Live From Toronto’s Comic Con 2011: Julie Benz Talks BUFFY, ANGEL, DEXTER and NO ORDINARY FAMILY

12:00PM: “We haven’t heard anything official,” said Julie Benz on the fate of her freshman ABC series NO ORDINARY FAMILY. “New episodes on the 22nd [of April] in our regular timeslot, then another new episode on Saturday the 26th at 10pm, then our season finale will be on April 5th at 8PM, so yeah it’s not a good sign when the network is moving you around.”

12:02PM: “Dana!” Was Benz’s answer to who’s the best kisser when it comes to ANGEL’s David Boreneaz, DEXTER’s Michael C. Hall and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES’ Dana Delany!

12:04PM: What was the only downside to what the actress characterizes as her wonderful experience playing Darla on both BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL? “Taking that makeup off, it was like having six layers of skin ripped off your face every time. It was miserable and the contact lenses were terrible. I don’t wear contacts and I don’t know how people do it, sticking things in their eyeballs all the time.”

12:05PM: From the department of things we didn’t know comes the fact that the part of Darla in the original BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER pilot presentation was originally written as ‘Vampire Girl #1′ “I was supposed to die in the pilot, but about halfway through the pilot Joss [Whedon] was like, ‘We’re giving you a name and we’re not going to kill you.’ And he did that for a while until it finally came time to kill me, and kill me, and kill me and killed me,” explained Benz when asked about the origins of the character that would quickly become a fan favorite. “For me, I was a new actor to LA, didn’t know the TV business very well so I was just excited to work and play a vampire. I had no clue what I was going to do or how I was going to be scary. Until that is, they put the vampire makeup on me and I went into the trailer and smiled, which I thought was creepy. Joss always said he was intrigued that someone who looked like me and talked like me was like the scariest vampire ever. That’s what he wanted, my sweet voice and demeanour until all of a sudden I’m just this vicious vampire.”


12:07PM: “I was shocked, really. When they sent me the script [for ANGEL] I kept asking, ‘Where’s Darla?’ I remember calling my agent asking, ‘Are you sure they want me for this episode because I can’t seem to find me?’ And then I get to the last page and there I am… naked in a box. Awesome. It was exciting.” said Benz on her reaction to discovering that Darla was being reincarnated on ANGEL.

12:08PM: “I think when you play an evil character you can’t label it as evil. Darla’s just misunderstood. Her intentions are pure, they’re just kind of warped. From her perspective — first she has to eat — she just happens to eat people! Second, she was in love with Angel, and I always viewed Darla as the jilted ex-wife that could never get over being dumped,” defended Benz when asked what the hardest thing about playing such an evil character was. “If you really look at her, you can have sympathy and empathy for her. In the beginning of her life she was a prostitute, Joss and I actually talked about that a lot, that she was probably abused growing up. She did what she needed to do to survive, she just lacked the people skills.”

12:10PM: “They’re all fun in the moment, yet the difference lies in the way each character affects my daily life,” explained Benz on whether or not she has a favorite small screen alter ego. “When I played Darla I was walking around feeling like a badass all the time. On DEXTER, when I played Rita I was much more weepy, sensitive and vulnerable. Playing Robin on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES I was goofier and then on NO ORDINARY FAMILY I really channeled that more type ‘A’ focus that Stephanie has.”

12:11PM: “I knew Sarah [Michelle Gellar] from back in New York through auditioning. She’s a lot younger than me and I was really always impressed with her work ethic,” said Benz on Buffy. “Being so young, what was she like… 19 when she started BUFFY? She worked her ass off, no complaints, very focused, dedicated and gracious. She really was amazing and I have so much respect for her because when I was 19 I could barely get to class.”

12:13PM: “I can’t name one actor that would want to be taken off a show like that. It was not by choice, but that’s the nature of the business. I know it sounds shocking, but they have to renew your contract every year and there’s no such thing as job security in television. You’re job as an actor is to bring a storyline to life and to what the writers ask of you, you’re just what I call a hired gun,” explained Benz when asked about her character’s fourth season fate on DEXTER. ‘They let me know an hour before they released the script and thank God I didn’t have much too much time to think about it. I loved playing Rita, loved working with Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter, the producers and the writers, we were very much a family. It was just that they wanted a shocking ending, something change the game and unfortunately Rita is the only one who you could have killed aside from DEXTER that really would have accomplished that.”

12:15PM: Another fun fact has Benz revealing that she originally auditioned for the part of Debra, until that is she walked into the audition room and they said ‘Oh my God, you’re our Rita.’ “Which of course I was okay with, heck I’d do Craft Service to be a part of the show. What really appealed to me about the show was that it was the kind of programming I love to watch. It’s provocative, it asks questions, it doesn’t feed you answers and it really makes you kind of grapple with your own moral code.”

12:17PM: Acting 101: You don’t have to be in a scene with your show’s big baddie to be affected by him! “I didn’t know I was going to die, so I figured as long as I didn’t have any scenes with him I was safe,” said Benz when asked what it was like to work with John Lithgow. “Little did I realize, you don’t have to have scenes with him to actually be killed by him!”

12:20PM: “The hardest part for me was that i knew. We had 10 days left of shooting, the crew didn’t know and I wasn’t allowed to tell anybody,” recalled Benz about that fateful final scene. “It was hard filming that last episode, just going to work and knowing that I wasn’t going to be playing Rita anymore. I loved her so much, there were a lot of tears… and a lot of alcohol. In fact, they only told the crew an hour before they went to shoot that final bathtub scene and that was very difficult because I had been with the crew for five years at that point and I was watching these big burly grips, even ‘transpo’ crying, they couldn’t believe it. That said, I tried to have fun with it. My boyfriend has a really wonderful sense of humor and he came to set and decorated my trailer like a morgue, bringing with him a styrofoam tombstone that said ‘Rest in Peace’ which I took and floated in the tub. It was a great four years and I wanted to celebrate that.”

12:23PM: “Singing on ANGEL was my worst nightmare, I was terrified, tone deaf and not a singer,” exclaimed Benz on her vocal prowess, or lack thereof. “The mike kept slipping out of my hand, I made Andy [Hallett] and David [Boreanaz] leave because I couldn’t even have them in the room although there were a bunch of extras that I asked to not look at me. I was terrified. On NO ORDINARY FAMILY there was talk of a musical episode and I asked to be in a coma that week. I’m so non-musical it’s not even funny. It’s my worst nightmare.”

12:26PM: “In the first season of BUFFY he wasn’t a series regular, he kind of was in the same boat as I was where we just didn’t know what we were really doing and what our future on the show so we just had fun,” explained Benz on what it was like working with David Boreanaz. “In season 1 of BUFFY David and I would just laugh it up everytime we were in vampire face not believing we got paid to run around and be vampires. It just kind of tickled us that we had this cool job. He’s really a sweet heart and a great kisser… not as good as Dana [Delaney].”

12:30PM: “I was actually taken off ROSWELL so I could go back to ANGEL because at the time the WB didn’t realize I was doing double duty, which they didn’t allow actors to do, so when they caught that why my character went crazy,” said Benz on her breif but memorable stint on the short-lived sci fi series. “But it was a wonderful experience. I got to work with Jason Katims, David Nutter, Jason Behr, Katie Heigl, Shiri Appleby and Majandra. Colin Hanks used to come up to me for acting tips and I would look at him and say, ‘Out of all your resources, you’re coming to me? Good luck!’ But it was his first job and was such a sweet kid.”

12:33PM: “I love them all except for the singing one! Obviously the episode called ‘Darla” because I have to love that one and I did love that one, but there’s also ‘Dear Boy.’ There was a moment in ‘Dear Boy’ when we were shooting in this water tank and we have that big scene between me and David where I take out the crucifix, burn it into his chest and say ‘God doesn’t want you but I still do.’ And that to me was the crux of the character, that ‘ah-ha’ moment,” recalled Benz when pressed to choose a favorite ANGEL episode. “Shooting that was amazing, even in this dark water tank, wee really got to do some amazing work, focus on the acting and the scene which I love.”

12:35PM: “I love them both for different reasons,” explained Benz on which medium she prefers. “On films you get to go to all these exotic locations and live in a hotel which is cool. But mostly what I love about television is the family that’s created on set. You spend hopefully 5-7 years with the same crew, cast and you get to be a part of their lives outside of work and I really love that family and going to work everyday. I love the camaraderie and family that’s created with TV. Versus a movie where you come together, work very intensely and then go your separate ways, see each other at the premiere and that’s it.”

12:37PM: “I would love to play Darla again, although I think I’m getting too old. Darla may not age, but Julie does!” joked Benz when asked about reprising what judging from the number of questions at the panel is clearly the audience’s favorite role of hers.

12:39PM: “It’s probably one of the greatest gifts of my career. Being a part of those shows and playing Darla, it’s taken on a life of its own,” said Benz when asked if she’s surprised about her character’s legacy. “The real gift is the global community that it has created, being able to come to conventions and meet fans who are just as passionate about the show as we were making it is the real gift. It’s mind-blowing. I don’t even think Joss realized the impact. I think he always believed in his talent because he is truly gifted, but I think it exceeded all of our expectations.”

12:41PM: “[Executive Producer] Tim Minear used to joke around at the very beginning that he was the one that kills Darla and he had two choices. The one that I always thought was really funny would be if Darla while spying on Angel doing something tripped, fell and landed on a piece of wood, accidentally disappearing leaving everybody to wonder where she went. I thought it was quite brilliant and funny,” explained Benz on what she thought of Darla’s ultimate demise. “The other idea was the one that obviously came about, I was on location shooting TAKEN in Vancouver and I knew that the story arc was leading up to her big death and I just didn’t know how it was going to happen. So when they sent me the script — which I basically had to sign my life away to read — I was sitting in my trailer and I just started to cry. I thought it was such a beautiful ending, it was the payoff and just really brought her whole life kind of to that one moment. So I was really upset my last day of filming because I really thought it was over to me. I had died many times leading up to that, which I thought every time I was dead for good. So that time, everyone was like you’ll be back, and I was like no I won’t, I ‘poofed!’ Once you ‘poof’ you’re not back. So I didn’t get the flowers, big party or anything because they were like we’re tired of doing that for you, you’ll be back.”

12:43PM: Memo to Steven Levitan, Julie Benz’s dream guest starring gig is on… “MODERN FAMILY, I would love to play Julie Bowen’s doppelganger, I think she’s brilliant.”

12:44PM: Rita would think first and foremost of her children. She doesn’t want to expose her children to anymore violence then they’ve already been exposed to. However I do believe that Rita would never believe it. Even if you showed her video tape of Dexter killing because in many ways it’s a reflection on her,” said Benz when asked about how Rita might have reacted to discovering the truth about America’s favorite serial killer. “I have this theory that I think holds true. When you’re in love with someone, sharing a life with them and creating life, like a child you have a hard time seeing the negative in them. You just want to believe the best in that person and Rita would have had a very difficult time in believing that about Dexter because it would be like a mirror being shoved up in her face as to what does that reveal about her and the child they created. So I just think it would be impossible to grasp the truth and it’s not naiveté or being in denial. It’s just an inability as human beings, like a survival mechanism, we’re not able to see the negativity. It’s like a man (and I’m just going to generalize here!) who has an affair. It takes a lot of proof for the wife to really believe it and then it’s just devastating. And that’s just an affair! Imagine you find out the person you’re sharing your life with is a killer, and not just a regular killer, a really awful killer. You wouldn’t be able to cope with that reality, so you wouldn’t believe it.”

12:46PM: As the panel came to a close we wanted to acknowledge as well as echo the sentiments of the fan who ended it on possibly one of the sweetest notes ever, “Well let’s hope Dexter starts seeing Rita like he sees Harry.”

For all the latest TV news and reviews

  • S. Wong

    Nicely retold from an attendee at the Q&A in Toronto. Julie is indeed a jewel! Thank you!

  • Nick

    Whaddaya know….someone from Buffy/Angel who actually “gets” the fan devotion to those brilliant series and is willing to discuss them in-depth.

    Julie, I always loved you as Darla (on both shows). You and Drusilla really brought the scares on Angel.

    (TVA, hope you’re still catching up on the vamps. All-time greats, for sure.)