Julie Benz on Playing Defiance's 'Badass' Mayor: Not Being 'The Sexy One' Is Definitely Fun
That question is raised by Syfy’s Defiance, premiering Monday at 9/8c and presenting a 2046 Earth that has received an extreme makeover via terraforming and the colonization by seven alien races (collectively dubbed Votans).
The title refers to the St. Louis-adjacent town where humans coexist alongside milky-skinned and aristocratic Castithans (fronted by Tony Curran and Warehouse 13′s Jaime Murray as Datak and Stahma Tarr), Steampunky Irathients, bulging Biomen, the vicious Volge and other species.
Julie Benz (Dexter, Angel) plays Amanda Rosewater, the newly inducted mayor of Defiance who strives to keep order in the wake of an interspecies murder and the arrival of a dashing stranger, Joshua Nolan (True Blood‘s Grant Bowler), and his wild-child ward Irisa (Whitechapel‘s Stephanie Leonidas) — all while managing a clash of classes between mining magnate Rafe McCawley (Dances With Wolves‘ Graham Greene) and the powerful Datak.
Benz shared a look inside madame mayor’s mindset.
TVLINE | Tell us about Amanda Rosewater. How have you been summing her up for people?
Amanda is an idealist, so she’s in a bit over her head. Her job is to keep the peace amongst the seven alien races and the humans — it’s a tough job and not one she was trained to do.
TVLINE | Yeah, it seems she’s not quite ready when Fionnuala Flanagan (as Mayor Nicky Riordon) passes the baton in the pilot.
It’s later revealed that there’s a reason why this happened, but Amanda does her best because she really does believe in Defiance, in what it stands for. She believes that Defiance can maintain independence and be this town where humans and aliens can coexist peacefully and start rebuilding the planet. But there are so many factions against her.
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TVLINE | When Joshua Nolan shows up, what kind of welcome does he get?
Amanda is a little wary of him, obviously. But at the end of the day, once she finds out he was one of “The Defiant Few” [a group of Humans and Votans that banded together to end the war that immediately followed the alien migration], she realizes….
TVLINE | “I’ve got something to work with here.”
Yeah. And because she needs a Lawkeeper, he’s probably her best choice in that regard. I think she also finds him kind of cute — as all the girls in the show do!
TVLINE | Speaking of the other girls: Your good friend Jaime Murray is playing this alien mob moll type, and Mia Kirshner is the resident bordello owner. How do you find the fun in playing the “proper” female here?
It was definitely a new role for me in many ways, where I wasn’t, like, “the sexy one,” but it was definitely fun. The thing I loved about the script is that all the female characters are so strong and the relationships are extremely complex with each other that it allows for a lot of room to be creative.
TVLINE | Yeah, you get to bark some orders and kick some ass during the pilot’s big battle scene.
Yes! And I loved playing that. At this stage, I’ve been acting forever. I’ve played the vixen. I’ve played the victim. I’ve played it all, and the thing I really love now is playing the badass woman. Mia and I had to go to automatic weapons training together and I think I was a little more gung-ho about it than she was. I was having a blast, firing away and learning about how to change the mag, work the gun and clean it and all that. It really appealed to my competitive, tough side.
TVLINE | So, you are OK leaving the partially dressed bathing scenes to Jaime?
It’s always fun to be considered attractive, of course, so there’s a plus side and a negative side. I mean, I could eat whatever I wanted, although I still worked out like crazy while filming. But Jaime’s got such a great physique, why wouldn’t you have her half-naked? She’s going to kill me for saying that, by the way!
TVLINE | One of the themes of the pilot is almost “appearances can be deceiving.” Does that prove to be true to any degree with Amanda?
Does she have any secrets? Yes. Some are revealed in Season 1, and I hope we get to explore more of that in Season 2. Amanda is really the voice of Defiance, and with every character having darkness to them she needs to be the heroine. She’s definitely not a Pollyanna and not every choice she makes is a legal choice, but it’s the right choice. She’s more, “What you see is what you get,” but there is an edge to her, for sure.
TVLINE | Do you have any bead on why these post-apocalyptic dramas are fascinating us so much right now? Revolution, The Walking Dead, Defiance….
I think there’s always been a fascination with what would happen if the world came to an end. Like, “What role would I play in that?” I also think we want to escape our lives a bit more when the economy is a little rough. What I like about the sci-fi genre is we’re able to tack current hot topics in a way that’s more creative than if it was just a mainstream show.
TVLINE | Out of all the alien species on Defiance, do you have a favorite?
I’ve got two that I love. I love the Sensoth, because he just looks like a big giant bear kind of character. And they always have a sad look to their eyes but they’re super-strong. And I really love Sukar, the leader of the Iranthients, the motorcycle aliens [aka "Spirit Riders"]. The actor who plays him (Noah Danby, Painkiller Jane) is so wonderful and his wardrobe is spectacular.
TVLINE | I feel bad for Trenna Keating (Combat Hospital), who plays the Indogene doctor, because it seems like she’s under an inch of prosthetics.
Trenna is such a good sport, and she’s so amazing in her role. The funny thing is that with a lot of the actors that are covered in makeup, we don’t know what they look like [in real life] because by the time I show up on set, they’re already in prosthetic. The actress who plays the Liberata, everybody was like, “She’s like this cute little girl,” and I was like, “I picture her as this weird, hairy alien creature.” If I ran into her on the set I wouldn’t know what she looked like!
TVLINE | Defiance is of course premiering on the heels of its own Xbox 360/PlayStation videogame release. I tried it at TCA and man, I just kept dying quickly. How are you at it?
Yeah, I’m pretty bad at it. I don’t have very good eye-hand coordination, so the couple of times I’ve played it, I’ve blown myself up or run into a wall. I need a 7-year-old to show me what the secret is!