenda will love Jax in front of Ingo because he'll go on about it for an hour. He'll be like, 'Really? You think Brenda will love Jax?' He's so funny. He's really cute, he takes everything so seriously, it's adorable. He is like his character. He comes in and he's like, 'How come you were doing scenes with Maurice?' I'm like, 'Because it's a love story.' He'll say, 'What's the matter, doesn't she want to fall in love with me?' "