Good news and bad news for the Julie Benz-besotted. The good: the actress who won your heart on “Angel,” “Dexter,” “Desperate Housewives” and now “A Gifted Man” has a role in a just-released film “Answers to Nothing,” (limited release). The bad?: She's about to take herself off the single market. The blonde stunner gives PopcornBiz a candid look into the career of an actress who’s trying working hard to find challenging parts and time to set a wedding date.
Your role in the ensemble “Answers to Nothing” as a dedicated cop came about in the eleventh hour, I understand?
It was fascinating for me, really. I was a last-minute addition to the cast. When I say "last-minute," like, literally the night before I got a phone call saying, 'What are you doing tomorrow? Can you be on set? We're going to make an offer. You don't have time to read the script. Here's who's in it.' As soon as I heard who was in it I said yes, and I didn't even know what my character was. This was just right after I had been killed off on 'Dexter,' two days before. It hadn't aired yet and I wasn't allowed to tell anybody. So for me, I was just excited to be on set again, because it meant that the cart was moving forward and to play a character that was so opposite of Rita. I had a long talk with Matt Leutwyler on set, and Matt is a wonderful director. He was able to reveal a lot. He had lived with these characters for so long and it was a very emotional script for him. So he had great insight into who Frankie was, but he also allowed me to bring what I wanted to bring to her. I knew that I couldn't fight my physicality, playing a cop. Like, I knew that I'm very feminine – I come off very feminine, and so I thought, 'What if she was a cop who used that to her advantage, that that's how she gets people to make confessions?' That she would play a little bit on the softer side – is the good cop rather than the bad cop.
Did this situation bring you back to an earlier time in your career where you just jumped into things?
Earlier time? I still feel it. It never changes. Even when you get auditions - I mean, I have the luxury now where sometimes maybe I get a couple of days notice, but there's still those moments where you get called at 7 p.m. and they're like, 'Okay, we're sending you the script. They want to see you tomorrow at 10 a.m. No, they can't change it to later. There are no other sessions.' And you just have to put the hustle on and do it. So I think years of being in this business I've gotten good at making fast choices. I don't really know what it's like to work and have extended time, aside from being on a series. But every movie that I've done has been, like, an 18-day shoot, cast at the last minute.
Were you having any anxiety so close to leaving “Dexter?” Do you get that feeling every time you end a job, wondering if you'll ever work again?
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I think that every actor has that moment where you wonder, like, if you're going to be taking a break or if you're going to continue to work. There's a lull in everyone's career and it comes. You just don't know when it's going to happen. With 'Dexter,' because it was such an emotional ending for me personally, not knowing that it was coming, it was a bit like the rug being ripped out underneath me. I wasn't prepared. It was a little odd all of a sudden to not have a job. It was great then that this movie came up. It turned out after getting some perspective to work out for the best because then I got to go off and do 'Desperate Housewives' and then 'No Ordinary Family' and now 'A Gifted Man.' I got to do so much more work and challenge myself so much more as an actor, But, yeah, especially in that moment I was like, 'What's next?' But I think that I've always had a little bit of an inflated ego and always had this tremendous faith that something will come up. I've just always believed it. I believed the faith even more than my own neurosis!
Did 'Dexter' change how often the phone rang with someone looking for you because they'd seen you on the show?
Definitely. I would say 'Dexter' and 'Desperate Housewives,' both. I would say definitely, especially with that ending. I mean, that ending was a true gift for me as an actor. It was so shocking. In Season Four Rita had become a bit whiny, for a purpose. In many ways she became the nemesis to a serial killer. They turned the housewife into a nemesis for a serial killer, which was quite brilliant. So people were kind of not liking her in many ways. Then to have that ending all of a sudden redeem her so much that it keyed into other people's imaginations of what happened. Everyone thinks that I had a scene with John Lithgow and I never worked with him. But in their mind they saw the murder, but we never showed it. It's really fascinating how it's created that imaginary life inside of people. Every meeting that I go into it's something that we discuss.
You’ve got a lot going on away from work, too: you got engaged to Rich Orosco this year. Are you in the midst of planning the big day?
We're still in the, like, 'Where are we going to get married?' phase. We're finally honing in on it. It's just been hard because between my schedule and my fiancé’s, we've just been extremely busy and we've both been traveling a lot. I'm filming 'A Gifted Man' in New York and so just traveling back and forth. We would like to have been married by now, but we just didn't have the time to do it justice. We could run off and elope – that's always an option, but I think we both the memory of a celebration and we want to celebrate the people in our lives that have supported our relationship in the past four years and that will continue to support us. We want to do it right. It's just figuring that out. Unfortunately, neither one of us are really big planners. So it's really hard. I wish I was a Bridezilla! I wish that I felt like it was my day and that it had to be this princess-y thing. I'm not that person at all. I wish that I had an idea of what I wanted. It's so overwhelming. I read all these bridal magazines and I'm like, 'Oh, I could see us having that kind of wedding or we could have this kind of wedding or this kind of wedding.' Basically our event planner who's helping us is like, 'You don't really know what you want.' 'I just know that I want to marry Rich. Isn't that enough?'
"Answers to Nothing" is open in limited release now.