After four years as serial killer Dexter Morgan's other half on Showtime's hit Dexter, Julie Benz's on-screen alter ego was murdered in one of the year's most jaw-dropping season finales. But with a recurring role on ABC's Desperate Housewives and her new romantic comedy Uncorked, Benz is proving life after death can be sweet, even funny.
"I got my start in comedy years ago and then Joss Whedon discovered me and made me a dramatic actress," she says. "Everybody views me now as a dramatic actress and people forget that I'm actually funny."
In Uncorked, airing Saturday at 9/8c on Hallmark Channel, Benz shows off her comedic chops as Johnetta "Johnny" Prentice, a workaholic CFO who finds life (and love) outside the boardroom on a business trip to California's wine country.
Between Uncorked and Benz's recurring role on Housewives, she's busier than ever. "Johnny is definitely the career woman in me," she says. "I love what I do. I am most comfortable on-set working and Johnny is obviously most comfortable in the boardroom, working. She's the extreme of that for me."
Despite the marked differences among career woman Johnny, stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold Robyn and the recently slain Rita, the 37-year-old Benz says there's a common thread in all three roles. "They're all parts of me. I possess their sensibilities in me, just different parts are accentuated. If you take the nurturer that's inside of me and multiply by 100, that's Rita," she says. "What I love about the character on Desperate Housewives is that she has this really great heart and this tremendous spirit. Everything is so exiting to her. I feel I have that. Even showing up on Wisteria Lane, I still can't believe I get to go to work on Wisteria Lane everyday."
Benz may be pinching herself over her latest gig but the actress says Dexter will always hold a special place. After all, she did receive the offer to appear on Housewives the day following Dexter's bloody season ender. "It would have really been awful if Rita had died and nobody cared. The fact that it had that impact and had that shock value to it was huge," she says. "After getting over the fact that I'm not going to be on the show anymore, when I look at the storytelling, it really is amazing."
Following the Season 3 finale, Benz has enjoyed taking part in the series' recent awards recognition, such as Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild wins for co-star Michael C. Hall — while enjoying the lighter side of acting.
"I did promise my mother that I would do my best to get into a comedy where I don't get shot," Benz says. "My mom is kind of tired of seeing me die."