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Julie Benz

Julie Benz - "Desperate Housewives" Tv Series - Afterellen.com Interview

Sunday 7 February 2010, by Webmaster


Julie Benz has an eclectic resume, but most AfterEllen.com readers know her as Darla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel or, most recently, as Rita on Dexter. (Caution: Spoilers ahead if you are a Dexter fan who isn’t caught up on season 4.).

Her latest role, as of last week’s episode of Desperate Housewives is as a stripper named Robin who befriends Susan (Teri Hatcher) before quitting her job and moving in with her. We found out this week that Benz’s character is a lesbian who will fall for Katherine Mayfair (played by Dana Delany). As of now, Benz isn’t sure how much longer Robin will be around Wisteria Lane, but she’s hoping it’ll be for more than just one kiss.

AfterEllen.com: How did you get the gig on Desperate Housewives? Have you always liked the show?

Julie Benz: I’ve always been a huge fan of the show — I’ve seen every episode. Pretty much the way this went down was, literally the day after the Dexter season finale aired, I got a phone call asking if this was something I’d be interested in doing, and I was like "Sure! Of course!" And it was funny because my manager was like, "You’re going to be playing a stripper." And I said, "OK!" And he said, "And you’ll be a lesbian." "OK!" He was like "OK!"

To me, it’s like, how different from Rita on Dexter! And what a fun way to come on to a show. I think people were expecting my character to break up somebody’s marriage, and here I’ll have this great romance with one of the women on the show. That interested me as well.

AE: So is Robin a lesbian? Is that how she would identify herself?

JB: Yes.

AE: What about Katherine? Is that going to be something difficult for her as a straight woman to think of herself as bisexual? Is she confused?

JB: I don’t know a whole lot about the storyline, but from what I do know, it is going to be a part of Katherine’s journey to figure out. "What is this?" Katherine has had quite a history of dating men that haven’t turned out to be very good for her. I think the question you have to ask yourself in real life is, if you connect with somebody, why let gender, religion or race get in the way. I think that’s the struggle, the challenge that she has.

AE: How do you feel about playing a lesbian? You haven’t played one before, have you?

JB: No, I haven’t. You know, I would say Darla on Angel was pretty much asexual. I didn’t have any love scenes or anything but there was some insinuations of stuff between Darla and Druscilla.

AE: I’m sure some Angel fans could definitely read into the subtext.

JB: For me, it’s an interesting character. Robin is just a really wonderful spirit. It just so happens she’s a lesbian. She’s a really wonderful spirit. She’s got a good soul and a good heart and that’s what they said to me about the character. And she’s not going to come in and wreck someone’s marriage on the show. It’s been done before.

AE: Desperate Housewives has previously had a lesbian kiss and people thought it was a ratings stunt. Do you think this will be different because there will be a relationship developing out of it?

JB: Yeah it is different because there is a relationship developing out of it.

AE: Well that’s good to hear, especially for you because you don’t know how long you’ll be on the show for.

JB: Yeah, I don’t know. I hope it lasts forever! It’s a great place to go to work. I’ve admired the work on the show for so long. I’m a huge fan and it’s been great. I love the actresses and they’re ones who’ve inspired me in my own work. To be able to go to work everyday and work with these women, it’s amazing. I would love it to last forever.

I think it’s a great story, too. Katherine’s journey is very interesting and it’s current in what we’ve seen with recent years with older women discovering that they’re gay later in life. Like with Meredith Baxter recently — coming out publicly. It’s a very current topic. It’s an interesting thing to explore.

AE: As far as your being killed off on Dexter, do you have any feelings about that? Were you excited to be able to then have the opportunity to go on playing a lesbian stripper?

JB: [Laughs] When I found out I was being killed on Dexter, I didn’t really have the foresight that I’d be a lesbian stripper on Desperate Housewives. I was in shock — I found out right before we shot it. It wasn’t like I had a lot of time to prepare. I was shocked because I loved being a part of the show. I loved playing Rita. I loved working with the cast and the crew and the writers. So it was quite shocking but I got over the initial, "Oh my God, I just lost my job," you’re able to see it from a storytelling standpoint. It was aggressive storytelling and it needed to be done in many ways.

AE: It seems like Dexter is going to change a lot though, not only with Rita being gone but with the original showrunner leaving as well.

JB: Yeah, I’m sure it will be. I’m sure bringing in a new showrunner. Now that I’ve had the time to mourn the loss of Rita and move forward, it is exciting to go onto Desperate Housewives and play a lesbian stripper.

AE: So do you think you’ll ever go on the pole? I know you haven’t yet.

JB: No, so far Robin’s been fired and trying to find a real job. I’m disappointed because it was being shot at the Purple Rhino which is a famous, famous strip club. I was excited. Like "Oh, so much fun!"

AE: What’s great about it is that the show isn’t trying to make you look like a stereotypical lesbian. You have a sexy job; you’re definitely a different kind of lesbian than we typically see on TV.

JB: She’s so many other things, too. She’s sensitive, forgiving, very kind and has a great sense of humor. And so far, from what I know about the character, she has no hidden agenda. She’s just a really good person.

AE: She’ll be the first person on that show to not have a hidden agenda!

JB: That’s what I love about her, too. She’s a pure spirit. She’s really cool.

AE: Yeah, I love the description of her as a "stripper with a heart of gold."

JB: I mean, every stripper has a heart of gold!

AE: So, for all the Buffy and Angel fans on AfterEllen.com, I wondered if you had any fun memories about being on either of those sets.

JB: I was in my twenties and it was one of my first real jobs and it was a great place to go to work everyday and explore the character and they really encouraged us to take risks. For me, it was like acting boot camp. And I had so many wonderful friendships come out of that show. I feel like I’ve grown up with so many of the women on the show. Charisma Carpenter and I are very, very close. ... It was fun. We’ve grown up together and we support each other through the highs and lows of the industries and our personal lives. That wouldn’t have come about if we hadn’t have done the show.

AE: What show are most of your fans from? Is it Buffy people or Dexter people?

JB: I think they’re all the same. I think the Buffy/Angel people grew up and discovered Dexter. The audience was quite young and I think they evolved into Dexter, like I did. It’s the same fanbase, and it’s the same group. I love that i’ve been able to maintain a footing in the genre world. Those fans will follow you everywhere!