The Buffyverse alumni will not find themselves on opposite ends of a tug-of-war — Carpenter is part of the “Sci-Fi/Fantasy” team aiming to collar “TV Cops” this Thursday at 9/8c, while Benz is among the “Troublemakers” looking to sink “Lifeguards” in the season finale (airing Sept. 7 at 9 pm).
Even so, TVLine knew the ladies would have tales to tell — not just about braving the Dunk Tank and aggressive tennis balls (mild spoilers below!), but also about their time on Angel, where their #goals-worthy friendship first blossomed. In the rollicking Q&A below, Carpenter and Benz also open up about teen crushes, the recent Buffy reunion, roles that were gone-too-soon, going head-to-head on the audition circuit and the female unity that seeded their laughs- and love-filled bond.
TVLINE | What were your respective histories with the original Battle of the Network Stars? Did you watch it back in the day?
JULIE BENZ | Oh yeah, I was a big fan. I remember watching it with my family, seeing Farrah Fawcett, just thinking everything was so cool and so much fun. So I was very excited when they called and asked me to be a part of [the revival]. Also, I’m very competitive, so it played right into everything that I like — sports/athletics, plus a throwback to the original show.
CHARISMA | I also watched it. I remember sitting in my living room after dinner, while my mom was doing the dishes, watching with my dad and my brothers. It was a real kick seeing your favorite people in a different context, to see your favorite TV stars be themselves, to see how clumsy or how funny they are….
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TVLINE | That’s what I have said, that lonnnng before Instagram and everything, this was our only little window into what a celebrity was like off-stage.
JULIE | Yes, right.
CHARISMA | That’s also why the tabloids were so popular, because it was either that — you watched [Battle of the Network Stars], which had a way bigger payoff – or you read the Enquirer or whatever was big then.
TVLINE | Did you have any crushes back then? Willie Ames, Scott Baio, Michael J. Fox… Heather Thomas?
CHARISMA | Wasn’t Willie Ames in Blue Lagoon 2? Yeah, I loved him.
JULIE | I was a big Michael J. Fox fan. I just thought he was the hottest thing ever!
CHARISMA | Michael J. Fox totally reminds me of my brother Troy. [On Family Ties at age] 17 with a briefcase — that is so my brother.
TVLINE | Did the Battle of the Network Stars opportunity come to you at the same time? Did you compare notes, like, “If you jump, I jump”?
CHARISMA | We didn’t know we were both doing it until we were in London together, and over drinks, Julie was like, “I’m doing it too!” Then it was like, “Wait a second! What day are you doing? Are we on the same team…??” I really wish we had been on the same team or against each other. It would have been fun to have that experience with someone you know and love. But then I got thinking about had we been on the same show, against each other…. I know how Julie is.
JULIE | [Laughs]
CHARISMA | She has that fire in her, so while it would be a good thing to be against each other, because she raises me game, we both are competitive. Would it make me softer or make me harder? I decided she would make me want to win more. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Was there any event where you were like, “No way, no how, I am not the person you want for this. Pick somebody else”?
JULIE | For me, the watersports. I don’t swim. At all. I mean, I can doggie-paddle, but….
TVLINE | Julie — you own a pool.
JULIE | I know! I just recently own a pool.
CHARISMA | She also has rafts.
JULIE | I do have beautiful rafts to lay on. I haven’t figured out how to breathe underwater, so I get very claustrophobic…. I originally said no to all the water sports, and then I ended up doing the Dunk Tank. And I was terrified, absolutely terrified. Because I’m afraid of heights and I’m afraid of water.
CHARISMA | [Laughs] That’s so Julie!
JULIE | I was physically shaking, but I had to do it for the team, because I had to participate in one water sport and my [softball] throwing skills are not that good. But I was absolutely terrified. I survived, but I will never do it again.
CHARISMA | I ended up doing the Dunk Tank, too, and I’m also afraid of heights. When I saw it from the deck of the pool it didn’t look too high, but as I started to walk across the plank, the perspective changed quite a bit! I was also shaking, and I was trying very hard not to show that. I was literally like, “Please don’t dunk me, please don’t dunk me….”
TVLINE | The 15-foot high walkway to the Dunk Tank seat looks very narrow.
JULIE | Yeah, but the hardest part is that once you’re out sitting on that platform, you have to sit on the very, very edge of it. You feel unbalanced, and you’re not allowed to hold on, It was very hard for me to let go.
CHARISMA | But if you don’t let go it will rip your arm off!
JULIE | I… I’m starting to sweat just talking about it. That to me was the scariest part, sitting there.
TVLINE | On the flip side, and all modesty aside, was there an event where you totally crushed it?
JULIE | Running. I crushed the running. I was running against David Chokachi (Baywatch), who’s like a triathlete and is ripped.
CHARISMA | And you beat him? I am so watching your episode!
JULIE | I was so afraid of losing. My original plan was to go slow and then sprint the last half. I started with a little bit of a lead, but I was so afraid of that gap closing that I just went full sprint. It took me the rest of the day to recover.
CHARISMA | It will take him the rest of his life to recover! [Laughs]
TVLINE | And Charisma, what did you crush?
JULIE | All of it.
CHARISMA | I did crush all of it. I killed it in the relay. And we had such a massive lead in the kayaking, but I still acted as if we didn’t, so I’d give it my all the whole time.
JULIE | What was your individual sport?
CHARISMA | I did tennis, and I haven’t hit a ball in a while. The machine would go to the far left to the far right, to the far left to the far right, and there was no predicting what it was going to be. I think I got like six or seven out of 20…? Which I do not think is very good at all. But….
TVLINE | So, for how long have the two of you been friends?
JULIE | I was in Buffy‘s pilot episode. Day 1.
CHARISMA | So we go back. That was in ’96, right? But I don’t think we got close until Angel.
JULIE | Yeah, it wasn’t until later that we got close. It was Season 2 [of Angel] when I was on a lot—
CHARISMA | —when you were crocheting.
JULIE | I was knitting, not crocheting. And yes.
CHARISMA | For our friendship, you sealed the knot when you made me a scarf. I still have it! This little red scarf with a little label that said “Made by Julie Benz.”
TVLINE | Among actors, do you find that there are more close female friendships than male? That’s the sense I get from skimming, say, Instagram.
JULIE | I think that in the time that Charisma and I came up in the industry, there was a necessity to stick together and support each other. There are a lot of times we’re up against each other, or we’ll see each other at auditions and stuff, and to not be competitive with each other in that regard takes a special person. I think that for women, because we are a minority, it’s important. There are a lot less roles for women in general, so I think that once you realize the way the Hollywood machine works, it’s better for women that we stick together versus trying to bring each other down.
CHARISMA | I have a friend who’s kind of like behind-the-scenes on a major Instagram account that deals with women, a lot of them bikini-clad, and while they tag each other and they hang out, it’s business. They’re giving an illusion of friendship that really isn’t so; it’s just to build a business, which I didn’t know [at first]. But the friends that are in my life and that are on my Instagram are really my friends. We hang out, we talk on the phone, we hand each other tissues or we celebrate with each other….
JULIE | We meme each other…. [Laughs]
CHARISMA | That is an authentic thing that’s not about business. If people love and enjoy that, then I’m happy. But as far as rooting for each other, I’m not a guy, I don’t know [if there’s a difference]. I don’t know if guys don’t hang out as much as women. But I do know that Julie has called me and said, “I just read this on Deadline, get your people on this!” Or, she set up my meeting for Expendables with Sly [Stallone]. She recommended me for that. And she and I have been in the reading room, reading for the same part [most recently for Kingdom]. That happens all the time, but I genuinely feel like I’m there to do my very best, and she’s there to do her very best. When I go into an audition, it’s not about anybody else.
JULIE | I always say that if I’m not going to get the job, I want one of my friends to get it!
TVLINE | Charisma, you were a part of EW’s Buffy reunion earlier this year. What kind of feelings did that stir, and what was the consensus on whether there might be a revival series or TV-movie some day?
CHARISMA | I was really pleased to see everyone just be so open and warm. I didn’t expect that, I really didn’t. I didn’t know what to expect. It’s been so long and I had my own anxieties about seeing people I hadn’t seen in a long time, like my old boss [Joss Whedon]. Like, I wanted to be received well, so I had anxieties about that. It’d been a long time. But it was so fantastic and warm and beautiful, and everyone was genuinely happy to be in each other’s company, I felt. So it was awesome.
The second part of that answer is there will not be a reunion. A reunion show? No. There will never be that. Based on the interviews and the points of view of Joss and of Sarah [Michelle Gellar]. There’s no Buffy without those two.
TVLINE | Did the two of you have a favorite scene together on Angel?
JULIE | Did I bite you or something…?
CHARISMA | Yes! That was my favorite one, too. [Laughs]
JULIE | I got to bite Charisma! [Laughs]
CHARISMA | And you made Angel very mad.
JULIE | I think it was Season 3, when I was fighting for my life, choosing between the baby and…. It was all the hormones of being pregnant and Darla suddenly having a soul, and they were trying to keep me on lockdown. Cordelia was put in charge of watching over me and I wanted to get out, so I bit her. Or I tried to…? Did I successfully bite you?
CHARISMA | You did, but Angel came to my rescue. And it was more of a nibble.
TVLINE | Speaking of Darla’s pregnancy, what is going in this photo (above)?
JULIE | Yeah, that was a giant prosthetic belly that they placed on top of me. I didn’t have to wear that one, because it’s huge! I look at that photo and Darla was hugely pregnant.
CHARISMA | It’s so not realistic that she’d be on her back, either, with all that baby.
JULIE | I just remember it being so heavy that I couldn’t get up in between takes. Everybody would walk off and I’d be stuck there under the weight of a silicone stomach.
CHARISMA | We totally, totally walked off. “You’re on your own!” [Laughs] I don’t remember that scene so well, but this is what I really thought: “Wow, if I’m ever pregnant — which I ended up being two seasons later — I hope that’s not my skin trying to cover all of that!” Like, how is that possible? And then sure enough, two seasons later, everything was pregnant. Not just my belly, but my butt, my nose… everything.
TVLINE | What advice would you give to a young actress who right now might be debating doing a genre-TV show?
JULIE | Do it! I love working in genre shows. As an actor, I find it’s more challenging. The circumstances are more extreme, and that really challenges you from a creative standpoint. Playing a 400-year-old vampire is not like playing the love interest of somebody. You are playing on a whole different level of creativity. I love the creativity that goes into creating the worlds that genre shows exist in, from all departments. It’s inspiring, it’s challenging, it’s exhausting, but at the end of every day you’re like, “Wow , we really created something.” So I tell every young actor to do a genre show, because it’s going to fulfill the artist in you.
CHARISMA | I agree, 100 percent. To piggy-back on what Julie said, being on Buffy and Angel, you’re not just hitting your mark and “two tears, left eye.” You’re literally doing comedy and drama and fighting and dealing with prosthetics…. It’s an ambitious show and it’s all-consuming — we’re using the whole gamut of skills — so it’s demanding in a creatively positive way. I’m hard-pressed to recall a job where I learned as much, that I got as much out of, than those two shows.
JULIE | I always say that working on Buffy and Angel for me was like going to an amazing graduate school program. I learned more working on those shows than I did in studying acting in drama school.
TVLINE | Which past TV role do you wish you could have played for a bit longer?
JULIE | I mean, Darla of course; I was just recurring and I would have loved to explore her more, because she was so challenging for me. But also, I would have loved to play Robin on Desperate Housewives more. I only did like five episodes, and I would have loved to do a couple seasons!
CHARISMA | Obviously my first choice would be Cordelia, especially since she died prematurely and the storyline kind of went wonky in Season 4. But I say that with one caveat: only if [Buffy writer-producer/Angel co-creator] David Greenwalt were to continue to write for Cordelia, because he literally was Cordelia. He was my champion behind the scenes and was the one who suggested Cordelia go to Angel. He was like, “What Angel needs, this dark brooding guy, is a giant smile.”
But the first thing that came to my mind was recently playing [a former Playmate] on Lucifer. That was probably one of the best experiences I remember having, in terms of having fun with a character and doing comedy and stuff. That group is so talented and they’re eccentric individuals that I really enjoyed getting to know. And now they’re here in L.A.!
TVLINE | Julie, when it looked like Hawaii Five-0 was only writing off Grace Park, I thought you might get promoted to series regular. But now your TV boyfriend is also no longer with the show. Did that news shock you as much as us?
JULIE | No, I knew what [Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park] were going through [with negotiations], so I knew that it was a possibility. And I really support their decision. Obviously I was saddened by it, because I love working with Daniel Dae Kim. He’s an amazing actor and very kind and generous, and working with him was so easy — we had an instant chemistry on-screen with each other, and it was always such a joy to go to Hawaii and do that. But at the same time, as an actor who has been in this industry for a long time, I completely understand the choice that they made, and I respect it. I would have loved to explore more of Abby and Chin’s relationship, but I threw a wrench in the whole thing, too, when I took Training Day.
CHARISMA | But Bill Paxton!
JULIE | That was an amazing experience, working with him…. [Pauses] It’s still hard to… talk about, but Bill was such a…. I feel like I was given a gift by getting to know him for a year and getting to have that experience. It was a real gift from the universe.
TVLINE | Before we go, circling back on the friendship theme: What do you guys love most about each other?
JULIE | Listen, Charisma is a stunningly beautiful woman, and you don’t expect somebody who looks like her to be as goofy and funny as she really is. [Laughs] She makes me laugh so much, because her sense of humor and her wit is absolutely brilliant. She says things that you might think but you don’t actually ever verbalize! That just makes me laugh, completely.
CHARISMA | That’s so sweet! Julie has a very generous spirit, and she is reliable and dependable and a person that… She’s got a really big heart, you know? She’s sensitive and loving and giving, and remarkable funny too! She’s silly, and lately she’s been doing stuff on Instagram where she’s letting that in, to see that part of her. She really is a ray of sunshine to me. You are, Julie — you are a big ray in my life.
JULIE | Awwww!