BackTalk: John Hensley of Nip/Tuck

The finale for Season 5 of Nip/Tuck just aired [on February 19]. Are you happy with how the year went on the show? Yeah. The overall tone of this season was pretty cool. I grew to like the direction they took it this year.

A lot of the post-mortem has been along the lines of, "Just when we thought they'd gone as far as they could go, they've gone somewhere even further." It's funny you say that. Working on the show, I have the exact same experience and response. I remember at the end of the first season, I thought we were done. I had that very conversation with Dylan Walsh [who plays Sean McNamara, one of the two dads Hensley's character, Matt McNamara, has on the show]. And I said, "My God, where can we go from here? They've really already made their exclamation point." And he nodded and said, "Well, let's see what they come up with for next year." And with Season 2, they answered with more. And at the end of Season 2, I was thinking the same thing, and then with Season 3 they answered with more. You know, I've really learned that the writers kind of got it covered.

And, like you, I've continually been surprised. When the show moved to Los Angeles at the end of Season 4, I went to [series creator] Ryan Murphy's office and asked him point blank, "I gotta be honest with you, Ryan, I don't understand the value of moving the show to Los Angeles. Why are you doing this?" Which, quite frankly, is not my place to question, but I was curious why they were making that move. And his explanation was so simple and so great that it made perfect sense to me. He said, "Well, for 4 years, all of the characters on the show have been very large fish in a very small pond. I want to see what happens when all these characters become very small fish in a large pond." And I thought, "Man, that's perfect."

Because of that move, the palette for stories has increased beyond this season. Absolutely. It's really opened up a lot more possibilities than I could foresee. And that goes back to my thing about trusting the people who write the show. They know what they're doing. It's opened up a lot of new avenues for many of the characters. [An eight-episode sixth season is now in production.]

My wife and I watch Nip/Tuck together, and we discuss it with other adult couples. Week in and week out, none of us gets turned off by the show's sometimes graphic, sometimes outrageous antics. Why do you think that's the case? It's interesting, isn't it? I know just what you're talking about. I think it has something to do with the flaws of these characters. You watch them stumble and fall and, at moments, be horribly misguided in their actions and what they say. Maybe there's an element of release in all that. You watch my character and others do things that make you think, "I can't believe this person is making that choice. That's so the wrong move, man."

Tell me about your home theater. You've recently upgraded. I just bought a new system, yeah. I got a Harman Kardon AVR 247 7.1-channel A/V receiver, a Toshiba HD DVD player, a DirecTV Plus HD DVR, and a Klipsch subwoofer. My TV is a Panasonic 50-inch plasma, and I was able to keep the speakers I already had mounted around the room from my previous system. I'm really happy with the new system so far. What I had before this upgrade was an all-in-one setup from a single company, but one day, the receiver-slash-DVD-player fried. So I walked through my system and decided to go with different brands for all the different components.

At first it looked so daunting with all those plugs and all wires that came up the back. But I discovered that it wasn't that complicated, so I hooked up everything myself. I'm really happy with it thus far.

Any specific HD channels or shows you've gotten hooked on? Me, I love watching sports in high-def. It really makes it hard to go back and watch regular broadcast channels. It's funny you should say that. A friend told me that he and his girlfriend watch baseball games in HD, even though neither one of them is a big baseball fan. But the clarity is so good that, since he watches a lot of Atlanta Braves home games, he can pick out who the season-ticket holders are because he recognizes faces in the crowd!

I'm pretty hooked on anything on the Discovery Channel, the Science Channel, and the History Channel. I'll watch damn near any program in HD, even if it's something I wouldn't normally watch. I'd absolutely stay with it just because I'm fascinated by the clarity of the picture.

Not too long ago, I was watching Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel, and I switched back and forth between the HD feed and the "regular" channel. I was so shocked at the difference that I thought they'd done something deliberately to make the regular channel look worse. I mean, there was no way that a channel I had been watching for years could look so different in HD, could it? But it did.

It's pretty addicting, especially any show about nature. That's the thing! Even if it's a program I wouldn't normally watch, I'd absolutely turn it on just because I'm fascinated by the clarity of the picture. Just because of the programs they put on, HBO is one of my favorite channels as far as series-watching goes. I love that I can now watch those programs in HD.

Speaking of high-def detail, I notice that certain actors and actresses now get special lighting... [laughs] That's funny. I'm going to have to look for that.

Before we go, we should take a moment to sing the praises of the almighty awesomeness of surround sound. Oh my God, I love it! It's amazing to watch my new receiver and see the icons that tell you which speakers are working in Dolby Digital or whatever. And it's interesting to see and hear how certain shows and channels only pump information through the front left and right speakers and the center channel, and certain "special presentations" have all the channels engaged in surround sound.

This Harman Kardon receiver is just amazing. Whenever surround kicks in, I still take a while to get used to it. And when it's really good, I think that there's somebody outside my house. I'll look around and go, "What the hell was that?"

Season 5 of Nip/Tuck is on DVD from Warner on May 20.

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