Showcase -- Thursdays, beginning June 19
Julie Benz Gets Set To Take
Her Character Down
A Darker Path As "Defiance"
Rolls Out Its Second Season
By Eric Kohanik
Somehow, the future never seems to be pretty in the world of science-fiction TV shows. And Julie Benz says there are good reasons for that.
“I think, with the sci-fi genre, we're able to explore issues that we're all faced with today,” the 42-year-old actress points out. “We're able to explore them in a deeper, darker way.”
Benz is no stranger to the deeper, darker realm of the horror/thriller/sci-fi genre. Perhaps still best known for her role as Rita on Dexter, her TV credits also include such other gems as Roswell, Supernatural, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Buffy's spinoff/sequel, Angel.
“I love working in 'genre' material, I really do,” says Benz. “The given circumstances are so extreme that they really challenge you, as an actor, to bring them to life and make them believable. And that is exciting.”
Benz's most recent “genre TV” job has been in Showcase's sci-fi adventure, Defiance. Filmed in Toronto, the series is set in a radically transformed Earth in the not-too-distant future, where the city of St. Louis has been renamed as Defiance, a town where humans and extraterrestrial species manage to live side by side.
Much of the core action in Defiance revolves around Joshua Nolan, played by New Zealand native Grant Bowler. Nolan is a former marine who became the town's chief lawkeeper during the show's first season. At Nolan's side for much of the show has been his adopted alien daughter, Irisa, played by English actress Stephanie Leonidas. Others in the cast include Canadian actors Graham Greene and Jesse Rath.
The Pittsburgh-born Benz plays Amanda Rosewater, the mayor of Defiance who ended up losing her bid for re-election as the series wrapped up its first season. The show's season finale also saw the disappearance of Irisa, as well as Amanda's sister, Kenya (Canadian actress Mia Kirshner).
According to Showcase, Defiance was the channel's No. 1 program in 2013. The series kicks off its second season on June 19 (moving to Thursday nights this season), with the residents of Defiance in turmoil in the aftermath of the town election.
Meanwhile, Nolan is out in the badlands on a quest to find the missing Irisa, a storyline that the show's producers have already been priming viewers for online (on Showcase.ca), via five “webisodes” entitled Defiance: The Lost Ones.
As the new season of Defiance opens, Amanda is setting off on a journey of her own as well, embarking on “a much darker path,” according to Benz. “Amanda starts in a completely different place than where she ended at the end of Season 1,” she explains. “Her sister disappeared. She lost her job. And she has to redefine herself in a town that is redefining itself. It's nine months later and she's really struggling. She's having a hard time. You get to see her start to unravel a bit.”
Although Amanda is no longer the mayor of Defiance, that won't necessarily keep her out of the political scene. “I don't think Amanda could ever be separated from the town,” Benz laughs. “I think the town is always a part of her. Her love for the town of Defiance is always going to be present, no matter what role she has in the town. I don't think she could ever fully be away from the politics of the town.”
Benz has been pleased with the fan response to the first season of Defiance. She has also been pleased with her character's journey on the show.
“I love Amanda's strength,” says Benz. “And that she's still feminine but very strong. She is basically surviving in a very masculine world. Even though she's the heroine, she's not perfect. She's deeply flawed. She's an alcoholic. She obviously has commitment issues. She's very controlling. Sometimes, her idealism gets in the way. She's extremely flawed, but she's still a woman. We don't really see many female characters that can be as flawed as she is and still be loved.”
Defiance – Showcase – Thursdays, beginning June 19
(Published in Channel Guide Magazine -- June 2014.)