Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel. Dexter. Defiance. Desperate Housewives. CSI. Supernatural. Hawaii Five-0. If you've made a popular TV show, chances are good Julie Benz has had a significant role in it. (I only listed about half of them, too.) The talented blond beauty has over 80 credits in television and film to her name, many of them very geek-friendly. On the movie side, she's been in recognizable titles like JAWBREAKER, RAMBO, SAW V, PUNISHER: WAR ZONE, and on and on. Bottom line is, if you're a fanboy or girl, you've seen Julie in something or other.
Julie can currently be seen in the horror film HAVENHURST, in which she plays a grieving mother who moves into a shady halfway house. Once her fellow tenants start disappearing, Julie's character Jackie begins investigating - something she'll very likely regret. (Julie can also be seen on TV right now in CBS' Training Day series.)
I recently spoke to the wonder Ms. Benz about her work on HAVENHURST, her incredibly busy career, balancing work and family, which shows have the most dedicated fans, how she became known as the "Social Media Czar" and much more!
So just to get right into it, tell me a little bit about Havenhurst. It's a very dark and very creepy and cool looking movie. How did you get involved with it to begin with, what was appealing about the character for you?
I really loved the script. I love the fact that Jackie is not only battling inner demons but she's battling the demons at Havenhurst as well. And the movie, for me, is not just a horror film it's also very ... It's a drama-driven horror film so there's a real story behind it. There's also some real blood and guts and gore as well. And then there's a historical element as well with the exploration of H.H. Holmes, you know the serial killer during the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair so there's so many different elements and twists to this movie that really appealed to me.
You were mentioning the character's inner demons, I mean she's clearly quite broken up throughout the film. How tough is it for you to get sort of to that emotional place?
I'd like to say it was really tough but it's not.
Is that good or bad?
I play damaged women really well and it's funny cause I don't think I'm damaged. I'm a pretty uplifting, positive person but for some reason I'm able to ... I don't know, I feel like I understand the complexities of certain types of women and what they're feeling and I don't really fully understand why. I like the challenge of tackling a character that is very different than me. It was not just the physical transformation of dying my hair black and looking very different but also I carried my body differently with her. Everything was very down and especially in the beginning she's so broken in the beginning and to me the burden of knowing that her addiction caused the death of her child is. I tried to put that into every breath that she took, every movement. And she's so slow in the beginning, every movement is slow so she's moving through mud. Because she has to carry that burden and not only carry that burden but carry it sober so she's fighting two battles really. In the beginning. She can't escape into alcoholism again so she's having to handle all this sober which is really tough. Really tough on her.
I think it would be tough on anybody. When I was watching the movie I was like "I would definitely want to drink through some of that stuff."
Yeah, exactly and you know, everyday she has to live with the reality that she caused her daughter's death, and just even thinking about it makes me very sad. It would be very hard to move on.
Are you personally a fan of scary movies and movies of this sort because I couldn't help but think of the time you were also in Saw 5?
You know, I am. I like being scared through my entertainment because I don't like being scared in real life so I do enjoy the rollercoaster ride of this genre as a fan. As an audience member. But recently I've been watching just a lot of comedies, and I think it just goes to show depending on what is going on in the world kind of dictates where your entertainment lies. So for me right now, I'm drawn to more comedies at the moment. But I read a lot and I love reading everything from horror to different genres to serial detectives to silly chicklets, you know I read everything. And it's the same as my viewing, I find that I bounce all over the place because I love to be entertained on many different levels.
You work so steadily. It seems like you're in a new movie or a new TV show all the time. How do you find the time to balance out working so constantly and also having a personal life?
I don't know, I'm a bit of a work-a-holic and I love working. And I also love having a personal life as well. I just think it works. You know everybody is busy these days whether you're an actor or not. People are just busy and you just make it work. You set priorities. My husband and I have a rule that we never go more than two weeks without seeing each other. So whatever that sacrifice is. If I'm on location filming... Even if I can only fly home for 36 hours, it's what you do. I'm lucky that I have a lot of friends for a very long time and they understand that I'm not always around, I'm not always in town. I might not physically be around but I'm always reachable by my phone and with technology today it's great.
I'm sure there's thousands and thousands of actors who wish they had your schedule.
I always say every day I'm on set is a good day. And that's what I love doing, I love being on set. So every day I'm on set is a good day. I think about 15 years ago I made a conscious choice not to complain on set. So many actors complain when they get a job. And they complain about the hours. And they complain about craft service. And they complain about this and they complain about that. And how tired they are and all this stuff. And I made a conscious choice because I realized ... I looked around the room and I realized there's other people, like the crew, they work longer hours than we do. They don't have trailers. They're not catered to. They're not being paid. They're away from their families just as much as we are. And I always remind myself "There's somebody who's there before me and there's somebody there after me." So you can't complain. And there's a hundred thousand people in the wings to take me job behind me. So be grateful for every moment I'm on set ... I'm grateful for.
Going back to your TV work, you've been apart of so many major shows with these giant fan bases . Which show did find, or do you still find, had the most dedicated fan base?
Wow, I mean I always say the Buffy/Angel fans, they all grew up and became Dexter fans. It's the same really. And they all followed me over to Defiance as well, so it's a very similar fan base. I will say what was really great with Defiance ... They had the Buffy/Angel posting board but we didn't have social media back then. And social media was just getting starting. Twitter was just starting when we were on Dexter, it wasn't like it is today. So the experience with Defiance was being able to live tweet with fans and having that experience, it was truly amazing. I've become friends with quite a few of the fans that I met through Twitter through their dedication for the show and their dedication to live tweet with us every week. And that for me was a very special experience having that immediate outreach and having that ... You know, now every show you live tweet, but for me Defiance was the first one that we did it on.
And I organized the whole social media aspect for Defiance. I got all the actors on board to do it. I organized the whole thing. My nickname was the Social Media Czar. And I tried to turn it into a social event , like sit down with the cast and we're going to be snarky. And we're gonna be funny. And we're gonna drink wine. And get drunk with us and we'll have a great time. And it turned into this fan/fun event night every week and so having that experience was really cool and the show lends itself to that. You know I wish we had social media back in the Buffy/Angel days and I wish it was more prevalent during Dexter. It would've been fun to have that immediate give and take with fans.
Right. But the good thing is, people still talk about Buffy and Angel to this day so it didn't go anywhere.
No, I know. It's interesting. I meet people all the time who grew up watching Buffy and Angel and now they have children and they're introducing their children to Buffy and Angel. Joss is a genius, the show stands on it's own legs twenty years later. It was twenty years ago. The themes of the show, the world that was created ... It stands on its own, and maybe aside from the sight of the cell phones, that's the only difference.
Absolutely. Well it was such a pleasure talking to you and thank you again so much for your time and good luck for everything coming up.
Aww thank you so much!