At Dragon Con, Julie Benz opened up to press about what makes acting so fun, the importance of aging, and the imperfection of people.
Julie Benz (Defiance) is really showcasing her talent in both network and smaller, independent roles. The only requirement: create a really dynamic character who doesn't fall into stereotypical tropes.
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Next up for the actress is a "really small independent film" called Circle. Benz plays Wife in the sci-fi style movie where fifty people are held captive in a circle and every three minutes someone's killed. Each person dies a different way that focuses on their character's arc with only one person set to survive.
Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione wrote and directed the piece, which is due out sometime this year. Previously, the two worked on The Vault together. And Taggart Productions and Votiv Films produced Circle. The film also stars Carter Jenkins (The Following), Fay DeWitt (Red Dead Redemption), Michael Nardelii (Revenge) and Lisa Pelikan (Return to the Blue Lagoon).
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress picked the project based on talent of crew, actors, production, and intense belief in the project.
"What I loved about it was the challenge making the film where there's no props, no movement, no blocking. And it's just all about the work.”
For an actress known for working in sci-fi, the appeal of sheer talent without aids is completely understandable. A new way to create a role, to build the character’s interior mind, without being able to depend on tricks or sleight-of-hand.
And Benz seemed enthusiastic to be working with "amazing actors whose faces you see but wouldn't know really know" and ultimately had "an amazing experience."
There's a lot of faith in the filmmakers, too. "I think I really think they are going to go somewhere." Looking for small, special projects appear to make the actress feel grounded in her choice of career.
Working in the business since she was 13 provided a lot of time to really understand what makes a better performer and what creates a deep connection to a character and project. I've never seen an interview, panel, or talked with the actress as a fan when she wasn't giving at least a hundred percent.
She couldn't reveal too much about Circle since there's no official statement to talk about at the moment. However, don't expect it on the big screen. "It's definitely a festival film." Right now, Circle's expected to make the film festival circuit.
In fact, she tends to be pretty intense in looking for roles that challenges expectations while showcasing the many aspects of women on screen.
Growing up and not seeing women her age now (42) made an impact. She suggests the higher number of actresses "in a starring role" outside of "mothers and background" happened in part because the women are "allowed to age."
With a small laugh, an acknowledgement of Hollywood's emphasis on youth, the actress says, "I'm allowed to get older and continue to work." And aging's important for women looking for representation.
No one stays the same between 19, 49, or 79. Bodies settle into new shapes, wrinkles and laugh lines appear, and those physical characteristics do not take away from someone's talent. Only implies a great knowledge of the industry and world.
There's also an acknowledgement on those who helped to break down some of the barred doors.
"I'm not leading the way. Only following the footsteps of so many women before me who have kind of been able to burst through the ageism and genderism in television." In short, being a role model doesn't end once a woman ages past 30.
Taking those roles, the ones made for women beyond traditional gender stereotypes offers the chance to bring a multifaceted character to life. While some roles are given to the actress, she still auditions but goes for the women who aren't perfect.
The question is why does she pick these flawed, challenging women. "Because I'm not a perfect woman. I don't live in perfection."
If a viewer sees those flawed traits in her work, the action is intentional since "there's a little bit of damage in each of us." People are flawed, which she plainly says that "I love that about people." And she brings that element into her roles after building a mental background for the women she portrays.
Take Amanda Rosewater on SyFy's Defiance.
In the beginning, Amanda was "the idealist" and "moral compass of the show." In fact, "she's the only one in the show with morals." Granted, the morals aren't lofty, but there nonetheless. But as with most post-apocalypse realities, the world was a little too dark for the idealism to last and "tearing up" that rose-colored view was good.
A little bit of grit won't change the fact Amanda will always be "the hero of the show."
The Pittsburgh-native looks for the flawed, damaged pieces in friends as well. "I don't just love the perfection of them. You also have to love the flaws."
From an actor’s experience, loving the flaws also taps into a space to help round out characters. Studying humans, understanding them, helps to create an arsenal of choices to make every role dynamic in some way.
And she feels "the universe has taken really good care of me" by bringing "some amazing scripts and roles." Even though "there's no science" in how the roles have arrived, it's easy to see how those offering roles may look at her body of work and deep connection to humanizing a character as a bonus.
After all, Joss Whedon kept coming back to the actress.
Darla went from a ruthless vampire without any thought beyond her own, or Master's, to wanting to save her son Connor in a very heartbreaking episode—witnessing the failure of chance. I don't think it's a hard leap to say part of the reappearances occurred because of her willingness to make Darla vulnerable and human long before the character found the story arc.
However, make no mistake: Julie Benz will not fall into a puddle of angst because of crushing criticism, either.
Weakness does not imply a character or personal flaw. Of course, in this instance, the actress felt that previous experience in competitive ice skating taught the value in being thick-skinned. “I grew up performing in crowds of people. And so it was a natural progression.”
From the age of three, ice skating also taught “discipline, hard work, and made me realize there’s no such thing as an overnight success.” Sports demonstrated how to be “dedicated and committed” to doing something you love to the best of your abilities. And how to show up on time.
Watching the press conference happen, hearing the joy in her voice, witnessing the happy smile while speaking directly to the reporter asking question, you see how much she loves what life offers and provides. There's a serene quality to the petite actress—a woman who sits composed and confident in the person she truly is.
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Julie Benz may not have seen many women roles models on screen growing up, but the millennial generation is very lucky to have her on screen-embracing age, beauty, and wisdom so gracefully and genuinely.