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From Angel Magazine


Julie Benz - Angel Magazine #4 Interview

Transcribed by Setje from Spoiler Crypt Yahoo Group

Sunday 9 November 2003, by Webmaster

Angel magazine #4

Darla Departed by Paul Simpson transcribed by Setje

We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Darla, Angel’s troublesome ex-girlfirend, from our screens. And what a way to go ! Julie Benz talks us through her highly memorable time on Buffy and Angel.

“If you had told me back in 1996 that Darla would have carried on into something like how she’s developed, I would have said you were nuts,” Julie Benz maintains firmly. Chatting on the phone from her home in Los Angeles, the actress still evidently enjoys talking about playing the very first vampire that we ever saw on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although her appearances on both Buffy and Angel have allowed her to take on other roles, it is as Angel’s one true love (at least in Darla’s eyes) that audiences have come to know Julie.

“I never thought Darla would even have a name,” Julie admits, casting her mind back to the original pilot for Buffy, a 20-minute piece that featured a number of different castmembers that was then reshot and incorporated into the series premier, “ Welcome to the Hell mouth3; 35Darla° started out just ‘Vampire Girl’ in the pilot, and (she) was supposed to die. Then the producers decided not to kill me, and they gave ma a name, and eventually the whole story. Even getting beyond the pilot was a surprise ! I never imagined it would be like this. Something like that doesn’t happen so someone like me !

There have been numerous high-lights both for the character of Darla and for the actess herself, but of them all, Julie singles out Darla’s pregnancy and eventual delivery of Connor as her favourite. “The pregnancy was probably the most exciting development,” she says.

“Finding out about that was the most ‘wow!’ moment I had with her. We’d always jokes around that maybe she would get pregnant, but is was always a joke!

We never took it seriously. Then when they sent me the script and I saw that she was pregnant, I just went, ‘Wow!’ That had to be the most surprising moment of all.”

Unusually, the actress was aware of the character development through the start of the third season. Talking about previous years, Julie points out that she generally never really knew what was going to happen from one moment to the next. For example, series creator Joss Whedon only told her part-way through the second season that they were thinking of making Darla human - even though she had already shot some of her ‘return’ scenes. On this occasion, however, there were practical reasons for arcing the pregnancy storyline out carefully, “For the five episodes that I did, we did know how it was going to end,” she explains. “A lot of it had to do with my schedule. I was working on another project, Taken (which was filming in Vancouver), so we had to know in advance what that season was going to hold for Darla.” She laughs as she recollects some of the earlier situations. “I would say that Season Two of Angel was kind of an exploration on everybody’s part!”

But in Season Three, we did know, and I knew in advance that is was going to be her end.”

Julie was delighted with the scripts she was giving. “I didn’t expect them to write such a beautiful ending.” She says. “I really think it was one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever received as an actor. The last three episodes of her life are so wonderful. They were such a gift to play. It was really amazing.”

Julie remembers sitting in her trailer on the set of Taken reading the script for her final Angel episode. “They sent me the script and I was on lunch,” she recalls. “I was in my trailer crying. Everybody was asking me if I was okay, and what was wrong, and I had to day it was nothing, and that I was fine. You don’t want to tell anyone anything - and, of course, we’re not allowed to tell anybody anything.”

Although there had been occasions in the past when Julie thought that her time had come to an end, she really believed that “Lullaby” gave closure to the relationship between Darla and Angel - although, of course, there was always the possibility of returning for a flashback. “I think we all felt in a way that the Darla and Angel storyline had run its course,” she expands.

“The show was looking to go in a different direction and grow, so I never really expected to return. It just didn’t seem as if she would fit into the story anymore. So much had been played out between her and Angel that it didn’t seem like there was any way. But as you know, I did return last season for one episode, just to deal with Connor.”

Julie only knew that there was a possibility of return a couple of weeks before “Inside Out” was filmed. “They phoned to see if I was available, but they didn’t say in what manner,” she says. “They were just checking to see if I was going to be available for those dates for filming - and, of course, I said yes! Then it wasn’t until a couple of days before we shot it that they sent the script. I was actually expecting it to be for a flashback, and I had no idea what it was going to be. I was never expecting to be working with Connor. I was very excited to find out that it was actually Darla’s spirit, and I got to work with Vincent Kartheiser, who is a really wonderful actor.”

The actress thought that the interplay between Connor and his mother, as she tried to persuade him not to go along with ‘Cordelia’s plan, was “great - and it was a challenge. I have to say that they always throw major challenges at me on Angel, and in that episode especially. The dialogue alone was ... well, it was pretty much a four-page monologue. That was another ‘wow!’ moment. But is was so wonderful to be able to sink my teeth - literally - into something that was so good. I loved the dynamic between the two of them. Darla really is the mother who gave up everything for her son and he doesn’t appreciate it.”

Julie agrees that the “Inside out” scenes were extremely powerful, with a very theatrical feel. “Joss has always been a big supporter of people actually reading the classics and reading Shakespeare,” she says. “He has people over to his house to sit around and read Shakespeare!”

There definitely is a theatrical influence in the words and the dialogue. Joss has such an appreciation of language and its power. There are differences in the way those characters talk and the way they use language. You can definitely see his appreciation of great literature through the scripts and writing. All the writers involved are reading Shakespeare so you see that influence in the work. It’s just so wonderful as an actor to be able to perform that for television.”

Conflict between mother and son has always been a fertile ground for drama. “It’s what people have written about for generations, - even before television came about!”

Julie says. “It really is the stuff of classic literature.”

By this stage in Darla’s existence, she has finally achieved redemption; to emphasise this, there were certain adjustments to the way Julie played the role. “They were very simple things,” she explains. “The wardrobe was very soft, and she was wearing a dress that I don’t think looks very much like a dress Darla would wear. But we decided on that dress because it gave a virginal quality to her.

Everything was very soft and warm, from the lighting to the colours that were chosen for her dress - a flesh tone. It was there in everything - the way she was lit, the candlelight in the room. It was all very warm, and it emphasised that she was a good soul that had received redemption. As an actor, I tried to really find the pure love that exists in a relationship between mother and son. It’s an unconditional love, and it’s probably the most simple relationship Darla has ever had.

With Angel, the relationship was dark and twisted and forbidden - there was a mother/son/lover twist to it, but there were so many things rolled into it. With her son, it’s just a really simple line.”

However, Darla fails in her attempt to stop Connor. “I think they just like seeing me covered in blood!” Julie laughs. “I’m always covered in blood on that show!”

The simplicity that Julie enjoyed about Darla’s final appearance is also a characteristic of her character, Kate, on the Steven Spielberg epic mini-series Taken, which aired last winter.

“I was very excited to finally be playing a woman. That’s all she is,” Julie says, rather surprisingly, and hastens to add, “For so long I’ve made a career out of playing either vampires or undercover FBI agents or somebody who’s got a hidden agenda. They always had something else going on that wasn’t really what you saw on the surface.

For me, it was wonderful to be able to explore a woman. I was supposed to be an ordinary woman from the 1940s and 1950s in Middle America. It was very refreshing.”

Following Taken, Julie Benz headed to the far side of the world to shoot her role as Ursula in George of the Jungle2. “We shot that in Australia, with Buffy/Angel director David Grossman in charge. I really did want to stretch some different acting muscles,” she says. “She was really different from what I had been doing for many years. It was really great to play a character who’s so innocent - it was very hard for me! But to find that innocence and that naivety, and to exercise those slapstick muscles was really a challenge. I t was a lot of fun, and I really appreciated the opportunity to be able to do it.

Although David Grossman knew me from Buffy and Angel, the producers didn’t, so they didn’t see me as the evil Darla. David was a big supporter of my work, and told them I was a hard worker and a good actress, but a lot of it came down to me just going into the room with the producers and being really funny, handling the material well. It’s great to be able to do a family movie that my whole family can watch, understand and be proud of. They don’t always understand some of the darker stuff - they’re asking who I’m killing this time!”

Julie recently appeared as a guest star on Peacemakers, a new series for the American USA network, which has been billed as a Western version of hit show CSI. “That’s a wonderful show. They shoot it an hour outside Vancouver in Bordertown, up among the mountains. It’s an old Western town that’s been built nestling among the mountains. I’ve been dying to do a Western!”

With yet another change of format for Angel’s fifth year, Julie doesn’t know whether Darla will be making yet another appearance, but, as she says, “I’ve been in love with her since day one. She’s lived through everything - life, death, life and more death!

I think she truly is one of the most amazing characters on television.

Every time they give me a script it is another challenge they place in front of me, and I get excited!”