Interview : Julie Benz


You’ll know her best as the sexy, but ill-intentioned Darla on both “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”, but in “George of the Jungle 2” – premiering on Video and DVD this October – Julie Benz plays it syrupy saccharine. Sweeter than she’s ever been seen in fact, taking on the role of Ursula Stanhope, dutiful partner of the lord of the Jungle, George [Chris Showerman]. CLINT MORRIS catches up with the striking actress to get the low-down on the film, and of course life after Darla.

You’re taking over the role from Leslie Mann, who played Ursula in the original “George of the Jungle”. Did you watch her performance to get yours down pat?
No. I wanted to do my own interpretation from the script. I was afraid if I watched the first one, then I would be trying to do Leslie Mann’s interpretation and not my own. In order for me to be true to Ursula, it had to come from me. I still haven’t watched it!

So how was filming in Australia?
I loved filming in Australia! We were on the Gold Coast and it was beautiful. You could spend the day at the beach, then hop in your car and drive to the outback in an hour or head into the mountains or catch a short flight to the Great Barrier Reef! And the people are extremely warm and friendly! I often refer to it as "Heaven on Earth!"

Yes it’s very nice there in Queensland, what I’d do to grab some sun! Tell me, how were the co-stars?
Great!! We all had such a good time while we were filming that it actually didn’t feel like work. On the weekends, we would take road trips together to see other parts of Australia. It was a very special project for all involved.

Chris Showerman takes over from Brendan Fraser as George. How’s he?
I think Chris really captures the innocence of George. He is also very funny and a good sport about getting hit in the head a lot! And he looks really good running around in a loin cloth! He is George!!!

Did you ever watch the TV cartoons?
No, I never saw the cartoons. I hear they are great and I would love to see them revived for TV.

You contracted to do a “George of the Jungle 3”?
As of right now, no. But I would love to play Ursula again. She has such a great spirit and I really loved playing her!

I’m sure you enjoyed playing Darla just as much, but as it’s your signature role, do you consider it a gift of a curse?
I’ve been in on auditions when no matter what I try to do, all they see is Darla. But I’ve also gotten a lot of work because of her as well. She’s been a real gift for me to play. The writers on Buffy/Angel are amazing and to be able to work everyday with that calibre of writing is an actor’s dream.

Have we seen the last of Darla, you think?
You never know. Most people think I’m holding out when I say that but I really don’t know. I thought Darla was dead and gone on season 1 of Buffy. I never imagined she would be brought back to life again and again as many times as she has. Every time I get a script that says she dies, I believe it’s the end and I get all emotional saying goodbye to everyone. Then a couple months will go by and I’ll get a phone call asking if I’m available to come back. So you really never know with those guys!

I hear you’ve also got a part in "Taken" [hasn’t aired here yet] – who do you play?
Taken is a twenty hour epic adventure about alien abductions produced by Steven Spielberg. It traces the lives of three families through fifty years beginning with the "Roswell Incident” and asks the question "Do aliens really exist?" I play a woman in the 1940’s, named Kate Keys, whose husband believes he was abducted. Her whole life basically crumbles and she has to pick up the pieces and move on with her young son. It was a very special part for me to play.

And what’s next for you?
A bunch of stuff but nothing I can talk about at the moment. I just hope everyone rushes to see George of the Jungle 2 because I think it’s really great! And I’m not biased….honestly!!!