Julie Benz on ‘Defiance,’ Amanda’s Journey, and the Fans

Julie Benz Defiance Season 2 Interview
Grant Bowler and Julie Benz in ‘Defiance’ (Photo by: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy)

Julie Benz says she loves playing the flawed season two Amanda on the Syfy series Defiance, joking at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con that she does drunk, addicted, and damaged women really well. The Amanda we see in season two is definitely addicted and damaged, and Benz says it’s been a real challenge to get into the character this season. Last season Amanda was the strong, confident leader and this season she’s the one in need of help from her friends. “For me, it was great to move away from speeches and talking about railroad rights or whatever they were, to move into some of the more emotional side of the character,”explained Benz. “I think season one we saw a lot of the veneer of Amanda and we didn’t really get to see the underbelly of her. In season two, she’s just on her back with her legs splayed showing her underbelly.”

Defiance airs on Syfy on Thursday nights at 8pm ET/PT.

Julie Benz Defiance Interview

Will she ever fully recover?

Julie Benz: “We saw in this last episode that she had quit the Adreno for two weeks. She’s definitely trying to pull her life back together. She’ll never give up the scotch though.”

Was there a little more of Amanda’s backstory revealed to you?

Julie Benz: “Yeah, we definitely get to see some more in some upcoming episodes, and then, as Kevin [Murphy, writer] said, if we get a season three, he plans on exploring Amanda’s story, her backstory in season three.”

How much do you relate to Amanda?

Julie Benz: “I relate to her drive and just being so driven career-wise. I’ve had a career since the age of three. I was a competitive figure skater, then I became an actor. I made huge sacrifices in my life to get to where I am, so I relate to that. As far as the addiction part, I don’t have personal experience with addiction but it’s amazing the research you can find on YouTube and what you can see. I have friends that have had struggles with addiction and spent some time speaking to them as well and listening to their stories and listening to how do drugs affect you physically. It’s not just that.

There’s one scene – and I was so proud of this scene – where I go and ask Pottinger for the Adreno and my lip was twitching. It was like she wanted it so bad she could almost taste it. Someone had told me that that’s what it’s like when drugs are in front of you and you’re just waiting for that fix and you just want it. It’s like you can already taste it before it’s in you. I was really trying to create that need.”

What do you like about the character and what don’t you like about her?

Julie Benz: “What do I like? I like damaged Amanda. I like this dark underside of her. What I don’t like, I don’t like speeches. I’d be perfectly happy to never give another speech ever again in my life as Amanda. They’re not fun to have to do, and you’ve got to do them all day long. I hate speeches.”

What’s been the most challenging scene you’ve done so far?

Julie Benz: “The most challenging? All of them. So far that you’ve seen, I would say all of episode five was extremely challenging. The whole ego implant and the addiction and all of that, because there’s so many scenes within that. Even the scene with Pottinger where I reveal the rape. When you’re given a very dramatic story as an actor, sometimes it’s more heartbreaking if you play against the drama because if you play into the drama it becomes melodramatic. To try and play against it and find those moments where she could smile, even though it’s so painful what she’s saying, to find that bit of hope within it. It was a real balance. Plus, we’re supposed to be high, so we’re high and I’m revealing this story. It was like a juggling act but very small. It was like little pressures here and there.

I remember our director Alan Kroeker was so amazing and we got to shoot it a lot and do a lot of coverage on it to get the right tone of it. I didn’t want it to be like, ‘Okay, now here Amanda’s going to launch into her story now.’ It had to really come from an emotional place and it had to be emotional. But at the same time, she didn’t have to relive it. It had to be alive and then they’re high. How do you put all those elements in it? It was great.

Then we were sitting in chairs that turned, that swiveled, so we were swiveling a little bit too in the right places, and trying to find the moments where you look away and where you make eye contact. It was fun but challenging. Scary.”

How about Amanda and Nolan’s relationship? Where is that going?

Julie Benz: “They’re like the Ross and Rachel of Defiance. They’re on a break. I think they’ll always have an attraction between the two of them. I just think it’s going to be a very complicated journey for them to really commit to being together. It would be boring if they hooked up and next thing you know they’re playing house and having a baby. Nobody would watch the show. It’s so much more interesting to put them together, pull them apart, put them together, pull them apart and wonder, ‘Is this the episode they’re getting back together?’ It’s better to do that, so that’s what’s going to happen. I think eventually they’ll end up together, but I don’t know.”

Do you feel like sometimes you take her home with you, or are you very good about leaving her where she belongs?

Julie Benz: “I’m very lucky that I’m able to bring my dogs to work. That helps me reconnect in my life. It helps me. I go back to my trailer and there’s my puppies and they don’t know what I just did. They’re jumping up and down and they’re excited to see me. Then you got to take them for a walk and you got to clean up their poop and right back into real life.

I’ve been doing this, I’ve been an actor for 29 years now and I can turn it off. There’s times where you’re exhausted and there’s times where you might be a little bummed out, but I’m not a crazy person. I don’t use it as an excuse for bad behavior in my life. Just because I’m being an addict doesn’t mean I actually have to go out and become an addict. I’m not that kind of actor.”

Is there anything you took from working on Buffy or Dexter that helped you develop your role in Defiance?

Julie Benz: “Every job I have I learn from and I learn something new about myself. Characters teach me. It’s interesting. Characters inform me as much as I inform the character. There’s certain lessons you take away. Buffy and Angel was like being in graduate school. I was right out of college and I really felt like I was in the best graduate acting program ever working with Joss Whedon. It was amazing. The challenges that they put in front of me every week were different. Darla was such an epic, exotic character. She was 400 years old. They allowed us to play. They allowed us to make choices and if they failed, it was okay. It was like, you can just make a choice. Make a strong choice. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

Evolving from there into Rita, Rita’s obviously the most vulnerable character I’ve played but she helped me hone my craft on damaged women. Going from there into stronger female characters, I think every character ends up being… I feel like all the women I’ve played before are there with Amanda in the background. All their different elements and sides. I take away something from them, from each and every one.”

Shows like Buffy and Angel have such hardcore fan bases. How have you found the fan base for Defiance?

Julie Benz: “It’s a lot of the same fans. I like to joke around and say the Buffy and Angel fans grew up and became the Dexter fans and then they all followed me over to Defiance, which is awesome. I love that. It’s why I like working in genre shows is that the fans are just as passionate about the show as we are making it. They’re loyal and they’re faithful and they’re devoted, and I love that. It’s great. It’s been fantastic.”

-By Rebecca Murray

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