Interview: Julie Benz Takes on the Superhero Role in ‘No Ordinary Family’

Julie Benz appears to have gone from victim to hero in one fell swoop. After leaving behind Rita Morgan after four seasons on Dexter, the actress is primed to portray Stephanie Powell on ABC’s upcoming family show, No Ordinary Family.  No longer the dead body in the bathtub, Powell is a busy professional scientist and researcher who develops super speed following a crash landing in the Amazon on a trip with her family. After deciding to move on from Dexter, Renz related that she was looking for a new challenge and the character of Stephanie was just what she was looking for.

“When pilot season started, my quest was to find a character that was strong female character, a character that is more active than Rita. I was getting offered a lot of parts that were similar to her and I was turning them down because I wanted to find something that was different.”

While there might be the temptation to compare Rita with Stephanie, Benz insists that she didn’t pull inspiration from portraying a mother on a previous show. For one thing, the personalities are incredibly different.

“I think they’re both mothers, but other than that, there’s really no commonality. Rita was not career driven at all, she was very dependent, very damaged with a lot of  vulnerabilities, very emotional. Stephanie’s very controlled, a Type A personality, goal oriented and has a hard time interacting with her own family.”

Since Benz and her costar, Michael Chiklis are both veterans of shows with cult status, playing opposite the man behind Vic Mackey and Tony Scali must have been a pretty heady experience. Benz is so excited to act alongside Chiklis, she can’t even use his nickname of “Chicki” on set.

“I’ve been a fan since The Commish! I mean, he’s Michael Chiklis! You have to say his whole name! I feel like we’re the land of the cable TV actors because you’ve got us, you’ve got Romany Malco and Autumn Reeser in the show. We’re the land of the cable actors coming to network television. Hopefully it works!”

Stephanie’s character is an Executive at a global science research firm, and, as such, you would think that she might have a hard time accepting not only her powers, but the powers that her family has. At least, not without a bit of research and testing, right?

“Coming from a world of science, she really wants to know what’s happening, especially since her children are affected. She really wants to figure out are these good or bad powers they’re making us strong now, but how are they going to affect us in the future? Where’s the balance? I think what they start to realize is that even though they have super abilities, it also creates more problems.”

Benz is no stranger to the genre world, having played Darla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Given her experience with living in a completely created world, we wondered how much Benz was relying on the writers to completely create the world for her, or if she drew on beloved superheroes of her own to round out Stephanie’s character.

“When you work in the world of fantasy/genre, I just kind of allow the writers to create that world for me to bring it to life. Coming from the world of Joss Whedon and vampires and playing Darla for so long, his world was so specific to his brain, even if I went off and read every Anne Rice book and did all this research on vampires, it wasn’t what was in Joss Whedon’s head. And I feel this is the same kind of world that has been created its more about me picking their brains about the characters.”

No Ordinary Family premieres on ABC on September 28, 2010.

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