Julie Benz on No Ordinary Family and Her Gruesome Dexter Death
After Dexter creators brutally murdered Julie Benz's angelic Rita last season, the Pittsburgh-born actress reincarnated herself on ABC's No Ordinary Family as a scientist with superhuman speed. When Benz phoned Movieline last week, she explained that her ability to keep picking herself up from one role and transition into the next was something that she learned during her sixteen-year ice skating career, where she competed on a national level before a stress fracture forced her off the rink and in front of cameras. Twenty years after her first role in George A. Romero's horror film, Two Evil Eyes, the actress has not only been killed off in one of the most savage television murders of all time, but she lives to tell the tale -- and run a six-second mile on-screen.
When Movieline spoke to the mild-mannered actress last week, Benz recalled her career falls, how it felt to submerge herself into a bathtub full of blood twice for Dexter and her favorite traumatic film scene of all time.
Even though you've played a variety of characters -- from a vampire to a loving wife to a bisexual stripper with a masters degree in education -- do you find that you are still called in to audition mostly for one type of role?
I don't think I could ever be pigeonholed. There were a lot of scripts out there with stock characters and I definitely try to shy away from characters that were too similar to Rita coming off of Dexter which is why I was very lucky to find Stephanie Powell and No Ordinary Family.
How much did your character's superpower play into your decision to take the role?
Well, the whole script was just a fun read and it married all of the things I like to do as an actor. It had comedy, it had drama, it had action. I like to call this show a dramactionomedy. And of course, working with Michael Chiklis was a big appeal to me too. Having worked with Michael C. Hall for four years, I had a little trepidation about whether I would be able to find another co-star of that caliber and I found it with Michael Chiklis.
Michael C. Hall and Michael Chiklis are such different kinds of actors yet you have great chemistry with both. Why do you think you gelled so easily with them?
Well, I worked with Michael Chiklis about ten years ago so I met him and his family then. And I would see him occasionally out and about in Hollywood. We kind of knew the same people. But that sense was there the first time we worked together. And with Michael C. Hall, I had never met him prior to the audition but [the chemistry] was just there. I guess I just work really well with Michaels.
That could be the common thread. What have you learned from both actors?
Well, Michael C. Hall has a very intellectual approach and a very internal approach. Just watching him working was like watching a master violinist play in concert. He could just do amazing things effortlessly. You just knew that every moment of his acting had been planned beforehand. And Chiklis works the way I work, which I love. It's about being really present and we're able to have a lot more fun on set. But that's also because the material is different.
The sets have totally different energies. I am lucky, I was never really involved in the crime scenes on Dexter -- except for the final scene. But the show was so dark. I would get scared just reading the script each week because the writers had a way of tapping into the dark regions of your psyche. I would be terrified and with No Ordinary Family, it is just different and playful. We have a lot of young kids on set so that helps keep things light too.
Let's talk about Rita's final scene on Dexter. As a viewer, the scene was traumatic but if you take emotion out of it, seeing Rita in that bathtub full of blood -- while her baby cried on the floor beside her -- was one of the most visually stunning television images of late.
Oh, it was traumatic. I mean, I only found out the day before we shot [that Rita was being killed off]. They had kept it a secret from everybody including me. It was, you know, it was emotional for me because here I was, saying goodbye to an entire family I had known for four years -- and having to do it so quickly. Meanwhile, I was just trying to wrap my head around the fact that I had just lost my job which is every actor's nightmare. I mean, I tried to have fun with the scene as much as I could. I knew it was a visually shocking scene with the baby nearby in Rita's blood.
What kind of response did you get from fans?
There were some fans that were so turned off by that image that they stopped watching the show while others were fascinated by it. A lot of people told me that that image disturbed them for weeks. I would walk into a restaurant and have people just gasp that I was still alive. It was a brutal image and I don't think people are used to seeing those images on television, especially involving characters that they have grown emotionally attached to. It happens in the movies but not on TV.
But then you had to get back into that bathtub full of blood this season!
I did, I did. They asked me to come back this season to help move the story forward. I had to get back into the bathtub but it was a different experience because the second time wasn't as traumatic. The first time was traumatic. The second time was more of a nice epilogue.
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