Celebrity Scoop: Daniel Benzali


He made a name for himself as an attorney in two shows, but now Daniel Benzali is playing the other side of the law.

Years after a recurring role on "NYPD Blue" prompted producer Steven Bochco to make him a series lead on "Murder One," Benzali is acting as a bad guy on the weekday ABC serial "General Hospital." As the mysterious Balkan, he's slated to have a big impact this week on the intended wedding of Brenda and Sonny (Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo, Maurice Benard).

"It's the first time I've done something like this," Benzali says, "and I've adjusted pretty well. Everybody has been nice, it's been very easy to do the work, and it's a pleasant environment -- so I'm happy. Vanessa and I did an episode of 'NYPD Blue' together, so we've known each other for years."

Soap operas are famous for going through material much faster than prime-time shows and movies, and Benzali claims, "I like the pace. I enjoy all the forms of entertainment I do, but you do get a lot accomplished in one day and one week here."

The given name of the Balkan is Theo Hoffman, and Benzali's "Murder One" character was named ... Theodore Hoffman, with the nickname "Teddy." The actor is pleased by that nod to his past, explaining that "General Hospital" head writer Bob Guza "just came up with it, and I said, 'I'm fine with that.' A lot of people know the connection, so that just adds to the fun of it."

So does the slow dealing of the cards played by the Balkan, maintains Benzali, also a stage musical talent and jazz singer. "You want to have the audience on their toes. Those are always the most interesting characters to play, when people don't really know what comes next."

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