Tag Archives: Julie Benz

Julie Benz Enjoys Exploring her ‘Badass’ Side in ‘Taken’ Telepic

Julie Benz 'Taken' streetJulie Benz plays a New York City police detective who goes to Russia to hunt for  her missing daughter in the made-for-television film “Taken: The Search for Sophie Parker” this Saturday (9/21) on Lifetime.  It’s a role light years away from her indelible performance as doomed Rita Gordon on “Dexter” — one that fits perfectly with Benz’ predilection of late for playing powerful women.
“This woman is very strong and very direct — a kind of woman I haven’t played before.  There were a lot of physical aspects to the role and I loved that.  I’ve been an athlete all my life, so  I loved being a bit of a badass,” she says of her NYC cop character.  “I enjoyed the challenge of containing the emotion, taking the fear of what’s happened and turning it into action versus reaction.”
“Taken,” which was inspired by real-life events, is set against the world of international human sex trafficking, something that also intrigued Benz, who is outspoken in the cause of stopping such trade.
She points out that “It’s the third largest crime, globally, behind drug and arms dealing.  And it doesn’t just happen overseas in some foreign country.  It happens in our own backyard.  It happens in states like New Hampshire and Maine and California.  It happens in New York City and all over America.  The fact that it still goes on is just unbelievable.”
Shooting took place in Bulgaria, which, she says, “was fun.  We had such a great cast to work with — at the end of the day, you’d be tired but also filled with a sense of exhilaration.  We would meet back at the hotel and go out for dinner and rehash the day.”
Benz found the film industry there much changed from 10 years ago, when she made another film in that Eastern European land.  “We have a burgeoning industry, particularly in Sofia, and we have growing craftsmen within the industry.  About 10 years ago it was very rough, but going back for this movie, I was so impressed.  The city itself had changed a lot as well.”
Benz, who rose to fame as Darlah on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” found that in Sofia, she wasn’t recognized from “any of the normal stuff, but from the last ‘Rambo’ I did,” she admits with a laugh.
The NYU-educated, self-described workaholic is at the other end of the spectrum from “Rambo” girl now.  “Especially at this point in my career, I’ve been looking for very strong, dynamic women to play.  I look for deeply-flawed women in positions of power; I think that’s just the juiciest of all roles.  I look for that,” says the actress, who married marketing executive Rich Orosco last year.  She adds, “I read a lot of scripts.  I go on lots of auditions.  I think I end up with the roles that were meant for me.  They’re like a perfect fit.”
Certainly she feels that way about her part in Syfy’s hit “Defiance,” in which she’s been playing the mayor of the title post-apocalyptic town, circa 2046, where humans and extra terrestrials of all sorts dwell together. 
“Defiance” is several episodes into filming of its second season, and Benz is enthusiastic about it, to say the least.  “It’s intense, it’s crazy and the gloves are off.
“Every character starts in a completely different place at the beginning of season two from where they ended after Season 1.  My character specifically, Amanda — she starts in a much darker place.  She’s lost her job.  Her sister has disappeared and her ex-husband was killed.  And she has to find herself in this new ‘Defiance,’ because she doesn’t know where she fits in.  It takes its toll on her.  Her sister being gone, that’s like her one close relationship, so it’s like her anchor is gone.”
She adds, “We had a table read yesterday for Episode 4 and Episode 5 and — it’s such an amazing cast — even at a table read you’re getting performances that are exciting and gut wrenching.  Everyone is just so excited about the new episodes.  It’s exciting to go to a table read when the scripts are so good.”

Enough With the Celebrity Splits, Here’s a Valentine’s Day Look at Love Among the Stars

Jay-Z and Beyonce WENN.com photo

Recent months have been hell for stories of celebrity splits, from Heidi and Seal to Katy and Russell, Demi and Ashton to Johnny and Vanessa and more.  But today being Valentine’s Day, let us take a moment to shine some light on love in the celebrity leagues — where the gestures are grander, the gifts are more lavish, and imaginations can soar unfettered by bank balance considerations.

 Jennifer Aniston’s vast legions of fans, who’ve suffered with America’s Sweetheart through the Brad Pitt split and painful John Mayer period, can take heart in her declaration that she is now in a “joyful and peaceful place” with Justin Theroux.  If our Jen can find a good man at last, darn it, then there’s hope for all the lovelorn.  Last year, she gifted her hunky beau with a $12,000 jacket that had been worn by James Dean.

Who doesn’t feel heart-warmed by new Mom & Dad Beyonce and Jay-Z, whose investments in expressions of love perhaps outstrip the GNP of a small country by now.  A few examples:  When Beyonce turned 23, Jay-Z blew a half million dollars on a huge hip hop party, complete with live mermaids (okay, they weren’t really mermaids, but not because he couldn’t afford real mermaids!) and an ice sculpture that read “Beautiful B.”  For her 25th, he not only gave his lady a big party in New York, the hip hop mogul reportedly spent $1 million to buy her a 1959 Rolls Royce convertible.  In 2010, she bought him a Bugatti Grand Sport, for a reported $2 million.  His new gigantic sapphire pinky ring, worth an estimated $500,000, is believed to be Beyonce’s gift of thanks to Jay-Z for being such a good daddy to baby Blue Ivy, who is four weeks and three days old today (2/14).  In a related story, Blue Ivy is said to already have more than $1.5 million worth of toys, in addition to her trademarked name and hit record release.  (Jay-Z’s “Glory” included her first sounds, making Blue Ivy the youngest artist ever on the Billboard charts.)

Romantic might not be the first word that leaps to mind when you think of fried-sounding heavy metal icon Ozzy Osbourne and his potty-mouthed rock matriarch cum talk and reality show queen, Sharon.  But the couple has been wed 30 years this year. They’ve made it through drug and illness nightmares that could have rendered asunder a less devoted pair.  That’s plenty romantic enough.  And how about this?  Ozzy buys pearls for Sharon on Valentine’s Day every year.  She tells the story of how he was performing in Japan the first year they were a couple, and he went into a shop and bought her a strand of pearls there – despite the fact they had no money at the time.  The bill arrived three weeks later, as she related in a U.K. Rate the Music interview, and “I’m like, ‘Oh Ozzy, we’re going to have to work for like six months to pay off this bill!’   So, it’s now become a tradition — pearls.”

Speaking of odd, Shirley Jones and Marty Ingels still strike folks as the unlikeliest of couples – the loud and often grating comic and the genteel Oscar-winning actress and musical star.  They weren’t supposed to last but it’s been 35 years this year since they became husband and wife, and they say they’re a testimony to the power of laughter.  Ingels also knows the power of a spectacular gesture – having pulled such shenanigans as having a mariachi band performing out on their lawn for one of their anniversaries.  He also once purchased an entire candy store in Beverly Hills as a gift for “Shirl,” who happened to like a particular type of candy sold there.  Sweet!

Of course, it doesn’t always have to be about money.   “Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna told us his favorite romantic moment “was in 1975.  My love Arlene and I were touring with a play in Europe.  We were like hippies, without much money in our pockets.  We went up to the top of the Eiffel Tower on October 3 and did a kind of personal marriage thing.  We had to go back to Chicago to make it legal, but it’s that October 3 date we celebrate, that we consider our anniversary date.  Even more romantic was a date that came 25 years later — on October 3.  We were with our two daughters and went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and recited our vows again.  What made it more special was that our daughter Mia, who was about 14 at the time, was wearing the same blue jean jacket Arlene had worn that first time.”

And  then there’s Julie Benz of “Dexter” and Charlie Sheen’s upcoming “Anger Management” series.  She recalls, “In fifth grade, Peter Esselman wrote me a letter that said he would love me even if all my hair fell out and I regurgitated all over myself.  And he drew a picture of me with no hair, regurgitating on myself.   That’s love.”

Injured Scott Hamilton Confers With Surgeons

Scott Hamilton

Scott Hamilton is conferring with surgeons “to get as many opinions as possible” before he decides what course to take with his latest physical challenge.

“In December I took a fall and tore up my shoulder so I have to have surgery. I’ve never had that happen before,” says the beloved Olympic Gold Medal-winning skating great. Having completed his latest turn as rinkside commentator for NBC last month, he reports, “With my responsibilities with the Olympics, January and February were almost gone so today was the first day I was back on the ice and my shoulder was really limiting me. I’m hoping to get it repaired this month. I can’t sleep so it’s time to get it fixed.”

If anyone can make that happen, it’s Scott, a survivor of testicular cancer and a brain tumor. He talked to this column last year about his amazing journey from pot-bellied and unhealthy shape back to performance-ready form after five years away from the ice – thanks to grueling hard work. The public will get a chance to see some of that journey tonight (3/8) on the Bio Channel’s two-hour special, “Scott Hamilton: Return to the Ice.”

“I figured if I’m going to put myself through this much agony, I might as well document it,” says the 51-year-old Hamilton with a laugh. “I never anticipated going back to skating ever, but I was letting myself fail physically. I wasn’t pushing myself to be as healthy as I could be. The first six months back were frustrating because I didn’t have anything. I was trying to get my body to get to the point where I could try stuff,” he explains, “but there were elements that were a part of this process that weren’t ever in my skating career before – fear and uncertainty. I’d go to do something and I’d almost start laughing because I couldn’t figure out how to make my body do it.”

Finally Hamilton was back to skating an hour a day and he performed for the first time at his 10th annual cancer-fundraising show “An Evening With Scott Hamilton and Friends.” Now his shoulder injury has him sidelined once again for a few months.

Jason Dolley

A LITTLE OLDER, NOT EXACTLY WISER:  

Disney Channel heartthrob Jason Dolley, 18, takes a step toward maturity with the April 4-debuting “Good Luck Charlie” – about a household in which the teenagers take care of their baby sister while the parents are away at their respective jobs.

“They’re sort of going for a ‘Full House’ kind of feeling with this show,” says Dolley, “something families can watch together. It definitely resembles a classic family sitcom. We get to have, like, family dynamic stuff that goes on. The things that come up on the show are real-life conflicts. I think it’s a balance of things that kids will like and adults will like. It’s awesome.”

Dolley, who played the mop-haired Newt Livingston on the Channel’s very broad, very kid-oriented “Corey in the House” – and goofed around in a chicken suit in its “Hatching Pete” movie last year – admits he was anxious to get back in the game. “’Corey in the House’ ended kind of abruptly and I was kind of disappointed that it was over. Working at the Disney Channel was so awesome, I was like, ‘I want to get in there and do more of that.’ Then this script came to me and it’s a more grown-up character and a more authentic show and I thought, ‘Wow, this is the best of both worlds.’”

But his new character isn’t exactly a model of responsible near-adulthood.

“P.J. is the oldest brother in the household. His heart’s in the right place, but I guess it’s like his little brother puts it: ‘He’s not very “thinky.”’ P.J. easily misses things. He’s not dumb, but he’s a little bit in his own world.”

THE SHAPE OF THINGS: Julie Benz is proud to have the body to play a stripper on “Desperate Housewives” at age 37. The former “Dexter” leading lady tells us, “I’m an exercise junkie. I also feel like, my mentality is, I embrace who I am and where I’m at. I don’t consider myself be to be extremely thin. I’m very physically fit, but I’m not like this anorexic thinness. I’ve got these thighs and I’ve got this a– and I love to eat.”

AWARD TO THE WISE: Sure, there are lots more disappointed Oscar nominees than there are winners this morning, but those illustrious nominations still mean an awful lot. Ernest Borgnine, who was selected to receive the Publicists Guild’s Special Award of Merit in recognition of his long career at the organization’s 47th Annual Awards Luncheon last week, points out, “I didn’t win the Emmy last year (for his guesting on “E.R.”). But I always feel like if you’re nominated, they’re at least thinking of you. I thought being nominated was just as good,” claims the 93-year-old Borgnine. The Oscar winner for “Marty” (1955) does go on to say, however, “I do have that big golden fella that I won and nobody can take that away from me.”

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster

Julie Benz Proud of Michael C. Hall Candor

Julie Benz, Michael C. Hall

Julie Benz, Michael C. Hall

Julie Benz sounds delighted and very proud when talking about her former “Dexter” leading man, Michael C. Hall, and the way he’s handled his battle with Hodgkins Lymphoma.”He’s fantastic, doing just fantastic. His cancer is definitely in remission, and you know, they caught it very early,” she points out. And, Hall’s decision to go public, she feels, will inspire countless fans and others “to go and get checked out, because if you catch cancer early, you can kick its a–. Sorry to swear, but really, if you’re not feeling good or if you feel a lump in your gland, go to your doctor, no matter what. No matter how busy you are.”

Beautiful Benz debuted this past Sunday in her new recurring role on “Desperate Housewives” as Robin, the highly-educated stripper.

“It’s offered me the chance to do some comedy. It’s a very fun character, and very different from Rita,” she says, referring to her “Dexter” role. “I’m always looking for where I can go next and how I can do something different,” notes the actress. She plays a business executive who finds love among the vineyards in the Hallmark Channel romantic comedy, “Uncorked,” airing March 6.

Her schedule has been so grueling, between shooting the series, doing promotion and attending the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, she wound up getting sick with laryngitis last month. However, “I’m a workaholic and I thrive when I have to work hard,” she says.

And, it’s helped move her beyond the trauma of getting killed off “Dexter.” So did the fact, “I’m very close to a lot of the cast — Jennifer (Carpenter) and I are close friends, and Michael, James Remar and his wife, David Zayas and his wife — and I had the pleasure of going through awards season and being reunited with everyone.”

She doesn’t mind the fact that people are still approaching her and exclaiming about what happened to Rita. “I love that it was that impactful. It would really suck if they killed off Rita and nobody responded.”

ON THE PERSONAL SIDE: It’s not often that a celebrity begs to differ with Dr. Oz, but such is the case with Carnie Wilson, who turns up on Oz’s show today (2/4), ready to make a fresh start in her weight battle.

“He and I sort of have a conflicted diagnosis about something. He called me pre-diabetic, but that’s not right, according to my doctor and my numbers. I am in the very normal range. Maybe it was something he said for the show,” says the singer-cum-reality show star — “Carnie Wilson: Unstapled” on GSN — baker, and “Newlywed Game” host.

Carnie admits she was startled by some of what Dr. Oz told her, including that “at 65 pounds overweight, I fall into the morbidly obese category. When I weighed 300 pounds, I knew that I was in that category, but not now, at 218. I looked into that, and he’s right. My BMI is 39 and that’s too high,” adds Carnie, who has been trying to get rid of the weight she put on while pregnant with daughter Lucy, 7 1/2 months.

“The great thing about Dr. Oz is, he looked me in the eye and gave me big hugs and said, ‘I don’t see you as a celebrity. I see you as a wife and mom, and someone who has the opportunity to help millions of people.’ That’s the kind of man he is.”

She’s now going on the diet regime Dr. Oz lays out in his books, but admits that fitting in his prescribed daily workouts is a challenge for her. “When I’m filming and promoting the show, it’s not possible, but I’ll do as much as I can,” says Carnie.

STRUNG OUT: “CSI’s” Robert David Hall says he enjoys the occasional curve ball thrown his way by the show’s writers. For instance, a bit on the upcoming installment featuring Rascal Flatts required him to “autopsy a guitar that electrocuted some musician.

“I like it when odd things happen,” says Hall, who is a musician and singer himself. “I try to prepare for anything I do, so I went down to my guitar repairman, Norick Renson, and said, ‘I have to do an autopsy on a guitar,’ and he and his sidekick, Bret, told me exactly how to take apart a Fender bass guitar.” That’s going the extra mile for verisimilitude, all right.

COURSE OF DISCOURSE: Naomi Judd has a great gift of gab, but according to her, she had to sharpen her debate skills once she started appearing on TV all the time.

“Bill Bennett always calls me ‘the common sense’ celebrity,” notes the singer and talk show favorite, who’s exchanged words with hosts from Chris Matthews to Bill O’Reilly, in addition to having her own shows. “I’m pretty known for telling it straight.

“I learned to be more assertive on Bill Maher’s show. He said, ‘You are a Southern belle. You are too nice. If you’re going to be on this show, you can’t wait ’til Ann Coulter finishes saying something to jump in and try to negate her.'”

Still, Judd maintains a respectful attitude and fully intends to keep it that way.

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster

Nick Zano: Sexy Scenes With Courteney Cox Arquette All in a Day’s Work

Nick Zano Photo Element Films

Nick Zano Photo Element Films

Ssssssssss.  That’s the sound of steam coming from the set of “Cougar Town” while filming was underway on episodes with Courteney Cox Arquette getting it on with her first “cub,” Nick Zano

The actor of “What I Like About You” and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” fame describes his average day:  “You read what they put in there for you.  Usually, it involves being wet, a bathtub scene, or a bed scene.  So, I’d go into my trailer, open up my closet, see five pairs of boxers and a terrycloth robe.  So it would be, put on the boxers, put on my robe, walk over to the set, talk to the camera guys – ‘How was your weekend?’  The AD pulls back the sheet.  Courteney comes in.  Talk about her family.  ‘How’s David doing?  How’s Coco?’  She gets into the bed, I get on top of her and we start making out.”

And there you have it.  But wait.  Zano adds the mandatory advisory, “As much fun as it sounds, it’s also pressuring.  We can see maybe 14 people standing around, a group of big Teamsters text messaging while we’re fake making out.  And it’s very, very choreographed.  You have to remember how far up your shoulder goes, how high you can bring your head up.”   

 Zano’s storyline runs over six episodes, the funniest being next Wednesday’s (10/28), according to him, and in a couple more weeks, “There’s my last one.  It’s a big one.  It’s a doozey,” he says.

As for what he thinks of the whole “cougar” trend?  “As a former young man, I applaud it,” he says.  “I think guys could use a mature woman.  It’s truth. The woman teaching a younger man thing – that woman basically takes that young man to school.  He carries that with him when he dates younger women.”

FROM THE INSIDE LOOKING OUT:  Funny lady Julie Bowen, who with Ty Burrell heads the traditional nuclear family of ABC’s “Modern Family,” admits, “I’m always thinking everybody else has the great job.”  Referring to the comedy’s older man-younger woman match of Ed O’Neill and Sofia Vergara, and the couple played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet., she notes, “Theirs seem like bigger characters than ours in a lot of ways.  There’s such a rich mine of jokes for the gay couple and for Ed and Sofia.  And then, you know, Sofia has that body and that accent, and she says to me, ‘Don’t be jealous.’  I am jealous,” Bowen claims.

“But on the other hand, anyone who has a life filled with kids knows they’re the weirdest people,” she adds.  For instance, her own three sons – Oliver, 2 1/2, and six-month-old twins John and Gus.  “Right now, the older one is into a thing of making me stop the car and back up every time he sees certain Halloween decorations.  ‘Back up!  Back up!  Back up!’  That’s huge.  There’s a bloody dismembered arm.  Where is the other arm?  He’s two.  I can only imagine how it’s going to be in the years to come.”

 Bowen agrees with a critic who wrote that for all of its snap, “Modern Family” has a soft, sweet center.  “I didn’t want to say that at first, because I didn’t want people to think of it as sickeningly sweet.  But that’s what resonates.  The writers gave the show and the characters in it heart.  When we read our Christmas episode, Ty Burrell was weeping,” she says.  “I was choking up.  At the end of 22 minutes, it’s not just funny, it’s satisfying.”

 BACK TO THE BOARDS:  Kathleen Turner has been enjoying her time on television with a recurring guest spot on “Californication,” but she tells us that the stage is her first love and she plans to get back to it very soon.  “To be on Broadway was always my first dream.  When we finished the three-year run of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,’ that’s what I had been dreaming of for the 30 years I’ve been doing this work,” says Turner.  “Now I’ve been offered a new Broadway piece for next year, which I’m looking forward to.  I can’t talk about it, though, until we sign.” And so we wait!

LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD:  Hollywood’s leading actresses are expected to keep fit in order to look great on camera, but “Dexter” star Julie Benz says it’s one part of the job she doesn’t mind. “I do keep myself in the best shape as possible, but fitness has been a huge part of my life ever since I was a child.  I was a competitive figure skater growing up,” she tells us.  “It’s my stress reliever to go to the gym and work out.”  

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster