Defiance, 101 - Tony Curran, Julie Benz and Graham Greene
Defiance, 101 Pilot – Datak Tarr (Tony Curran), Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) and Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene) ©2013 Syfy

Julie Benz stars on the SyFy Channel’s new drama Defiance, which premieres today, April 15th. Julie is no stranger to the sci fi genre, appearing in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

Set in the near future, following a tumultuous war, earth is transformed by the arrival of seven unique alien races. The frontier  town of Defiance, which sits atop of the ruins of St. Louis, Missouri,  is run by Mayor Amanda Rosewater (Benz).

I spoke with Julie during the TV Critics tour about her new series and her love for this genre.

You do so many sci fi projects, why are you drawn to them?

Defiance, 101 - Julie Benz
Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) ©2013 Syfy

I got into this business because I wanted to be the next Meg Ryan and do romantic comedies. But when I started working with Joss Whedon I realized female characters are deeper and greater in sci fi genre material than in more mainstream stuff.

I think because of my pedigree, because of where I’ve come from, when I read scripts what I respond to now are these characters that have a deeper mythology to them. There are so few female characters out there for a woman of my age that are as well- defined and as active.

I could easily go play a wife or a mother, but to play a powerful woman, you’re not going to find that in mainstream television, so you have to look for genre material.

I love playing the extreme, where the world is not the world we actually live in. It’s a fantasy world and it’s challenging. With Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, I had that.

You have to work harder as an actor to make that believable.

How long has Amanda been the mayor of Defiance?

Defiance, 101 - Julie Benz, Graham Greene and Grant Bowler
Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz), Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene) and Jeb Nolan (Grant Bowler) ©2013 Syfy

Newly appointed. I was appointed because the mayor stepped down, because she was sick. I was her assistant.

I think Defiance not just the town, it’s the spirit of the people that live in the town as well.

What was it like walking onto these incredible sets?

Defiance, 101 - Julie Benz and Mia Kirshner
Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) and Kenya (Mia Kirshner) ©2013 Syfy

The sets are amazing. It’s spooky at night. I walked through the back lot one night without the lights on and got so scared. You really do feel like you’re in this whole frontier town in the future.

They took the front cab of a truck and put it up on the second story and used it as somebody’s room. It’s crazy how they repurposed different things. The whole world’s destroyed so a truck is no longer functioning, so it’s used it in a different manner.

It’s really interesting to see how the creative team does that.

Do you get to do any action in this as the mayor?

Defiance, 101 - Julie Benz
Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) ©2013 Syfy

I do. It’s not like I’m the mayor of Los Angeles, Defiance is a frontier town. It’s a whole new world and it’s a rough world, and you have to protect yourself.

There’s a scene where the [aliens] attack and we get to take them out with machineguns, which is pretty awesome. I’m leading the charge.

What was really fun was when we were shooting that, it was the week before my wedding. My fiancé was  back in LA planning the wedding, and I’m on set with these futuristic machineguns shooting at these aliens, and he’s texting me about flowers for the wedding.

I’m like, ‘Babe, I can’t talk flowers, I’m about to kill some aliens.’ I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is the strangest week of my life.’

Was Julie a sci fi fan as a child? Click here to listen to her memories.

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Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.