Interview: Paul Ben-Victor ‘Should’ve Been Romeo’

Paul: "I have dreams as much as the next guy but I didn't really set out to get to a certain place"

Paul Ben-Victor epitomizes the definition of a working character actor.  He’s got that familiar mug and depending on the role people have seen, that’s usually how they’ll treat him.

He’s been approached by producers at Hollywood restaurants who start pitching him potential franchise projects, thinking he’s the man who green-lit Aquaman (from his role on Entourage) and he’s had connected goodfellas buy him a glass of chianti at nightclubs out of respect, thinking he’s the Greek who controls the Port (his role on The Wire). 

Over the last six years, Ben-Victor found himself cast in important roles on HBO shows The Wire, Entourage and John from Cincinnati (simultaneously) as well as making appearances on a slew of other shows like My Name is Earl and Everybody Hates Chris.  

Most recently Ben-Victor has done 5 seasons on USA’s In Plain Sight and soon you’ll be seeing him in a leading role in the new movie Should’ve Been Romeo, which he co-wrote, produced and is a labor of love for him.

I recently took Ben-Victor to small claims court over a frivolous dispute I made up (he’s so busy it was the only way I could get him to sit down for an interview with me, or rather to sit across from me in front of a clerk and judge). When the judge ordered all claimants and defendants to try and mediate, I got to go toe-to-toe with the chameleon character actor himself. 

Ben-Victor’s got a deep, low baritone voice with great resonance that is soothing.  I’ll let his answers speak for themselves.  

Meoli: Should’ve Been Romeo is an indy film you describe as Little Miss Sunshine meets Tootsie.  Tell me where you got the idea for this film and the characters?

Paul Ben-Victor: You’re a total wise-ass, you know that.  Can’t believe you waste my time like this.  Had to reschedule my Payless Shoes voiceover session for this. 

Meoli:  The judge said this is the time where we should answer each others questions…

Paul Ben-Victor:  Do you know how many court scenes I’ve done in episodics?   Didn’t need another.

Meoli: So Michael Goldberg wrote Should’ve Been Romeo with you?

Paul Ben-Victor: We wrote the story together,  he’s a brilliant story guy, he wrote Snow Dogs and Cool Runnings.

Meoli:  There was another writer as well, right?

Paul Ben-Victor: My Mother.

Meoli: Don’t kid we’ve only got a few minutes before we have to go back in there.

Paul Ben-Victor:  Not kidding, my mom is a brilliant writer and we wrote the movie together and then I asked my childhood friend Marc Bennett to direct it.

Meoli:  Seriously?

Paul Ben-Victor:  I checked the claim why you’re suing me.  You actually accused me of not returning your oven?  

Meoli: Improvised…

Paul Ben-Victor: Your stove oven?  Who does that…?

Meoli: This cast you got for your Romeo short is truly diverse.

Paul Ben-Victor: It’s a feature numb-nuts…

Meoli:  Speaking of nuts, what gave you the cajones to offer Kelly Osborne her first film role?

Paul Ben-Victor: Know who Mary Vernieu is?

Meoli: She’s an incredible casting director…

Paul Ben-Victor: She agreed to come on board. She brought Kelly in to read.  Kelly had such a fresh take – her english accent gave the character such a wonderful flavor and Kelly brought her own brand of humor to the role.

Meoli: I’m kinda over the English actors…

Paul Ben-Victor: You’re an idiot.  Do we actually have to go back in there and have this case heard?

Meoli: Not if you return the oven you stole from me.

Paul Ben-Victor:  OK,  now you’re scaring me…

Meoli:  The cast in your movie is impressive.

Paul Ben-Victor: Ed Asner, Carol Kane.  Got a bunch of my good friends on-board to help me out like Michael Rapaport, Natasha Henstridge, Mary McCormack,  Evan Handler and others…

Meoli: I was available too, you know…

Paul Ben-Victor: You’re in the movie.

Meoli: Thank you by the way for that …

Paul Ben-Victor: You see the iphone in my hand? I’m unfriending you as we speak.

Meoli: You know what I say about you to most people. Great work ethic.  Paul Ben-Victor will perform on any stage, even one for the county Superior court of Los Angeles.

Paul Ben-Victor: This interview’s over…

Meoli: What goals have changed for you over the years? How has your path changed the way you view the business and your role as an actor?

Paul Ben-Victor: I’ve always taken it one job at a time – I take what comes next. Perhaps I should’ve been more picky with some earlier jobs but a man’s got to eat. I have dreams as much as the next guy but I didn’t really set out to get to a certain place.  I look back and I see a path– how it all connected somehow, but I didn’t really have a plan. I just worked really hard and dove into each job head first and I hoped for the best. I just keep going and I don’t really look back.

Meoli: I’m dropping the charges. You’re cool. As in, you have that thing that attracts people to you, makes them want to know more about you.

Paul Ben-Victor: No let’s do this. Need to fine tune my lawyer moves, (ala Pacino from And Justice for All ) “You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They’re out of order!”

Meoli: You never stop working do you?

Paul Ben-Victor: Never.

Meoli: I could see if we can get an extension and move this to The Peoples Court.  I think it’s scale + 10!

Paul Ben-Victor: Not a chance.

Paul Ben-Victor stars in the upcoming Should’ve Been Romeo.  Find out more at .

Christian Meoli is a freelance journalist as well as actor/producer.  Follow him on Twitter @christianmeoli

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