Hollywood actor Julie Benz, of Desperate Housewives, Buffy and Dexter stardom, discusses career highlights, dealing with criticism, and Australia, ahead of her appearance in Adelaide at Supernova this weekend.
So, you’ve been to Australia before?
I have but I’ve never been to Adelaide, so I’m really excited.
What have you enjoyed the most about Australia?
I filmed a movie, many, many, years ago, on the Gold Coast, for about three months. I love the lifestyle, I love the laidback culture. I’ve been to Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. I love the people, they’re so friendly. And it’s just fun, and I love holding koala bears. I don’t like your spiders or your snakes.
Neither do we. What is the role you most enjoyed in your career?
That’s a really hard question to answer because it’s like asking someone to pick their favourite child. But I pretty much love every role I’ve played., otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. I will say Darla in Buffy and Angel were absolutely incredible series for me. I also had a lot of fun working on Desperate Housewives, I got to work with a lot of people who I’d admired for years, which was a real treat for me. But yeah, it’s hard picking a favourite. I mean, it’s just real hard.
What role did you feel challenged you the most?
I would stay Sarah in Rambo, was definitely challenging for me. I would say Sarah, and also Eunice Bloom in The Boondock Saints II. Both those movies were very challenging for me with a lot of stunts and a lot of… Sarah was a lot of explosions and stunts and we were shooting in the jungle.
The Boondock Saints II was challenging just because, first of all I was coming into a group of men who had been friends for a long time. Trying to fit in with them… they were all very welcoming, but, you know, it was intimidating walking into that. And that accent killed me. I worked my butt off on that accent. And some people don’t like it, but I don’t care. I busted my ass on that accent, and it’s a good accent. A really good Southern accent. I don’t care if they don’t like it. I worked hard on it.
Speaking of your voice, you had a voice teacher when you were younger who discouraged you from pursuing acting. Did that push you to work harder?
You know, I guess because I knew this is what I was going to do, and I was aware – I think from years of being an ice-skater, that there was going to be lot of people telling you ‘no’ – that I just looked at her as somebody telling me ‘no’. And I do remember, someone said to me, ‘the thing that makes you unique sometimes, is the thing that people either love or hate’. So I just thought, people are going to love my voice, or they’re going to hate it.
I think she’s a terrible teacher. You are sixteen years old and, you have a dream… I think she obviously had some issues that were deeper than just me. I think that she was not a good teacher, at all. She’s probably a frustrated actor who’s teaching, and is just picking on poor, young students. So, you know, I still remember it and I would say probably in the beginning, yes I was sensitive about my voice, and yes I did work a lot on it, but in the end, I feel I started embracing it. And I realised that she was the one with the problem, and not me.
Any time anyone tells you not to pursue your dream, you need to really look closely at that person and say ‘that’s them, it’s not me’.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
I think I learnt very early on as an ice-skater that there’s no such thing as the overnight success. You have to work hard, you have to train, you have to fall down and make mistakes and that’s where you grow and learn. And I’ve always applied that to my work as an actor. The notion of discipline and focus and taking risks, and they may not always work out – but it’s okay because you’re going to learn from those. And so that’s for me, the main life lesson I’ve learned. Because nobody, nobody becomes a success overnight. Or if they do, they don’t last long!
What are the most challenging, and the most rewarding, parts of your job?
The most challenging for me. I’m a frustrated workaholic. So when I’m not working a lot, I swear I suffer the most.
And the most rewarding for me, is… I love what I do. I’ve loved it since day one. I love being on set. I love going to auditions. I love being an actor and everything that entails. For me, I love storytelling, I love delving into the life of a character and bringing her to life, and that’s where my passion is.
So I can work ridiculously long hours and never be tired but when I’m not working I’m exhausted.
I was so lucky to be able to find my passion at such a young age.
Is there a particular work you’re most proud of?
For me, definitely Rita. I mean, Darla and Rita both, I was very proud of both of those jobs. Darla because it was my first kind of big, big job, and I learned a lot that challenged me every day on that show [Buffy]. Whether it was physically, emotionally. I had to be buried alive, I had to ride a horse through fire. They had me do a lot of different things and for that, you know, I loved it.
And then, with Rita [Dexter], I went on camera with no make-up on and everybody gave me a lot of applause for that, as if I was being so brave by not wearing any make-up. And it seemed like such a silly choice, like it seemed like, such a silly thing that people would praise. But what I love is that it drew attention to my work. You know, Angel was considered a teen show, so Hollywood didn’t really watch it.
But going on camera with no make-up on… everyone was like ‘look at this actress, she’s so brave.’ I look like this every day, this is how I look! I’m not being brave, this is my face! It’s not like I changed my body shape or anything, there’s nothing very brave about it. But it allowed people to see my work, finally. To see what I could do as an actor. And that’s the bit I like.
What is the thing you’re most looking forward to about Supernova?
You know, first off, it’s the best fun ever. Supernova conventions are really the best. They attract the best fans, and they also make sure we get to experience Australia to the fullest. When I did the Sydney Supernova, I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which was an absolutely incredible experience that I never would have done on my own because I’m terrified of heights, but because everybody else was doing it I was like ‘ok, I’ll go along!’
So they provide us with incredible experiences. But also, the fans. The fans are incredible, and they’re so thankful that we came all that way. It’s the Australian hospitality. Everyone’s just so wonderful.
Catch Julie Benz at Supernova in Adelaide from Fri 1 – Sun 3 November.
Supernova will be held at Adelaide Showground, located at Goodwood Rd, Wayville SA 5034
Tickets are available here
Hollywood actor Julie Benz of Desperate Housewives, Buffy and Dexter stardom, discusses career highlights, dealing with criticism and what she loves about coming Down Under, ahead of her appearance in Adelaide at Supernova this weekend.