For Julie Benz, landing a leading role in the new ABC sci-fi drama No Ordinary Family (alongside Michael Chiklis) is just the latest step in an amazing run of television success over the past few years. Between the recurring role vampire with a heart in Joss Whedon's Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, to the perpetually trusting girlfriend in Dexter and the lesbian stripper with a masters degree and a heart of gold (I kid you not) on Desperate Housewives, Ms. Benz has basically won over half the television-viewing public of America. Buzzine's Izumi Hasegawa sat down with Julie in Hollywood, CA to talk about her latest show, playing the matriarch of a family which gains super powers after a plane crash in the Amazon...
Izumi Hasegawa: How would you describe your character in No Ordinary Family?
Julie Benz: I wanted to find a character that was the exact opposite of Rita [Dexter], and I got lucky when I found Stephanie — she really is the exact opposite. She’s a much more active character, she’s very career-oriented — at Type A personality. I was an athlete growing up and I love to be physically challenged, and having done quite a few action films, I love being challenged that way on set and doing that kind of adrenaline rush stuff, so I hope I get to do more of that on our show.
IH: How does it feel to do two shows back-to-back?
JB: There’s absolutely no hesitation. I feel so damn lucky! Somebody asked me if I thought about taking a break, and I don’t think actors think about taking breaks because self-imposed breaks are put on you. When work comes in, you take work, and I am a full believer in when work is flowing, you take it! You don’t go, “Ah, I’m going to take a break,” because trust me, in five years, somebody will be telling me to take a break. I love working in television. I love films too, but I really love working in television. I love the family that’s created on a long-running show; I love working with the same crew; I love knowing I’m going to work every day. It’s a way of having security in a world where very little security exists, as an actor. You go into people’s homes on a regular basis and they’re letting you into their house through their televisions, and it’s a whole different experience than going to a movie. I love being part of that creation.
IH: How does the family element differentiate on this show from all the other superhero shows out there?
JB: I think what you see first in the show is the family drama that exists in families naturally, and then all of a sudden we have these super abilities put on us. I described the show as The Incredibles meets Heroes with some Brothers and Sisters thrown into it, and it really is that. The basis of the show is very much like Brothers and Sisters — a family drama — and then the superpowers are put on top of that. I think we’ve all wanted to have a super ability at one point or another. We all fantasize about being able to have super speed or super strength, or being able to read minds. I’d like to read your mind right now.
IH: How much of the character’s backstory and development have the writers clued you in on?
JB: Absolutely nothing because I’ll tell.
IH: How much have you had to develop for yourself?
JB: I think Stephanie is such a well-written character that it was really easy for me to step in and bring her to life. Sometimes it’s just the right marriage of actor and character that happens. Michael [Chiklis] and I have a great chemistry together. I feel so safe with him on set as an actor. There’s a natural rapport that we have with each other. I met him ten years ago socially — maybe that helped too.
IH: Is this your first time working with him?
JB: Yes, but my ex-husband did a movie with him about ten years ago and I met him then.
IH: You’re going to be in the new season of Dexter. Is your character going to show up as a ghost?
JB: No ghost. I think they showed the trailer and you see me in a casket. I took a bath — typical things on Dexter. I just did that for one episode. Maybe if the whole season deals with the effect that Rita had on Dexter, but I’m on No Ordinary Family now, so unfortunately I’m not available to do any more.
IH: You’ve done some very darkly themed series. What’s it like to do a lighter one?
JB: It’s fun. I got my start in comedy 20 years ago, when I started in the industry, and I really thought all I was going to do was comedy, and then life changed when I took on playing Darla on Buffy and Angel, and then I got to play as a dramatic actress, and it changed even more because of Rita. So for me to go back to my roots and do something lighter… It’s really a hybrid show because there is very sensitive drama in the show, but there’s also comedy. For me, it’s the perfect marriage of genres at a perfect time in my life where I’m ready to tackle all of it. I’m ready to explore more of a lighter side.
IH: Was your stint on Desperate Housewives a nice bridge?
JB: Oh, it was a wonderful bridge. Playing Robin was just a gift. I got offered the role the day after the Dexter finale aired. I couldn’t believe it. I’d been such a fan of the show for so long, and finally to be on Wisteria Lane and play a lesbian stripper at my age, I was like, “Okay, sure!” And to go on and play a character that wasn’t going in to wreck someone’s marriage or steal someone’s husband, I went in and fell in love with one of the women on the show, and that hadn’t been done before. It was really cool, and it’s also how I met with ABC and how this came about. It was very serendipitous, how it all happened. If you had told me when I was going to take a bloodbath and my job ended that I would end up here, I would have told you you were high.
"No Ordinary Family' airs Tuesday nights this Fall on ABC.