‘Defiance’ Star Julie Benz on Battling Aliens, Planning a Wedding and Working With Her Best Friend

by | March 14, 2013 at 11:04 AM | Defiance, Interview

"Defiance" star Julie Benz (Photo: Syfy)

TV is about to head into a new frontier … a virtually unique experience that will feature an online game and a television series called … “Defiance.”

Defiance” is “the biggest and most ambitious undertaking in Syfy’s 20 year history,” according to the cable network, “a groundbreaking transmedia event that unites high quality scripted television and online gaming in an unprecedented way.”

The highly anticipated Syfy series, coming in April, stars Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, Stephanie Leonidas, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Graham Greene and Mia Kirshner.

Set in a frontier town on a dramatically transformed Earth in the future, “Defiance” is described as a fantasy blockbuster combined with the intimacy of a small town drama. Humans and aliens known as Votans are forced to work together in a newly formed civilization to defeat outside forces that threaten their existence.

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The town of “Defiance” is set on the ruins of St. Louis, and TV fave Julie Benz (“Buffy,” “Angel,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Dexter“) plays Amanda Rosewater, the newly christened mayor of “Defiance.”

Don’t let her pretty, petite appearance fool you — it’s a tough job.

“It’s not like I’m the mayor of Los Angeles here, it’s a frontier town, a rough town, and a whole new world … and you have to protect yourself,” Benz told XfinityTV in a recent interview.

The cast of "Defiance" (Photo: Syfy)

When we asked what drew her to the role, and to the Syfy channel, Benz, 40, said it was complexity of the character that hooked her.

“I respond to these characters with a deeper mythology — I could easily go play a wife or mother — but to play a powerful woman, you’re not going to find that much in mainstream television, you have to look to genre material,” Benz told us.

The actress, beloved by the cult known as “Buffy/Angel” fans, has always loved the sci-fi genre.

“I grew up in the ‘Star Wars’ era, the original ‘Star Wars,’” Benz said, “and Luke Skywalker was ‘my guy,’ my sister had Han Solo — thank God there were two of them we could fight over — and when we played make-believe, we’d fight over who was Princess Leia.”

Despite the fact that they are fighting for a new world on “Defiance,” there was no fighting behind the scenes, probably because Benz was working with one of her besties.

“Defiance” co-star Jaime Murray, who plays cunning alien wife Stahma Tarr, is Benz’s real-life best friend, and sharp-eyed viewers will realize they’ve seen these two hotties on-screen together before.

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Benz starred as Dexter’s wife Rita Morgan for four seasons on the hit Showtime series — before she was killed off in 2010 in one of TV’s most shocking season finales ever — and Murray is the British actress who co-starred in Season 2 (2007) as Lila Tourney, Dexter’s AA sponsor (aka the psycho-stalker pyromaniac).

“Jaime and I have been best friends since we met on ‘Dexter,’” Benz told XfinityTV. “It’s one of the reasons I took this job too, because if I was going to go on location to do a series ['Defiance' was shot in Toronto], how great would it be to go with one of my best friends and get to work with her.”

Jaime Murray, (L), in character on the set of Syfy's "Defiance," and Jaime Murray, (R), promoting "Defiance" at the TCAs in January 2013 (Photo: Syfy/Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

“Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of scenes together, because we cause too much trouble,” Benz laughed, “we’re like the bad kids in class getting yelled at all the time, but we do have some [scenes], and it was just great to be a part something together.

“You know, acting can be quite a lonely business when you go on location,” she continued. “You learn to really love room service, and know your hotel staff really well, and so to have the opportunity to have one of your built-in friends come up, and you just immediately have things to do and places to go and ways to spend your free time, it doesn’t feel like you’re away from home as much.”

Being away from her Los Angeles home to shoot “Defiance” in Toronto ended up being something of an unfortunate timing issue for Benz — she was in the midst of planning her wedding to marketing executive Rich Orosco (the couple married May 5, 2012) during filming.

Even though she was battling aliens during the day, Benz was no Bridezilla. In fact, her then-fiance was forced to handle a lot of the wedding details himself, while Benz was playing with guns and kicking butt — and the irony of that makes Benz laugh.

“There was one day, while filming the pilot, where we get to take them [aliens] out with machine guns — which was pretty awesome — and I’m leading the charge. And what was really fun was, that was the week before my wedding, so my husband was left back in L.A. planning the wedding, and I’m on-set with these futuristic weapons shooting at these aliens, and he’s texting me about flowers for the wedding,” Benz said.

“And I had to do like the whole ‘Braveheart’ charge thing – we’re going into battle! – and I’m like, babe, I can’t talk flowers, I’m about to go kill some aliens!”

“Defiance” will launch as a multi-player online game on April 2, while “Defiance” the TV series will premiere Monday, April 15 at 9/8c on Syfy.