Julie Benz with Michael C. Hall, Dexter
The Ice Truck Killer, at long last, is definitively unmasked, yet on the loose. The race is now on for Dexter
to suss out the serial slayer before our antihero's own sister becomes the latest victim. As Showtime prepares to premiere the freshman series' season finale, Sunday at 10 pm/ET, TVGuide.com spoke with Angel
alumna Julie Benz
about what's ahead, including a mystery of Rita's own that could prove to be boyfriend Dexter's next (severed) headache.
TVGuide.com: I just finished watching the finale....
Julie Benz: Oh, you did? Wow... I haven't even seen it yet.
TVGuide.com: It's good stuff.
Benz: Is it? Yay!
TVGuide.com: Very twisty and turny. What's been the hardest part for you about inhabiting Rita's skin? It's not a typical role for an actress.
Benz: No, it isn't, but I don't think she's that far from me as far as my more vulnerable side. As she develops more of her strength, finding that balance between her strength versus her vulnerability is the hardest part for me.
TVGuide.com: She has developed a lot this season in that respect.
Benz: Yeah, she did. A part of me wants to find that inner core strength, but always maintain the level of vulnerability that she struggles with all the time.
TVGuide.com: What have been the most challenging scenes for you to play — save, of course, for dressing up as Lara Croft, Tomb Raider?
Benz: [Laughs] That was fun, it wasn't challenging! In the beginning, for me it was working with the kids. When you work with children — and those kids are so young, 6 and 8, and not trained actors at all — you really have to be on your toes and live moment to moment.
TVGuide.com: Do you have any nieces and nephews?
Benz: I have lots, so I have quite a bit of aunt experience, but it's different when you're on set and you don't know what your role is really supposed to be in their lives. I mean, you're playing their mother but yet you're not their mother. I think we ultimately established that I'm kind of their friend and their colleague rolled into one!
TVGuide.com: Let's tease the finale a bit. There's an interesting parallel in that, as Dexter is closing in on the Ice Truck Killer, Rita is given her own mystery to start unraveling.
TVGuide.com: Did you enjoy that new story direction?
Benz: Oh, yeah, definitely. I actually thought my story line was pretty much tied up in Episode 10, and then you see in 11 and 12 that they're starting this whole other unraveling of Dexter's personal life. I was shocked by it. Me, as a fan, I don't want Rita to find out!
TVGuide.com: If she were to ever uncover what Dexter is up to when he's not with her, do you think there is any chance she would buy into this code he lives by? His rationalization for killing killers?
Benz: Oh, wow... I don't know. She so badly wants to see the good in him and believe in the good in him, but at the same time there's that moral question: Is it right or is it wrong?
TVGuide.com: Even if it is "right," do you really want this guy hanging around your kids?
Benz: Exactly. I think she would make the choice to go away, if she ever truly found out.
TVGuide.com: But if they do go on to get married, Rita's kids can bring Dexter to Career Day at school, and....
Benz: "So what do you do for a living? What do you do for a hobby?" [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Are you squeamish at all? Can you handle watching Dexter?
Benz: I hate the sight of blood, and I hate working with fake blood — I don't have to [on Dexter], thank god, but on other shows I've had to, and it just grosses me out. I don't think our show is that gory or squeamish. It's more, like, fascinating. You can't stop watching it.
TVGuide.com: How about a few words for your leading man, Michael C. Hall? [Hall has since been nominated for a Golden Globe award.]
Benz: Oh, my god. I can't believe I get to work with him every day! I've been a huge fan of his since Six Feet Under. My cell-phone ring even used to be the Six Feet Under theme song, and then I got cast, and I was like, "I have to change it!" [Laughs] I mean, how embarrassing?!
TVGuide.com: Did you ever tell Michael about it?
Benz: Yes, he knows now.... I've saved it as his own personal [incoming call] ring. But yeah, I feel so lucky to have him be my scene partner. He raises the bar, as far as the level of work that's done on set. He brings out the best in me and my work. He's the most intelligent actor I've ever worked with.
TVGuide.com: Who have you had even the most fleeting of scenes with, that you would have liked to work more with?
Benz: The rest of the cast and I joke around that I'm in a whole different show than they are. [Laughs] I would love to work with the rest of the cast. I'm very close with David Zayas (Batista) and Erik King (Doakes) and Jennifer Carpenter (Debra) and Lauren Velez (Lt. LaGuerta)... and even James Remar. I very rarely get to see them except at the occasional table read. The whole cast is so wonderful, but I miss them because I don't get to see them every day.
TVGuide.com: What's the oddest or most fun thing you've ever had to do for an acting role?
Benz: I had to sing on Angel [on which Benz played Darla], and I am not a singer. I have no singing ability whatsoever. But they had a karaoke bar where you would sing and they could read your soul.... They asked if I could do it and I said sure, I'd try. They had a backup plan to have me lip-synch, but they gave me a simple song and I managed to do it. But it was terrifying — I really wanted to crawl under a rock that day.
TVGuide.com: Are you all done with your voice work for the Halo 3 video game?
Benz: You know what? I am actually not a part of Halo 3. I was informed a couple of weeks ago that they are actually changing the voice of Captain Miranda Keyes, and giving her an accent.
TVGuide.com: Are you serious?! What kind of an accent?
Benz: I have no idea. [Laughs] They didn't even entertain the idea of having me do it, so... I was very sad. I was very sad. I had such a great time doing Halo 2.
TVGuide.com: Did you approve of your video-game likeness?Benz: You know, I haven't played the game because I don't have [Xbox]. But people say she's pretty hot, so I'm like, "All right!" She's brunette, and I've never "played" a brunette before.
TVGuide.com: Did you find there to be some overlap between the Buffy-Angel fans and the video-game crowd?
Benz: Definitely, definitely. Halo 2 had opening sales of $100 million. That's a much wider audience than anything I've ever been a part of!
TVGuide.com: Out of that $100 million, how many millions do you get?
Benz: Absolutely none. [Laughs] And I don't even get to be in Halo 3!
With special thanks to my college chum, Major Nelson.
Do you fancy Dexter a hero? Check out TV Guide Channel's special look at today's TV Heroes, premiering Sunday at 8 pm/ET.