Back Talk: Paul Ben-Victor

Walk me through your recent HDTV buying experience. I found myself attracted to the LCD. Two of my very good friends - Dave Rodriguez, who's directed two upcoming films that I'm in, and John Barr, the director of photography on those films - they're plasma guys. So as we're going from store to store, their pitch for going plasma over LCD was, "Paul, the LCDs are hyper-real. Nothing looks like that. This is what you want. But, hey, you go ahead and get what you love." Well, I was attracted to that super-bright LCD look, especially when it comes to watching a football game or a tennis match, which I love to do. And Barr, the director of photography, is saying, "But people don't look like that. A boat doesn't look like that." He's trying to get me to go for a beautiful plasma. But you know what? It just didn't give me the thrill that the LCD did. Well, I want that thrill. So I went with the LCD.

Which model did you end up buying? At first, I went with a Sony Bravia 46-inch LCD - it was a beautiful TV, but it only came in the 46-inch size. I returned it 2 days later. [chuckles] Why? I was in the store the next day, and I saw the 52-inch Samsung LCD that's in the 5 Series, the LN52A550. I sat on the couch and looked at that 52-inch and said, "Wait a minute. I want that size." I went with the 5 Series over their other, later ones because I like a nice, clean black look, you know? I've got it hooked up to DirecTV and Panasonic's SC-BT100 Blu-ray Disc home theater system. I just watched 3:10 to Yuma on Blu-ray, and was blown away by the picture and the surround sound.

Did you look at the Series 8? I did. I mean, it took my breath away. But it was almost a little too hyper-real, you know? I'm watching the car chase in I Am Legend, and Will Smith and his dog are zooming around in that red Mustang GT, and it almost took me out of the picture because it was very video-looking, as opposed to being film-like.

What else have you watched? Well, I don't get to watch a lot of regular TV, mostly because I'm busy working. If I have 2 hours to sit down and look at something, I'm usually thinking, "Shit, I've got to go look at this script." I'm a very slow line learner, that's my excuse. If I could learn lines faster, I'd have plenty more time for TV.

And now I'm going to be in Albuquerque for the next 6 or 7 months shooting the second season of In Plain Sight. [Paul plays Stan McQueen, chief inspector for the Federal Witness Protection Program's Southwest region.] So I'll probably do a lot of "Slingboxing" while I'm there.

How did you get into the Slingbox? I was in a car service in New York a few months ago, and the guy has his laptop on in the front seat. I don't know what I'm watching, The Golden Girls or something. [both chuckle] And I go, "What is that, a DVD?" And the driver says, "No, it's a Slingbox." I had no idea what it was. I could not believe what he was telling me. Now I just love it.

Anyway, when I'm at home, I mostly watch independent films, but I'm catching up on The Shield and 24 on DVD. The crazy thing is, if I had more free time, I would become the biggest TV addict in the world. When I first got the Samsung hooked up, I watched TV until 4 in the morning. I was like a kid in the candy store: "Holy shit, look at this thing in front of me!" It's awesome. In one night, it changed everything. I got into bed and said, "Oh boy." Two hours later, I was still watching.

Oh yeah. I understand that, believe me. Who needs to sleep, anyway? [chuckles] Yeah, sleep will disappear. It already has.

You did a commentary for the DVD of The Invisible Man: Season 1, and I'm sure you'll be asked to do some for In Plain Sight. Do you like commentaries? Love them. Vincent Ventresca and I had, uh, fun when we did the Invisible Man commentary, I gotta say. [laughs] You can learn how to be a filmmaker by watching and listening to commentaries. It's incredible, this whole world of behind the scenes, all the stuff that's captured now. It's exciting. Some of it's as interesting as the actual movie or show.

Speaking of In Plain Sight, I like your character Stan's taking initiative and locking the FBI agent [played by Will McCormack, Sight star Mary McCormack's brother] in the closet in the last episode of the first season. We need a little more Stan, I think. I mean, you weren't even in every episode. Well, I wasn't a series regular; I was an "and" at the end of the credits. That's because I've got a good agent. [both chuckle] I think I'll have a much stronger presence in the second season. Everyone was just getting their bones in the first season. I do know I'll have a stronger load next year.

Sometimes Stan is there for comic relief, but when serious stuff goes down, he really takes care of business. Yes. Exactly. But in the pilot, I read this thing there was some comedic overtones, and I immediately gravitate toward that stuff.

Finally, what do you think about shooting in high-def? The more popular something I'm involved in is and I'm aware more people are watching it, I think, "Uh oh, I better lose 5 pounds" or "I better use that new skin cream." [laughs] I remember doing a guest spot on Alias a few years ago, and after I watched it, I said to myself, "You've aged. You've got an extra line you never see when looking in the mirror." And then I saw a little bit of jowl, too. So that freaked me out a bit. But the truth is, that's going to happen on film or HD anyway, so I'm not going to worry about it too much. The viewers never mind that. The only people who do mind are the suits who think it matters. They're never gonna learn that "beauty" isn't the only thing that sells. Quality sells too.