Julie Benz has seen her fair share of onscreen combat. She plays Rita Bennett on the hit Showtime series Dexter and has starred in the action-packed thrillers Rambo and Punisher: War Zone. No actress can play the love interest or the damsel in distress forever and nobody deserves a chance to wield firearms more than Benz. In Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, Benz gets to play the ultimate female badass, FBI agent Eunice Bloom. Not only does Benz have the pressure of living up to Paul Smecker’s (Willem Dafoe) legacy, but she also has to hold her own on a set overflowing with testosterone.
All Saints Day isn’t the only buzzworthy item on Benz’s resume; Dexter just kicked off its fourth season and the tension is higher than ever. Rita, Dexter and the kids may appear to be the perfect family, but Dexter’s dark passenger is sure to stir up some drama.
Check out what Julie told me about Boondock Saints II and Dexter as well as past projects, Jawbreaker and Saw V.
Had you seen the original Boondock Saints before being cast in the sequel?
No, I actually had no idea about anything about it. [Laughs]
It’s understandable because it had a very limited run in the theater and attained its cult status through word-of-mouth and on DVD.
Yeah, and you know, what was really interesting was I didn’t tell anyone I was up for it and when I got the role I was talking to my trainer and I said ‘Oh yea, I’m going to be doing this movie Boondock something’ and he was like ‘Boondock Saints?’ and I was like ‘yeah’ and he totally flipped out. And that was like pretty much the reaction I’d get from like every guy I would tell I was doing this film. Every male would flip out.
Can you tell me about your character in Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day?
Yes, I play Eunice Bloom and she’s a protégé of Smecker who was played by Willem Dafoe in the first one and she’s southern, she’s very southern and very feminine and sexy but she’s also like a complete badass. She is a gun specialist, she’s smarter than everyone else, I like to say she’s sexier than everyone else but she’s also - she’s not a love interest and she’s not a victim and for me that’s what was so exciting about the role to play this woman who’s basically like a man but still feminine and sexy.
It’s kind of like you’re the one taking the place of Willem Dafoe’s character, those are some pretty big shoes to fill.
Yeah they are! You know, thankfully I didn’t know that before going into it. I only found out once I said yes.
How was it working on a male-dominated set?
Obviously I’ve done it many times before having been in Rambo and Punisher. It tends to be, I guess, my specialty it feels like. I love it. They really take care of you as a woman when you’re the only female, so it’s kind of nice.
I’ve spoken with Sean, Norman and Clifton and they all speak very highly of you.
Aw, they’re all very much gentlemen. For me it was a very exciting role because I got to learn how to twirl pistols like an old-fashioned cowgirl and it’s the first time I’ve ever done something where I wasn’t a victim or a girlfriend, you know, where I got to play with the guns rather than having them used around me. It was really exciting and fun.
Boondock Saints has some very dedicated fans. Do you think All Saints Day will live up to their expectations?
I think it definitely – I think it will exceed their expectations. It’s been eight years in the making and I think you see a more evolved Troy [Duffy] as far as being a director and everyone was so excited to be on board and to do the sequel. Very rarely do you come across that passion.
You’ve come a long way since Jawbreaker. When’s the last time you’ve watched that film?
Oh! Well, I haven’t watched it in years. I don’t really like to walk down memory lane with my work; you know what I mean? It’s one of those bizarre things that I find I avoid as an actress because, you know, it’s – I’ve done a lot of stuff.
I wouldn’t avoid revisiting that one. I used to love Jawbreaker. I must have watched it dozens of times!
I think it’s a great movie and know so many people who’ve discovered it on DVD and that love it. I think Darren Stein did an amazing job of creating this really fun kind of absurd world with these girls and there was such humor to it and it was so tongue-in-cheek. So, I love it, it’s just, you know, I don’t really sit down and watch my stuff.
You’ve done a number of things since then, but now you’re very well known for your role on Dexter. Did you think the show had so much potential when you first went into it?
I did, actually. I read the pilot script and I loved it. I was like what do I have to do to get in this show? Who do I have to kill? It’s the type of programming I like to watch, provocative and edgy. It raises so many questions but doesn’t force-feed you any answers and it really calls into question your own moral code. I mean, you find yourself falling in love and rooting for this guy who’s a serial killer. You go back and forth on is what he’s doing right or is it wrong, is it right or is it wrong. And I love that kind of show, that challenges your mind.
Your character has really developed into a pivotal part of the show. What can we expect from Rita this season?
Wow, this season. Obviously at the beginning of the season we see Rita has it all. I mean, she has everything she’s ever wanted. She has the perfect husband, the great kids, the new baby, the dream house in the suburbs but you know, just like anything, nothing great lasts forever. We have an amazingly shocking ending this season. I mean, it’s so shocking that – it’s just shocking is all I can say. It shocked the whole cast.
So you’ve already filmed the last episode?
We are in the middle of filming it right now.
Any chance Dexter will let her in on his secret?
Oh! I don’t know about that. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but you know, you definitely see worlds collide; everybody’s world collides in this season.
There’s a new Saw movie coming out in a few weeks. Are you going to check it out?
Um, I don’t know! I mean, I think it’s a great franchise and I was so excited to be part of it but one of the reasons why I did Saw V was I wanted to see if I could actually – those movies really freak me out; they’re the scariest things I’ve ever seen, psychologically disturbing. I got psychologically disturbed on set filming it. [Laughs]
I was just going to ask you if shooting it freaked you out at all! Your last scene, in particular, is very hard to watch.
Yeah, I actually threw up on set, I was freaked out. I knew it was fake but I couldn’t even go near the saw machine during rehearsal. I mean, I was shaking. The challenge for me in that film was you know – because I’m the perfect moviegoer, I buy into everything. Like, I go on the journey and I totally buy into the whole world that’s created and the whole imagination of it all. The challenge for me in that film was like can I act in something like this. And I had nightmares from it. I didn’t sleep very well when I was up there filming and it was a really interesting process for me because I’ve never had a movie affect me in that level, like where I would go home and have dreams about the actual film and not like your typical actor dreams about showing up naked on set or forgetting your lines but the actual saw and Jigsaw and all of the elements to it and the traps. I remember doing the first trap where we’re attached to – you know, around the neck with the chain?
Yeah, the one with the keys in the jar.
Yeah! At one point I said to the director – because it was all very choreographed. It had to be choreographed because we were on pulleys and it had to be very well choreographed so we wouldn’t get hurt. But I freaked out and I said to the director ‘What’s going to happen if I don’t get the key?’ and he was like ‘We’ll cut.’ And I was like ‘Oh, okay.’ It feels very real. I mean, there were no safety saws behind us, you know, the things that chopped off your head, they were sharp! It was tough. The traps are very real, it feels very real. You’re in them and are like ‘oh my god, I’m in this movie and I’m living in this world.’ It was very intense for me. It’s fun but it’s very intense.
Can you tell me about Bedrooms?
Yeah, it’s a little indie that I did. It’s four vignettes put together about different stages of relationships. My little vignette is with Jesse Garcia and Xander Berkeley. To me it felt like it was in the vain of, I don’t know if you remember the movie but Carnal Knowledge from back in the 70s with Jack Nicholson and Candice Bergen. It kind of had that dramedy to it where it was dramatic but there was also some really funny moments and I was really looking to do something on a smaller scale. I had been doing all of these big action films so it was really a great opportunity for me to kind of, you know, do something a little smaller.
Do you know when it’ll be released?
I think they’re hoping to do the film festival circuit with it so as of right now I know they just finished mixing it and they’re going to submit it to Sundance so we’ll see.