Name a genre and it’s a fairly good bet that actress Julie Benz has starred in it. Her career has been eclectic, to say the least, but it’s a career that has served her well. She’s been in big productions, smaller productions, and some productions that have been life-altering for the actress.
You may not know Julie Benz by name, but chances are you’ll know her when you see her.
THE EARLY YEARS
Even in her early career, Julie Benz didn’t have a specific direction she was headed in. Her career started with the horror film Two Evil Eyes, where she worked with horrormeister director Dario Argento. Her next job was in the TV series Hi Honey, I’m Home, a weird one about a 1950’s sitcom family who participates in the Sitcom Relocation Program and is transported to a 1990s suburbia.
It took Julie Benz a couple of years after Hi Honey for her to find more work, but she did, in the form of more comedy in Married…with Children. She was then in Hang Time, Step by Step, Empire, Boy Meets World, Diagnosis Murder, Sliders, and The Single Guy. She also found parts in TV movies such as the Disney remake of The Barefoot Executive, Crosstown Traffic, and Hearts Adrift.
JUILE BENZ ENTERS THE WHEDONVERSE
1997 was a busy year for Julie Benz. She got parts in the movies A Walton Easter, Inventing the Abbotts, Darkdrive, As Good as It Gets, and Veronica’s Video. She also found time on The Big Easy and Fame L.A.
But 1997 was also notable for the actress because this was the year Buffy the Vampire Slayer entered her life. Julie Benz actually auditioned for the lead role as Buffy, which she eventually lost to Sarah Michelle Gellar but the producers liked her enough to offer her a smaller recurring role as Darla, a vampire who made a few appearances in season one, two, and then lastly in season five.
Buffy creator Joss Whedon liked her character so much that he crossed her over to his Buffy spin-off Angel. Julie Benz appeared in four of Angel’s five seasons with most of her work in seasons one and two.
Julie Benz’s Buffy and Angel years were from 1997 through 2004 and during this time, Benz continued to find other mediums. She was in Ask Harriet, Conrad Bloom, The King of Queens, and Roswell. She also got her first TV series lead role in Payne. The show wasn’t well received and lasted only nine episodes.
To Benz’s credit, she wasn’t fazed in the least with the direction of her career. She continued to work and get a lot of it. Before she was completely finished with her Buffy/Angel time, she worked more TV and features. This would include Glory Days, Taken, George of the Jungle 2, Coupling, Peacemakers, and The Long Shot.
JULIE BENZ ON DEXTER
Julie Benz’s eclectic career continued after her Joss Whedon years. She grabbed roles on NCIS, Oliver Beene, Bad Girls from Valley High, and 8MM 2. She was a guest star on Supernatural and two CSI shows, CSI: Miami and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Her entire career led her up to her next big role as Rita Bennett in the serial killing series Dexter.
As Rita, Julie Benz was first Dexter’s girlfriend, later becoming his wife. Being the wife of a serial killer can be traumatic enough but it was her brutal ending on the series that was truly traumatic for the actress. She told MTV just how traumatic it was for her, “I was more shocked about it probably than anybody. I found out an hour before they put out the script. Then I only found out an hour before we shot the scene how I was going to die — they wouldn’t tell me or anybody. It was the last scene of the season, so my family — the crew, who I spent five years with from the pilot forward — was very emotional and upset because they couldn’t believe it.”
Because of how the series handled real and imaginary characters, it would stand to reason that there was a good chance that Julie Benz could reappear at any time on the show, even after her death. Benz felt different about that possibility though, “I’ve always felt like Rita was his external and Harry was his internal because Harry knew Dexter’s secret and Rita was his cover. There’s no reason for her to exist in Dexter’s internal life. I also know that they have been trying so hard to move past Rita’s death, which I know has been a difficult journey for them. Any kind of bringing her back would set it back.”
Julie Benz did make one more appearance on the show before it ended, this was at the beginning of season five (following her death in the season four finale) where she was able to get a more satisfying send-off. But her character was to be seen no more after this.
JULIE BENZ IN RAMBO
Of all the roles Julie Benz has played in her career, her role in the 2008 Sylvester Stallone movie Rambo was probably the one that most affected the actress on a deep, personal level.
The story told of a group of Christian aid workers who travel to Burma to help the war-torn country and give aid to the men, women, and children affected by the cruelty. Julie Benz plays one of the aid workers who end up being kidnapped by the ruthless army. Rambo takes in a group of mercenaries to help save the workers.
The reality of the situation is what touched Julie. She recalls the first time she got the script in her hands. “When I first read the script, I thought, there is no way this is real. This is total fiction. Then I got online and started researching Burma, and I saw images of children missing limbs trying to flee for safety, the mass persecution and the mass genocide. It’s the most underreported war in the world. I remember sitting in my office just balling because I couldn’t believe it was true.”
Once Julie Benz got over to Thailand to shoot, more reality set in for the actress. “When we shot in Thailand, they used a lot of real refugees, especially the children. I was carrying a little boy who lost his leg because his family was fleeing to safety and he stepped on a land mine. I didn’t want to ever put him down — he was so playful and fun. I could only think of the horror his family went through and now they are refugees living in a camp and they can’t return to their country. They live basically in limbo. I think we all felt it while we were on set, we can’t go back and not try to do something.”
Her appearance in the movie also affected her home life in Los Angeles, where the actress says many Burmese people would approach Julie Benz and thank her for finally telling their story. They also told her of the chances their people take by watching the movie in Burma. “Rambo was sold on the black market and, if you got caught watching it, you got seven years in jail. If you got caught selling it, you got a lifetime in prison. Yet people were holding underground screenings and cheering because finally their story was being told.”
JULIE BENZ NOW
Now 48-years-old Julie Benz is married to her second husband, Rich Orsco. The couple married in 2012. She continues to find a wide variety of work in Hollywood. Benz is probably one of the best examples of what a working actor can be. Not settling on one specific type of role but spreading her wings and challenging herself.
Julie Benz was in Desperate Housewives, No Ordinary Family, Royal Pains, A Gifted Man, Defiance, Hawaii Five-O, Training Day, and most recently On Becoming a God in Central Florida.
With her resume, expect to find Julie Benz in a drama, a comedy, horror, rom-com, name it. She isn’t picky.