Julie Benz On Modern Dog Magazine: “Bamboo And Sugar Grew Up On The Dexter Set”

Julie Benz On Modern Dog Magazine: "Bamboo And Sugar Grew Up On The Dexter Set"

Julie Benz is on the Summer issue of Modern Dog magazine. The dog-loving actress talks about her experiences volunteering for animal groups, her ideal day spent with her pups, “Dexter” and more.

Tell us a bit about your two dogs.

Bamboo is a seven-year-old Morkie [Maltese Yorkie cross] and he’s a hot mess. He loves to bark and protect the yard from intruders (squirrels), but becomes a nervous wreck when I start cooking in the kitchen (he hides in the closet!) and he loves to fall asleep in my arms. Sugar is a five-year-old Havanese and she’s so easy going. I can take her anywhere and know that she will behave. She’s very in tune to our needs and does whatever she can to please us. However, do not disturb her when she sleeps!  

Can you tell us a bit about your experiences volunteering for animal groups? 

I was very active in spreading the word about Patrick the Miracle Dog and the movement that has become known as Patrick’s Law. Patrick’s Law aims to pursue strong animal welfare legislation at a State and Federal level. [Patrick was an emaciated Pit Bull discovered at the bottom of a trash chute in Newark. He had been tied to a railing and starved near to death before being tossed out with the trash. Patrick, as he was named, was discovered moments before a trash compactor would have killed him; amazingly, made a full recovery, in the process garnering fans around the world.] I had the opportunity to meet Patrick very early in his recovery. When I met him he climbed into my arms, rested his head on my shoulder, and stayed like that for a very long time. He was so trusting even though his human had neglected him so severely. 

Do your dogs ever come on set with you? 

Yes! Bamboo and Sugar grew up on the Dexter set. I’m fortunate that they are able to travel with me and come to work with me. Bamboo even had a featured role in Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day. Sugar is awesome on set, she will sit quietly under my chair, not react to gunfire or explosions, but if you have to kiss me in a scene, she becomes very vocal!

What has been your favourite movie or TV role to date and why? We’re big Buffy fans here at Modern Dog.  

It’s hard to pick a favourite! Working on Dexter was amazing, I felt like I was in a master acting class working opposite Michael C. Hall. Playing Darla (Buffy/Angel) was a roller coaster ride, I never knew what she was going to do next! Robin (Desperate Housewives) was so fun and quirky and a real character role for me. Amanda (Defiance) is a total bad ass. I get to be challenged emotionally as well as physically every day and for that I am very fortunate and grateful. 

Click here to read the full interview.

Michael C. Hall On “Dexter” & “Cold In July” For Fangoria

Michael C. Hall On "Dexter" & "Cold In July" For FangoriaFor eight seasons in the title role of Showtime’s “DEXTER”, Michael C. Hall devoted himself to ridding the world of assorted villains. Jim Mickle’s excellent new thriller “COLD IN JULY” also sees Hall taking out bad guys—but as a much more conflicted character. FANGORIA spoke to Michael C. Hall about getting into the head of a man discovering his own killer instinct, and got a postmortem on “DEXTER” from the actor as well. Read more below. 

When you first read the “COLD IN JULY” script, was it as surprising an experience as it is to watch the film? 

Perhaps not quite as surprising, just because the film is such a visual feast, but yeah, I loved that it was a story about an unremarkable person around whom, or to whom, remarkable things happen, because that was sort of the antithesis of what I’d been doing on DEXTER. On the whole, I was impressed and delighted by the fact that this story broke its own rules and redefined itself more than twice. It felt like so many movies in one, and once I familiarized myself with Jim’s other work, I became excited about what I knew would be his sure hands; that he would be capable of allowing all this stuff to coalesce into something that was of a piece, but not bound by the rules that most narratives are. 

Was there anything in the book that wasn’t in the script, and made you think, “We need to put this into the film”? 

There were things that were explicit and talked about extensively in the book that I hoped we would capture in a moment or a glance, and I certainly was interested in that. They were there, but in more spare or subtle ways. I was interested in the fact that the relationship between Richard and his son is in no way chummy or shiny or happy, that he’s a guy who questions whether or not his son even likes him, and maybe harbors a fear that he himself is without an inherent affinity for the kid. That is perhaps a taboo thing that people don’t usually talk about, but a very real one, and one that speaks to something potentially relatable. There’s also the broader issue Richard has with his right to be a father and to be a man, and it speaks to an appetite that he has despite himself—to take this adventure all the way to the end. 

Getting back to what you mentioned before, you went from playing Dexter, a violent person keeping his impulses under control, to Richard, a nonviolent person discovering his capacity to let those impulses out. Was there any kind of challenge in going from one extreme to the other? 

The challenges were just about guarding my sense of the character’s truth. I found it somewhat therapeutic to wrap up DEXTER and then go play a more everyday person who doesn’t mean to kill someone, doesn’t want to kill someone, doesn’t need to kill someone, but nevertheless does and immediately has a sense of befuddlement and remorse and conflict. He’s not gonna chop the body up and go have a sandwich; he’s going to have nightmares and be unable to sleep, like a normal person would. And yet, he’s a guy who refuses to be the police department’s patsy. His whole life has maybe been characterized by a nagging sense that he’s a bit of a patsy, or that his life has happened to him but he has yet to happen to life, and he has the opportunity to make a choice and have a sense of agency in spite of the horrors involved. 

It’s also enticing, and when he tells his wife the lie that allows him to get away with going to Houston with these guys the first time, it’s some story about an opportunity for his frame shop or whatever—but he tells her, “I’ve been waiting for something big like this,” and in spite of himself, he’s revealing something very fundamental and true there. He wants to be tested in a way he’s never been tested. He wants to have an experience that allows him to own his sense of himself as a man, as a father, as a husband, and when it’s all over, while he’s probably going to have ghosts of this experience haunting him, he also has a sense of ownership over his role as that woman’s husband and that child’s father that he doesn’t have access to when we meet him at the beginning.

Going back to DEXTER, and being in that headspace: Having done the show for so many years, did you ever find yourself getting overtaken by that persona, and needing to escape it once in a while? 

Yeah—you know, only recently, probably within the past month, have I started to dream a lot about Dexter, which suggests that it’s sort of working its way through my unconscious. I’d like to believe that that’s a sign that it’s flushing itself, but I think there’s a part of us that records ritualized behavior in the same way that we record real-life events, and simulating something as an actor is a form of ritual. There’s a part of me that recorded all that stuff, and I need to flush it out. COLD IN JULY was a way to do that, by visiting the idea of murder more from the perspective of a person with a sense of true remorse and horror of the fact of having murdered. 

I’m sure time will pass and it will be more and more out of my system, but yeah, when DEXTER ended, one of the first thoughts I had was, “What have I done?” I realized that there was some part of my consideration that I had shelved because of the obligation to play someone who was able to kill someone and have a better night’s sleep than he had the night before for having done it, as opposed to the other way around [laughs], but I don’t know. It’s a tricky thing, and it’s hard to know exactly where the line is or what you do or don’t take home. I mean, you know what you take home consciously, but as far as the unconscious part of yourself, it’s hard to quantify.

Who is your favorite opponent or archvillain from all your years on DEXTER?

Well, Trinity [John Lithgow] would have to be the most formidable foe. There was a cat-and-mouse game we played for many, many weeks, and he was as prolific and skilled a killer as Dexter had ever encountered—and, in a way, a model for Dexter. Indulging in that relationship ended up getting his wife killed, and I don’t think Dexter ever quite recovered from that. As far as one-off kills, I would always point to Little Chino [Matthew Willig], just because he was so big, and it was fun to vanquish such a space-eating foe.

As time went on, did you have more creative input into DEXTER, both in terms of the writing and also casting actors you wanted to work with? 

Not exactly; I think the producer credit I had was a recognition of the contributions I was already making. Because we never had writers on set, I was, more often than not, the only producer there, so if there were logistical issues, I would be able to address them and maybe make whatever changes necessary. I left the scripting, the broad-strokes storytelling choices, to our writers. 

You can read the whole interview here.

Michael C. Hall Talks Moving On From “Dexter” & “Cold In July”

Michael C. Hall Talks Moving On From "Dexter" And "Cold In July"Michael C. Hall recently sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about what he thought of Dexter‘s controversial ending, how he plans to move on from his Emmy-nominated role as a serial killer, “Cold In July” and more.

Dexter is a unique role that has the potential to really define an actor. How conscious are you of the “Dexter baggage” in deciding what roles to play? 

There’s no individual role that is going to undo the Dexter-ization of your image, but it’s nice just to continue to move forward and start to mix it up. The biggest thing is not being bound by the schedule of having to return again and again to the same TV show.  

How conscious of it am I? I was conscious of it when I looked at the Cold in July script and saw that my character killed someone in the first few pages. The context, though, in which that happens is so fundamentally different, both in terms of the character himself and the world he’s living in. Frankly, it was therapeutic to do this on the heels of Dexter and to play someone who has a greater sense of human remorse. That’s actually how I felt after Dexter ended. I realized there was a part of myself that I probably had short-circuited so I could play someone who was able to kill someone and go have a sandwich. One of the first spontaneous thoughts I had when it was all over was, “What have I done?” 

On the heels of playing David Fisher [in Six Feet Under] and Dexter, what is like now to play a character with a finite arc, where you know how his story will end? Is there something freeing about it? 

There something really fun about it. It’s like having love affairs after a marriage. You’re there and then it’s over. It’s very refreshing to put things down you know you won’t pick up again.

When did you know how Dexter would end? 

I knew broad-stroke-wise only when we were going into the final season. I had the sense of how Dexter might end at different junctures over the life of the show, but those started to fall away as we moved forward. 

Meaning that the success of the show led to there being additional seasons and new endings had to be created? 

Yeah, if we ended at the fourth season, that would have been a pretty bad-ass ending. But we moved forward, and the character was reeling from that point on. I think he really lost access to a center once Rita (Julie Benz) was killed. And the rest of the show showed a world and a character who were really spiraling. 

How do you feel about how the show ultimately ended? 

I feel good in the sense that Dexter made a recognition about the way he lived his life and the way it had affected those closest to him, which inspires him to fake his own death and exile himself from the world. The way it was executed was maybe less than optimal. I think you spend more and more storytelling capital as a show goes on and on and on, and I think we struggled to have the inherent torque we started with.

Is this a case where having a successful TV show creates the added challenge of needing more story? 

Yes, but it was a many-headed monster. Clyde Phillips, who was our leader for the first four seasons, jumped ship, and we were without that definitive captain. It was a tough time to lose that, given that the fundamental construct of the show had been obliterated. 

Showtime president David Nevins has said that they are considering a Dexter spinoff where the character would go in a completely new direction. Is that something that you’ve been discussing with them?

I’ve sort of kept that at arm’s length. It’s not something I can really consider. For my own part, I can’t imagine something being conceived of and written that would be compelling enough to do that. I’m not saying it’s an impossibility that someone else might come up with it. 

In other words, show me the script?

Yeah, yeah exactly. 

Back in April, there were rumors about you being considered for Netflix’s Daredevil. Is that something they ever actually called you about? 

No. It was some sort of Internet-generated rumor. I think the character as he’s been conceived for that is in his early 20s, so I don’t see that happening. I’m flattered, though, that anyone would think that would be a good idea. 

Your roots are in theater, and you are now back onstage with The Realistic Jones through July 6. Has it been weird to be away from theater for so long?

My first play was when I was seven, so it’s the longest I’ve gone in my entire life without being onstage, which was a crazy thing to consider. It’s been a real blast. 

Have you thought about how theater will be a part of your acting career post-Dexter

I would like to continue working onstage periodically, but I want to keep a foot in all waters. It’s funny to do these interviews and talk about the arc of my career — there was no plan; I just went where things took me. I would like to continue to work onstage periodically and do film. I also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of doing another television show at some point, maybe something that was less open-ended, but maybe something open-ended if it wasn’t another version of something I’ve already done. … Just not quite yet.

Last year you said you wanted to do projects that were more lighthearted and fun after Dexter, yet Cold in July is dark and really intense. So what happened? 

Cold in July is really intense, but it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun to work with Sam [Shepard] and Don [Johnson]. It was a lot of fun to be on Jim’s [Mickle] set and to have a sense of being that well taken care of. It was a lot of fun to play a regular guy. And yeah, it’s got its darker themes and is grappling with some weighty stuff, but I also think it has a sense of humor. 

Yeah. [Laughs.] I said that, and the first two things I did were Cold In July and I went to Bangladesh to do a documentary about climate change [HBO’s Year of Living Dangerously], which isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs. The play I’m doing now is a lot of fun, although it does deal with fundamental issues of the perils of relationships. But it’s absurd and hilarious, and getting that live feedback is invigorating. 

It’s easy to imagine if you hadn’t spent the last decade on two successful TV shows you would have been a staple in indies like Cold in July

Right.

Does this world of low-budget 25-day shoots appeal to you? 

I love it. It’s like joining the carnival. There are no overlords. Sure there are money people and producers, but there isn’t this Big Brother-ish behemoth. You are left to play and make what you make and construct it on the fly. Yeah, it’s really fun. Well, it can be. It also could be a nightmare if it’s falling apart.

Michael C. Hall On “Cold In July”, Life After Dexter & “Gamer”

Michael C. Hall On "Cold In July" & Life After Dexter

Michael C. Hall talks “Cold In July”, life after “Dexter” and his delectably entertaining role in “Gamer”, for The Film Stage. Read the interview below. 

Congrats on the film. I saw it at Sundance. It was quite an experience. 

Oh, thanks.

I know you had knowledge of the script awhile before you signed on. Did you also read the source material or was it the script that sold you? 

No. I didn’t really take a look at the novel until after the movie was for certain moving forward. So, yeah, my initially excitement of it was based on the script itself. It was actually only after I had that part that I familiarized myself with Jim [Mickle]‘s work, too, which I was obviously pleasantly surprised to see how amazing it was.

I love movies that end in a place that’s far removed from where they began. Did that attract you to this project? 

Absolutely. I think the film creates expectations and then defies them more than once and makes rules that it in turn breaks. That was a big part of the appeal, to really, genuinely not quite know where you are headed is a bit rare I think. 

Were you able to attend the actual screening at Sundance? Was it your first time seeing it then? 

I had seen it maybe the week before in New York. I think Jim and some of his fellow filmmakers watched it in its entirety, the final cut, I believe for them too. So I saw it then. But seeing it the first time when you’re in it, it’s difficult to be at all objective watching it with an audience. It was a pretty surreal thing to hear people and feel people responding to it.

Since it includes so many different genres in the journey I assume you didn’t shoot it chronologically, was it quite an experience seeing it all at once and seeing how far your character goes?

Yes, it felt like at least three movies in one. We didn’t shoot it chronologically, but we did shoot with some sort of continuity in as much as the first things we shot were the bulk of the domestic scenes in the house and some of the stuff in the frame shop. Then Sam [Shepard] showed up and we started to shoot a good amount of that stuff and it felt like a completely different movie. I remember we were shooting what felt like a Coens brothers-esque domestic drama — sort of comic elements, but also very tense. I go, ‘Wow, what is it going to be like when Sam comes?” and then Same came. And everything changed. Then I said, “What’s it going to be like when Don[Johnson] shows up? [laughs]. So in a way, the shooting of it did kind of feel like the experience of watching it. The world just kept shifting.

That’s great. I saw you had some experience yourself directing, on Dexter in the last season. 

Yeah, I did direct an episode. Yes. 

Is that something that changed your mindset when you went to film these feature roles? Are you picking up on more things that you might have not before?

Yeah, probably. Though, I certainly think that directing an episode of Dexter was something I’ve been preparing myself for for some time. Just being on that set, being the only producer on set, and really paying attention to the many really talented directors who were in our stable of people who helmed episodes. But, yeah, I think actually being in that aspect of production, being the person that had to have an answer for everybody, gave me an appreciation for what goes into it. And I certainly was able to maybe have a more informed appreciation of the work that Jim does. 

Is that a path you would explore or would you focus on acting more now? 

Yeah, I’m primarily interested in acting, but if the right piece of material or project emerges and thus an opportunity presents itself, I could see myself taking advantage of it at some point. 

During Dexter, I’m really glad you got to shoot some movies. One of my personal favorites is Gamer. I know that film might not have been as well-received as it should have been…. 

Well, it was maybe geared towards 14-year-old boys and maybe not at least the broad base of higher-minded critics. 

I love their style. Was that something where you saw the final product and said, “Yeah, this is exactly what I was going in for and this is what I wanted.”

Yeah, pretty much. I don’t know, they invited me to do it and it just seemed like a chance to be, you know, somewhat broad and ridiculous. In terms of what they seem to be going for, it wasn’t some sort of hushed voice, mustache-twirling villain. They wanted him to be sort of how he was. And also just the chance to do that lip-syncing of I’ve Got You Under My Skin was pretty irresistible.

Yes, I loved that scene. So, with Dexter over — you obviously owe a lot of your acclaim to that role — but does it feel almost like a weight’s been lifted off? 

Yeah, it does. Even though we shot it for a little less than half the calendar year, it was always waiting. While we weren’t doing it, it was waiting there. And it was a preoccupation and there was a weight there but particularly giving the subject mater and the sort of challenges of wrapping my head around the twists and turns the show took. It’s nice to be without that waiting in the wings and to just be more professionally available to do things and just mix it up, you know? Play different roles and do things that have an end in sight at the beginning. Not like an open-ended commitment to something. Yeah, that feels good.  

I was excited to hear this film got accepted to Cannes. Is that something you’ll be able to attend or is your schedule crazy?

Yeah, I am. I’m doing this play on Broadway but we don’t have Sunday night performances and we have Mondays off. They managed to arrange for the screening to happen on Monday so I’m basically leaving the show on Sunday afternoon, flying all night, getting to Cannes in the morning, and then spending that Monday and some of Tuesday morning there, attending the screening, doing press for the movie, and then flying back and going straight to the show Tuesday night. It’ll be a quick-strike operation. But it’s going to happen so fast that I really don’t think I’ll even have time to have my internal clock get messed up. 

So, doing Broadway now, did you do any Broadway while you were doing Dexter or was that a new opportunity? 

I did what I guess what was technically an off-Broadway show right before we started shooting the first season proper and right after the pilot of Dexter. And that was the last time I was on stage and I think that was the longest I’ve gone without being on stage in my life. But, yeah, I did a reading of this play, The Realistic Joneses, right before heading to upstate New York where we pretended we were in Texas and shot Cold in July. The reading was great and they decided to move forward and it just seemed like such a great chance to once again make things up and, I don’t know, being on stage just keeps you honest in life. And it’s been too long and it felt really good and it’s a great cast and we’re all really there because we love the play. 

Getting back to the film, as soon as the first still arrived I noticed the mullet you wear. It’s beautiful. I saw you actually had that designed yourself. What was Jim Mickle’s reaction to your entire get-up? 

He was all for it, you know? I was finishing up Dexter and I was thinking about the guy and I wanted some sort of version of the haircut that half the guys I went to high school with had. Knowing that I didn’t have time to grow it out in the back, I had a guy make me a little thing that I clipped in there. [laughs] I actually named it Richard Dane because without it, I felt like I had no character. You know, putting that thing on, it was just like, “Oh, yeah. I know so much more than I did when this put on the back of my head.” And I started growing a mustache right after Dexter ended and we started shooting probably two weeks and change after that. So I actually would joke with Jim on set that this is a movie about a guy who decided to grow a mustache a couple of weeks ago. And it kind of is. Maybe the movie is the story of him earning his mustache. [laughs] But, no. I texted Jim and said, “What did you think about the idea of him having a mild mullet?” Jim was like, “I love it! Mild at least.” The rest was hair-story. History, sorry.

I feel like Don Johnson might have cracked a joke or two about that. How was the demeanor on set with him? The movie definitely shifts when he enters. 

Oh, yeah. I mean, Don and Sam definitely made fun of my mullet, made fun of my clothes, which was totally appropriate. I wanted to have the mullet because here’s a guy who wants to be, but really is not, cool. He may be surrounded by some much cooler, more fully-realized male role models in the movie. And that’s a part of his journey and what he learns. But it was awesome. We laughed all the time. We really did. We really had a good time, the three of us. Because it’s such an unlikely trio of actors, an unlikely trio of characters to be populating the same landscape. We had a lot of fun. 

There’s almost a John Carpenter-vibe, especially with the score that’s being used. 

Oh, for sure.

Did Jim Mickle give you any touchstones for films to catch up or while you read the script? 

Yeah, we talked more about the sort-of southern thrillers. Blood Simple, Red Rock West, all the way through No Country [For Old Men]. That kind of thing. I think this film has a more sort-of wide open field and incorporates certainly that, but also more elements given Jim’s previous work and some of the strict…I don’t know, there was moments I felt like I was in a domestic drama, there was moments I felt like I was in a borderline slapstick comedy, there was moments I felt like I was in a horror movie, there was moments where I thought I was in an action thriller. It was a pretty delicious thing to be in the hands of a director who was able to keep all of those things in play. 

Finishing up, you’re doing the play and you’re going to Cannes. Is there anything coming up within the next year that we should look forward to? 

I hope so. I have some things that I’m talking about doing, but nothing I definitively signed on for so I’m reluctant to announce it here. Hopefully I’ll keep the ball rolling. 

You recently did Kill Your Darlings and now this — are you more interested in that kind of film?  

I’m open to anything. I’d love to be in all kinds of movies and play all kinds of parts in them. A big one, a tiny one, a medium-sized one — as long as the story and character are compelling in some way, I’m interested.