PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Film

The Last Time I Saw Paris

Paris Benjamin is a working actor in Hollywood, a long way from her acting roots in France and the UK. Her recent experiences on the sets of TV series and films shine a spotlight on the US and European entertainment industry.

Acting Is a Perennially Difficult Job

Perhaps not surprising to fans of the director, Eastwood on the J. Edgar set knew exactly what he wanted to achieve and how to go about getting the job done right. For new-to-Hollywood Benjamin, he was the ideal director. “Everyone on a Clint Eastwood set is genuinely excited and happy to be there. He makes you feel very welcome. He also makes everything look effortless. He is very quiet. He will say a couple of words for you to know what you have to do, and before you know it, it’s a wrap. He will take two or maybe three takes, and you know it’s going to be pretty much perfect.”

As if working with such Hollywood royalty weren’t enough, Benjamin also found herself wearing a beautiful period costume. Especially on a film like J. Edgar, set nearly a century ago, costumes help establish the film’s mood and tone, but they also can help an actor approach a role. “Costumes are very important if not essential to create your character. Period costumes have a tendency to give you a better feel of who your character is right away because they are more likely to make your posture, your walk, your attitude, and your movements change. All those elements have an instant impact on how your character thinks.”

The life of a working actor requires the ability to shift mental gears quickly. Benjamin has worked on the set of TV series and had offers for feature films. From an Eastwood-directed drama to The Muppets with Amy Adams and Jason Segel is quite a leap, but one that Benjamin was eager to make, in part because her inner child has never grown up. Another favorite memory from this spring’s filming involved “watching my favorite Muppets, Statler and Waldorf, on their balcony,” an experience that made one of her childhood dreams come true. Plus, “it was a riot watching Miss Piggy get her hair and makeup retouched between takes and seeing Kermit rehearse his guitar moves for his next scene!”

Benjamin enjoys working in live theatre, where anything can happen during a performance, but she prefers the variety that film roles offer her. “I like to keep things fresh and move on quickly to the next project, and making films is perfect for that. You work hard on a character, and even if the shoot is stretching over a few months, you are still playing different scenes, so it feels like it’s always new. The major problem with films, though, is that they are rarely filmed chronologically, so it’s not always easy to know where your character is at emotionally.”

Between films, Benjamin recently worked in two ABC television series, Grey’s Anatomy and Modern Family. Like the theatre or film, television provides its own unique challenges. The actor explains that “TV is very fast compared to films. An episode usually needs to be wrapped in one week. If you don’t finish what you were supposed to film during the day, it could have a serious impact on the rest of the production.”

In that respect, the US and British television industries share a common fixation on time. Benjamin’s experience on US sets reminds her of friends’ comments about making a BBC serial. The actors sometimes received that day’s script while they were in makeup in the morning. Having the ability to memorize lines quickly is a skill Benjamin learned during her first play, and it’s a handy ability to have when she is hired for a single TV episode.

Even with the speed of television, Benjamin had plenty of time to observe cast members in front of the camera and between takes. From her observations behind the scenes, Benjamin understands why Modern Family is a hit. She dishes that the cast is “absolutely hilarious, between and during takes. Eric Stonestreet, who plays Cameron Tucker, is a performer at heart. He was very entertaining between takes. I am sure that it helps knowing that your show is a hit and has been picked up again by the network for a new season, but I really felt like what you see [behind the scenes] is what you get [on TV], and that even if the cast did not already have the reassurance of being picked up, it would not change their enthusiasm.”

Paris on the set of Grey's Anatomy

Despite Benjamin’s past success in finding work in films and on television in Europe, she admits that acting is a perennially difficult job. “Finding the next job that will pay the rent and make you hold on long enough until you get the next one is the difficulty of this business here. Los Angeles is so vast you can lose yourself waiting for something to happen, and yet the business itself is so contained. No one ever said it would be easy, but to me that’s also part of the excitement of choosing this career.”

Now that she’s made the big move to L.A., Benjamin looks toward the future. “It is a difficult career, and you have to be sure that you are ready to accept and embrace all the challenges and the frustration along the way, but so far, acting has been the most exciting medium I have found to express myself and keep my life exciting. It’s a bumpy ride, but the rewards are priceless.”

To keep her focus firmly on her career, Benjamin created a list of actors and directors in the US with whom she wants to work. Where does she envision her career in five years? True to Paris’ burning ambition, she doesn’t hesitate to reply: “I will have ticked a few names off that list.”

Prev Page

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.