Julie Benz rises as Hollywood’s next scream queen
The actor has been steadily venturing into horror starring in major titles like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dexter and Saw V, but now she is picking up the pace and ready to take over the genre.
“I’m attracted to that dark work,” Julie says.
She has been for a long time.
Twenty five years ago, Julie made her acting debut in masters of horror Dario Argento and George A. Romero’s Edgar Allan Poe-inspired film Two Evil Eyes.
Julie says the allure and her fascination with scary movies is easy to break down.
“It’s because my life is so normal and not dark,” she explains. “And I like the challenges of playing in that world. I love being challenged physically as well as emotionally. I really throw myself in.”
Julie nose-dived into her latest role in the supernatural thriller Havenhurst the newest movie to come from the producers of Saw.
The upcoming film follows Jackie (Julie’s character), a woman fresh out of rehab, who takes up residence in a Gothic apartment complex in the heart of New York City where she is cornered by a terrifying evil, not to mention her own demons.
Parenthood’s Josh Stamberg, Belle Shouse of Secrets and Lies and horror fan favorite Danielle Harris of the Halloween and Hatchet fame co-star.
Havenhurst will be in select theaters and available via Video On Demand, iTunes and other digital services in February, but for now, you can look for Circle, another scary movie with Julie in the lead.
The psychological hair-raiser, also starring Michael Nardelli of Revenge, The Collection and Another Happy Day and Kevin Sheridan of Hart of Dixie, takes after cult classics like The Cube, 12 Angry Men and The Twilight Zone and sees 50 strangers awake confined in a room without their memories. As time tics on, those captive come to realize that every two minutes someone among them must be put to death by a collective vote.
With these spooky scripts piling up like bodies in a bloody slasher, Julie’s filmography is looking like a real fright fest.
Julie admits that a pack of these productions actually creep her out. The job that gave her the most chills was her role as the villainous vampire Darla in Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off series Angel.
“Every week they would throw something at me that scared me to death. One week I was buried alive, another week I had to ride a horse through fire, and then they asked me to sing. It was terrifying,” she laughs.
All fond memories though. Of all the characters Julie has played since her 1990 beginnings, Darla is her favorite.
“One of the best gifts I had ever been given was that story line,” Julie says. “They did an amazing job with Darla and the arc they gave me to play.”
Buffy & co. also did a bang up job at launching her career.
Way back in ’96, a hopeful Julie with little acting experience auditioned for the part of Buffy which obviously she lost to Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Cue one of the biggest consolation prizes in TV history. Julie was offered the teensy part of Darla in the pilot episode, and after charming the hell out of everybody, she was written into the series and its spin-off as a large-scaled recurring character.
Julie even scored a fierce and fiery backstory entwined with main vampire hunk Angel, who, as you know, was played by David Boreanaz currently of Bones.
Talk about a lucky break. The girl knows it and is eternally grateful.
Julie is especially thankful for the epic death scene she was handed during Angel’s fifth and final season in 2004 where Darla trades her life for that of her unborn child.
“When they sent me the script of how Darla was finally going to go by staking herself, I thought it was one of the most beautiful things ever written. There was such beauty and poetry in that moment. This character that you all hated redeemed herself and people fell in love with her.”
And in love with Julie.
By that time her fanbase was massive and opportunities were knocking the door down. Enter Rita Bennett.
In 2006 Julie landed a supporting role in Lifetime’s award-winning prime time slasher series Dexter. Her role as Rita shot her career to new heights and became another horror highlight and personal favorite.
“I really loved her fragility,” Julie says of Rita, who she played in seasons one through five. “In many ways, she suffered more violence, more abuse in her life than Dexter did, but she still had hope. It was her hope that really attracted me to her. This woman who had gone through so much physical abuse and violence still believed in love.”
Julie’s strong roles in Dexter, Buffy and these latest productions have given her just the right amount of ammunition she needs to defend her title as scream queen and her rule is looking like it’s going to be a lengthy one.
Funny thing though, Julie didn’t initially set out to claim the throne.
“I got into this business to do romantic comedies and I haven’t done one,” she laughs. “Not one.”
Havenhurst is in select theaters and will be available on VOD, DirecTV, iTunes, Googleplay and other digital platforms on Friday, February 10.
Look for Circle on Netflix now.