Editor’s note: Stephen A. Smith appears weekdays on ESPN2’s First Take (10 a.m.–noon ET) with Skip Bayless and host Molly Qerim. He regularly contributes to SportsCenter as an NBA commentator and hosts “The Stephen A. Smith Show” on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio Monday–Friday from 1-3 p.m. The two-hour show is produced and broadcast from ESPN Audio’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn. Smith will appear on ABC’s daytime drama “General Hospital” on Thursday, March 31 (pictures above; sneak preview video below). He also made a cameo appearance in 2007. “General Hospital” is broadcast weekdays from 3-4 p.m. by The ABC Television Network.
Stephen A. Smith has been a fan of “General Hospital” for more than 40 years.
“I have four older sisters and when we came home from school, all the TVs in the house were on ‘General Hospital,’” Smith said. “Since I wasn’t allowed outside until I finished my homework, I watched the soap every day.”
Fast forward to 2015 when Maurice Benard, who plays mobster Sonny Corinthos on the show, was a guest on a First Take episode from Los Angeles. “Maurice recognized that I was a huge fan and said he’d have to get me on the show. I received a call a few months later to play “Brick,” a surveillance expert for Sonny and the Mob.”
Preparing for the soap was vastly different from his planning for work on ESPN’s platforms.
“I operate extemporaneously,” Smith said. “I research, do homework, lights come on and we go. . .I have to be ready and speak off the cuff.
“With ‘GH,’ you memorize lines in a script, bringing other people’s words to life. The pressure is immense. I practiced and practiced to make my lines conversational. Since I have watched the show for so long, I know Sonny and his mannerisms. So the scene was like talking to a long-lost friend and I was working with Maurice, one of biggest soap stars ever, who talked about how he visualizes the scene and environment. ‘How would you bug a phone? How would you say this to your boss, the mobster?’ I knew him and how he goes about things. I imagined all that and it helped relax me.”
Fortuitously, Sonny and his wife Carly are Smith’s two favorite characters.
“I marvel at their professionalism, how focused and ready they are to perform at a moment’s notice,” Smith said. “I’m practicing over and over. They take one or two looks at the script and are ready to go.”
While Smith does two hours of live TV every day, taping one scene for “General Hospital” was more nerve-wracking.
“I’m never nervous on First Take. It’s my and Skip’s domain. I’m extremely confident on ESPN. I felt like a fish out of water on the ‘GH’ set. I don’t get nervous too often, but I was incredibly nervous. Maurice made it easy for me, coaching me the entire day. He made me so comfortable that at one point I almost forgot I was on the set. And we shot the scene in two takes!”