News Column

Benz shows tough side in Lifetime movie 'Taken'

September 21, 2013


Sept. 21--Actress Julie Benz is no stranger to action roles.

Her Darla on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" was a tough vampire, plus she used a lot of weapons in "The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day."

Both roles gave Benz the skills she needed to play tough New York detective Stevie Parker in the Lifetime movie "Taken: The Search for Sophie Parker."

Benz loves that the movie is all about women in power.

In it, her character's daughter is kidnapped by slave traders in Russia, so she heads to Moscow to dish out some American-style justice with the help of a female CIA agent.

"This is a movie where two women team up to save her daughter. They are very strong, capable women who are both flawed but able to get the job done without having to depend on a man," Benz says.

The Pittsburgh native spent most of her youth in competitive ice dancing. It was while she was recovering from a broken leg that she found acting.

It's been easier for Benz to land "mom" roles since she guest-starred on the cable series "Dexter" from 2006-10 as Rita, wife of the serial killer with a code played by Michael C. Hall. Her time on the show ended in a dramatic death that Benz has never been able to watch.

"When I was told the news about her death, a weird thing happened. I really mourned the character. I never had that with any other character," Benz says. She had bonded so much with the character, the first concern for Benz when told about the character's death was who would raise her on-screen child.

"Dexter" ended up being a career turning point, Benz says. It took her from being looked at as "a girl actress" to a "woman actress." Since then, along with playing a butt-kicking mom in the Lifetime movie, she played a mother in the short-lived ABC series "No Ordinary Family" and is a matriarchal character in her current Syfy series "Defiance."

She filmed "Taken" while on hiatus from her cable show. The project came together quickly. She was sent the script, and a week later, she found herself on a set in Bulgaria for a two-week shoot.

"I like when projects move fast like that. It makes me stay focused and think faster," Benz says. She was already in a hurry-up mode because the special effects-heavy "Defiance" films on an even faster schedule.

The quick pacing didn't give Benz much time to research the role, but she was able to talk to several women once she got to Bulgaria who had been abducted and rescued by family members, much like the plot of the movie. The State Department estimates that 27 million people are enslaved worldwide -- more than any other time in history. About 46,000 victims were rescued in 2012.


"Taken: The Search for Sophie Parker": 8 p.m. today, Lifetime

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at


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