An American actress who started out as a competitive ice skater before switching to acting in the late 1980s, Julie Benz is known for portraying the eccentric, sexy vampire Darla on the popular “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” from 1997-2000 and its spin-off series, “Angel,” from 2000 to 2004. Darla has been named one of the “Top 10 Sexiest Women” in “Buffy” and “Angel,” a polling done by fans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” magazines. On her character Darla in “Angel,” she stated, “I didn't expect them to write such a beautiful ending. I really think it was one of the most beautiful gifts I've ever received as an actor. The last three episodes of her life are so wonderful. They were such a gift to play. It was really amazing. They sent me the script and I was on lunch. I was in my trailer crying. Everybody was asking me if I was okay and what was wrong and I had to say it was nothing and that I was fine. You don't want to tell anyone anything, and of course, we're not allowed to tell anybody anything. I think she truly is one of the most amazing characters on television.”
Benz is also memorable as Dakota Fanning's mother in the highly-rated Sci-Fi Channel miniseries “Taken” (2002), produced by Steven Spielberg, and Rita Bennett on Showtime's acclaimed crime/thriller series “Dexter” (2006-present), from which she picked up a Satellite Award in 2006. The busy performer has gained further popularity on television with guest stints in a number of TV series, including “Married... With Children” (1994), “Boy Meets World,” “The Single Guy” and “Diagnosis Murder” (all 1996), “Roswell” (1999-2000), “CSI: Miami,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Supernatural” (all 2006). She has also been seen in “Law & Order” and in TV films like “The Long Shot: Believe in Courage” (2004), “Lackawanna Blues” (2005) and “Locusts: The 8th Plague” (2005). On the movie front, the pretty blonde actress has collected many credits since making her debut in 1990's “Two Evil Eyes.” Among them are “As Good As It Gets” (1997), “Inventing the Abbotts” (also 1997), “Jawbreaker” (1999), “George of the Jungle 2” (2003), “A Fate Totally Worse than Death” (2005) and “Kill Your Darlings” (2006). She has recently completed filming Sylvester Stallone's “Rambo” (2008) and is now shooting the action film “The Punisher: War Zone” (2008).
Benz, whose favorite authors are Ayn Rand and Ernest Hemingway, has been married to comedian/actor John Kassir since 1998.
Childhood and Family:
Julie M. Benz was born on May 1, 1972, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but grew up in nearby Murrysville. Her father was a vascular surgeon and her mother was a figure skater. Like her older siblings, Jeffrey and Jennifer, who were both junior ice skating champions, young Julie followed in her mother's footstep into the figure skating field, but after competing in the 1988 U.S. Junior Ice Skating Championship, was forced to discard a professional career due to an injury. Julie graduated from Franklin Regional High School and later moved to New York City to study drama at New York University. She later moved to Los Angeles in order to chase an acting career.
Julie married actor/comedian John Kassir (born on October 24, 1957) on May 30, 1998.
The daughter of a figure ice skater, Julie Benz began her career on ice. Skating by age 3, she competed in the 1988 U.S. Championships in junior ice dancing with her partner David Schilling and they finished in 13th place. An injury, however, soon became an obstacle that forced the talented teen to consider another career. In 1989, Benz turned her attention to acting and found herself immersed in the local theater in which she landed a role in a production of “Street Law.” A year later, she made her big screen debut in the “Black Cat” segment of the horror film “Two Evil Eyes,” which was jointly directed by masters of the genre George Romero and Dario Argento. Among her costars in the film were Harvey Keitel, John Amos and Kim Hunter. A regular gig on television followed in 1991 when she was cast in the starring role of daughter Babs Nielson in the sitcom “Hi Honey, I'm Home,” which only ran for two seasons.
After honing in on her craft at New York University, Benz headed to Los Angeles to further her career and received several small roles in movies and TV shows. She appeared as Sascha in an episode of Fox's “Married... With Children” (1994), Joanna Craig in the 1995 “High Tide” episode of “Sea No Evil” and Tawny in an episode of “Step by Step” (1995). She went on to take a string of other guest spots in 1996 and was seen in ABC's “Boy Meets World,” CBS' “Diagnosis Murder,” “Sliders” and NBC's “The Single Guy.” She also acted with Mike Altieri and Anthony Backman in the Aaron Spelling-produced TV pilot “Crosstown Traffic” (1995), made a cameo appearance as a sexy woman in the Disney Family Films presentation of “The Barefoot Executive” (ABC, 1995), had an unaccredited part in the Chris Farley-David Spade comedy vehicle “Black Sheep” (1996), appeared with Don Murray and Kathleen Noone in the independent drama “Hearts Adrift” (1996) and portrayed Julie Falcon in the action film “Darkdrive” (1996).
Still in 1996, Benz auditioned for the role of Buffy in the series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997), but the role went to Sarah Michelle Gellar. Although she lost the role, the audition landed her a small part as a vampire girl named Darla and thanks to her impressive performance, her guest shot was expanded into a recurring role, a move that subsequently launched Benz' career to a higher level. She went on to appear in the well-like supernatural series until November 2000.
Benz continued to pursue other projects. The same year she started her role on “Buffy,” she delivered an unforgettable cameo turn as a receptionist in the 1997 hit comedy “As Good As It Gets,” starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. The same year, she also had a bit part in the drama film “Inventing the Abbotts” and starred in the 40-minute parody “Eating Las Vegas,” with Dean Cain. After guest starring in “The Big Easy” and “Fame L.A.,” (both 1997), she assumed the regular role of Joplin Russell in the Fox sitcom “Ask Harriet” (1998), which was canceled after five episodes. Her next sitcom, “Payne” (NBC, 1999), a remake of the hit British comedy “Fawlty Towers” in which she starred as Breeze O'Rourke, also had a short life. Benz fared better as Kathleen Topolsky, a school guidance counselor, on several episodes of The WB's hit “Roswell” from 1999 to 2000. Meanwhile on the silver screen, she could be seen costarring with Rose McGowan and Rebecca Gayheart in the high school-set dark comedy “Jawbreaker” and supporting Danny Masterson and Jenna Jameson in the comedy “Dirt Merchant” (both 1999).
In 2000, Benz enjoyed an additional boost when her Darla character, which had been killed off on “Buffy,” was brought back to life during the first season of the “Buffy” spin-off “Angel” (2000-2004). She became a regular cast member beginning in the fall of 2001 and stayed with the show until it came to an end in 2004. The popularity she got from playing Darla also made Benz a featured celebrity model in men magazines such as “FHM” and “Maxim.”
While working on the show, Benz managed to find other jobs. She costarred with Shannen Doherty in the ABC TV-movie remake “Satan's School for Girls” (2000), played Barbara in the horror spoof “Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th” (2000), opposite Aimee Graham and Coolio, before accepting slightly more serious work as comedian Bill Bellamy's girlfriend in the Gary Hardwick-directed drama/comedy “The Brothers” (2001). She also took over the role of Ursula on the direct-to-video sequel “George of the Jungle 2” (2003), was featured in the short “The Midget Stays in the Picture” (2003) and played the lead role of Annie Garrett in the television drama “The Long Shot: Believe in Courage” (2004). However, during this period she was probably best known as the mother of Dakota Fanning, Kate Keys, in the Steven Spielberg-produced miniseries “Taken” (2002), which was considered a highly-rated show on the Sci-Fi Channel.
After the demise of “Angel,” Benz made TV films like HBO's award winning drama/music “Lackawanna Blues” (2005), “Locusts: The 8th Plague” (2005) and the Lifetime film “Circle of Friends” (2006), as well as landed guest roles in several TV shows, including “CSI: Miami,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Supernatural” (all 2006). She also starred in the straight-to-video sequel “8MM 2” (2005) and in the films “A Fate Totally Worse than Death” (2005), a comedy helmed by John T. Kretchmer, and “Kill Your Darlings” (2006), opposite Lolita Davidovich and Andreas Wilson.
Benz returned to series TV as a regular in late October 2006 when she joined the cast of the Showtime crime/drama series “Dexter” (2006-present), costarring Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan, Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan and Erik King as Sergeant James Doakes, among others. Based on the novels by Jeff Lindsay, the show brought Benz a 2006 Satellite for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television.
On February 9, 2007, Benz appeared as Dawn Sterling in the “Law & Order” episode of “Church.” Her new film, “Rambo,” directed by and starring Sylvester Stallone, will be released on January 28, 2008. Currently, she is filming the action/crime movie “The Punisher: War Zone” (2008), starring Ray Stevenson as a former FBI agent named Frank Castle.
Satellite: Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, “Dexter,” 2006