"Today," he mused while settling back onto the pool-side chaise lounge and lifting his boyish face to the sun, "today, I'm just very relaxed, a little tired, but peaceful."
But his mind is still obviously quick, seemingly trying to jump one step ahead at every turn. He doesn't like verbal volleyball, but he does cherish mental games. He smiles and his grin could be termed angelic, or smug, or cordial, or unimaginative.
"I prefer to let a writer spend a little time with me, and pick up my vibes. Rather than tell you specific events in my life, I'd prefer you get a general impression of me...I'm asking you to find me." And he remains smiling.
His vibrations? He has the aura of an intelligent, poised, and self-assured young actor. Undoubtedly, an actor very comfortable at his doorstep.
In his relaxed and peaceful state of mind, Ben preferred not to comment on any of the main topics of the times.
"I'm not profound," he insists. "I'm a very private person...oh, it's not that I don't have conflicts, disagreements with people. I have conflicts with everyone!"
And you realize that by "conflict" Ben merely means the exchange of opinions between two people.
Then he continues, "Besides, I'm too old for spouting off. It doesn't do any good anyway. But I don't mean that I think spouting off is immature," and he qualifies his statement again.
"Topics like politics and religion and such are emotionally laden. Most social, political, or economic issues are just too complex for actors. No, I don't mean actors specifically. I mean most issues are too complex for politicians, statesmen, and others actively involved in the issues, so it's understandable that these same issues are outside of the realm as an actor."
"Besides, my personal opinion doesn't change a thing. That's probably why I'm not a joiner of an organization of the church or state. It's a matter of acceptance."
But it's not a blind acceptance Ben is talking about.
"Before you can accept things, you have to understand them. Once you understand something--a system, an idea--you can accept it or use it to your advantage, manage to get around it, destroy it if you choose. Understanding, awareness is all important."
After spending nine years in school--college, and two unfulfilled attempts at graduate school--Ben decided to try his hand at acting. It wasn't a matter of finding a job or establishing a career. It was a means of stimulating his awareness, his understanding.
"I felt at 23 that my self-expression was stifled. Acting was a source of developing that self-expression. It began as a means of self-searching, not a means of achieving stardom and recognition. That's been merely a byproduct.
"Acting has helped me emotionally. It has helped me come to terms with myself, helped me understand myself and others. It's helped me understand and accept myself, but I don't feel I need it any longer on that level.
"It's become a business to me. I can accept the fact that I do need the love and acceptance of people--the fans--as perhaps a compensation for a lack of personal emotional involvement. But acting to me now is basically a business."
And there are signs of his popularity all around him. Back inside his apartment, there are gifts galore from admiring fans. In addition to his lover's trophy, there are boxes personally crafted with his impish face on them. And there are pictures of him with fans, and there are literally boxes of fan mail waiting for his reply.
Most letters will receive an answer, either personally, or through his secretary, and all, of course, will have his picture enclosed. Ben, with his almost ever-present smile, seems to love sifting through his mail, looking for something amusing, assured of his acceptance.
Yet he doesn't speak as if acceptance were all that important to him.
"I don't believe in living the life of a 'star,'" he'll say. "That would limit growth. I've only made a dent in my profession, and there is so much more--especially in terms of my internal growth as a person.
"Professionally, I haven't set any unshakable goals. Maybe some day I'll own my own production company. I don't know. Right now, I'm only interested in growth and the reality of the moment.
"I've finally found a powerful self-identity. No one can match me. There is no other Ben Murphy! No one can compete with me. There is no competition with a unique personality..."
This time there was no qualifying statement. I expected Ben to comment on the "uniqueness" of every individual as a means of softening the egocentric disclaimer, and so I pushed further.
"Isn't that a bit egotistical?" I ventured.
"Oh, no, it isn't. I'm beyond ego. I really am," he assured me of himself.
"That's what I meant about understanding. I understand myself much better today than I did in the past, and through my understanding, I can accept my limitations, too.
"I know myself for what I am. I am a reality. Reality is. It's not what might be, or could be, or should be, or what we'd like it to be, or anything else. It's what is. And it's important to make adjustments if necessary.
"Of course, there are still times when I can go off the deep end emotionally--off the beaten track. But I have common sense, good sound common sense. I know what's good for me, and what's bad.
"I know my attributes, and I understand how to use them...I guess I've inherited that trait from the tradition of my hillbilly family. They all have common sense."
Suddenly the "now" young actor seems rooted in the traditions of the Puritan ethic. Only good can come of self-understanding, faith and hard work. "Growth," in Ben's terms. Reality is to be understood and implemented.
"Right now I'm very business-oriented. Parties, social things are unimportant to me. There will be time for parties when I'm an old man."
"A dirty old man?" I interrupted.
"Yeah, a dirty old man. I hope so! But right now, I'm not interested in parties--unless I just go to pick up a broad...."
Then, as if aware of a slip in character--or vibes--he continues, "I mean there are other things I like to do, like reading and playing tennis. I hardly have time for that, let alone parties.
"Besides, in a business sense, sometimes parties in this town can actually be harmful. A director or producer may assume a negative opinion of an actor after seeing him at a party, and it will reflect on him later professionally."
Ben claims not to be "image" oriented. But one wonders.
He says he's not profound, then attempts to be. But he's right, he isn't.
Ben wouldn't talk about the people he works with--past or present. "It's not good business," he states bluntly and smiles.
So, instead, he ventured a few remarks (surely not staunch opinions!) about Alias Smith & Jones.
"I'm actually very critical. At first I thought the show was crap."
Then, watching me jot down his words and probably thinking of the network's wrath, he added, "Now don't get me wrong. Don't take that out of context...." He wasn't smiling now.
"It was just that I wasn't used to television. After a while, I looked around at the other programs on the air, and I realized that ours is a pretty good little show. And have you ever tried to write a TV script? Once I did I realized it's not so easy!
"Television is a limited media. There is just so much you can do with it, but even so, within it's limitations, an actor can develop great range. He can get his artistic kicks.
"Again, it's a matter of understanding the media and working well within its context. By the time the series has come to an end, it will have done me a great deal of good." And he smiles.
You might say he understands the media, has accepted it, and is using it to his best advantage. He is developing a talent and a good business sense.
But by the time we ended the interview,
his "vibes" were less self-assured. It seems he would
have been more comfortable talking about women or his trophies--there
was more than one.
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