Julie Benz: 'Defiance' Ditches Stock Characters
Defiance is arguably the biggest TV gamble of 2013 as Syfy's fantastical new series unfolds both as an original series and a multi-platform video game that has been in development for more than five years and will work in tandem to create the richest audience experience possible.
Set in a fictional future where Earth has been ravaged and seven alien races cohabitate with humans, Defiance stars Julie Benz, Grant Bowler, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray and Mia Kirshner. ETonline caught up with Benz to talk about entering uncharted territory, why she sought out this adventure and how it feels to play the human on an alien show.
ETonline: What attracted you to Defiance?
Julie Benz: I really responded to all the female characters -- they're so complex and strong in their own right. All the women are so well-defined and so complicated and strong and they're all bad-asses. You don't see that very much on TV, especially for women my age. I get so many scripts where I'm asked to play the mother, the wife, the victim. They're fun to play but after a while you need something more current, and here, all the women are just as strong as the men -- if not stronger.
ETonline: I find that genre pieces tend to offer those parts more readily. Would you agree?
Benz: They do. And I think that's why I've been drawn to so much genre work because the women are allowed to be strong. In Defiance, I play the mayor and my sister runs the brothel, and they have a very complicated relationship. You see that all the time with brothers on TV, but you rarely see it with women. I also loved that they were unapologetic about their choices. Typically if someone is running a brothel, they're damaged in some way while the strong sister has her whole life together. Here, we have two strong women who are flawed and not apologizing for it.
ETonline: Not only does this show force you to do all the standard actorly things, but you also have to absorb an entire universe and its history. Was that tough?
Benz: We were very lucky on this because there were 5 years on pre-production before we showed up, so the creators have already thought all this through. We were given, basically, bibles of our character's past and how they got to Defiance. But at the same time, they were open to us being creative and adding to it, so we were able to put on the shoes and walk into that world.
ETonline: One thing you don't put on is prosthetic makeup. Was that an intentional choice?
Benz: Having done that in the past, I was perfectly happy to play the human on the alien show. Let the young-ins do that because I paid my prosthetic dues [laughs]. I mean, there's something fun and exciting about wearing all that stuff, but I was perfectly happy not having their early call time.
ETonline: Do you remember your toughest prosthetic experience?
Benz: I would say Buffy season one was the worst because I was, pretty much, the guinea pig. They tested all the vampire looks on me, so going through the process of figuring out what everything looked like and how we would apply it was tough. In the beginning it was three hours to put on, one hour to take off and I was wearing it every day. Then they discovered that a lot of the intricate shading wasn't being picked up by the cameras, so they got it down to 90 minutes. It was a process. I developed allergies to every remover they used to one point where they took off the prosthetics and my whole face was swollen. I mean, this was back when they used Detachol, which is the worst.
ETonline: What are you excited for fans to see with Defiance?
Benz: I'm excited for them to see the world we've created. Seeing these 7 alien races living among humans on an earth that's been totally destroyed is fascinating. And then there are the alien languages, which are so great. We have the guy who created the Dothraki [for Game of Thrones] language and he is the smartest man I've ever met, but I'm terrified when he comes towards me because it means I have to speak in an alien language -- and I have a hard enough time speaking English! [laughs] I don't have to speak it that much, thank God for everyone, but watching Jaime Murray and Tony Curran in an entirely new language that’s been created for our show is breathtaking.