Even if you’re not familiar with the name Julie Benz, chances are you’ve seen her in something. From either down ‘n’ dirty action flicks like Rambo and Punisher: War Zone, to hugely popular television shows like Desperate Housewives and Dexter – and of course cult favourite Joss Whedon shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, where she played the villainous vampire Darla.
Benz was gregarious and candid, exactly the qualities you’d want in somebody who has their own panel at a pop culture convention. At the end, she offered us a sincere and heartfelt thanks for asking questions that made her look consider her career in a serious way, as usually the deepest question she’s asked at those conventions is “What’s it like to kiss David Boreanaz?”.
Here are six of the most interesting things we learned.
- From Anonymous Henchman to Big Bad
Benz’, although definitely not as big a player in the Buffy mythos as she was in Angel, nonetheless has one of the most important scenes in Buffy history – the very first scene! If you’ll recall (or have never seen the show) she’s dressed up in a school girl outfit while being led by a leather-clad bad boy type to a secluded area, much to her protests. Sounds conventional. But convention is upheaved for the first, but certainly not the last, time when it’s revealed she’s the blood-sucking fiend. It was a scene that set the tone for the entire series. “Originally I was supposed to be just a one off, I got killed a few episodes later.” But when she was brought back for Angel‘s second season, Benz revealed that she had quite a bit of input in creating the newly resurrected Darla – her backstory, mannerisms, etc. Not only was she fantastic as Darla, but it seems she had a key role in creating one of the most engrossing, complex storylines in Whedon’s oeuvre.
- Rambo Sounded Like Hell
Julie Benz didn’t have a hugely significant role in Rambo from 2008. But that’s to be expected when it’s the Sly Stallone show (he directed the thing too). Rambo saving a bunch of missionaries in Myanmar is the bare-bones plot. As filthy as the flick and its scared characters look, apparently it’s actually even worse. “From almost the beginning to the end, I was covered in pig shit. Actual pig shit. I’m so glad you guys couldn’t smell us. And there was one scene where I had to run past an explosion. I was in my trailer just crying, thinking ‘I can’t do this’ ”. Of course Benz did end up performing the stunt; so when you watch that one, know that the discomfort and terror didn’t require any pretending.
- Whedon’s Shakespeare in the House
“Here’s the thing. Joss Whedon doesn’t really do parties. Well, he does. But his parties involve all of the guests reading and performing Shakespeare. I was Lady Macbeth.”
- Going out With a Drunk On
Julie Benz’ gruesome exit from Dexter left fans reeling. But none more than the actor herself. Even recalling the circumstances of leaving the show, Julie Benz’ eyes got unmistakably glassy and her voice faltered. But she ended her tenure on the show in a memorable (maybe not the right word) by getting super drunk. “All I had to do in my last scene was be a dead body. So I thought, y’know, downing tequila shots before that seemed the thing to do.”
- She Never Watches Her Own Shows
“I can’t watch any of my own shows. I know too much about what goes into them. I know that just behind the door in any given scene, the catering table is there or something. When I watch tv, I just want to be entertained like you guys.”
- Her Thoughts on the Dexter Finale
It’s hardly a secret that the finale of Dexter drew an unusual amount of ire. One fan asked how she felt about it, being a key part of the show and all. Benz said, “You know, at first I compared it to something like the ending of The Sopranos. It didn’t felt like the best ending for that show. But as I watched it again years later, it works better. Maybe the same thing applies to the Dexter finale.”
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