Julie Benz on ‘Defiance’: ‘Politics Is a Huge Part of the Show’

Julie Benz of "Defiance" (Photo: Syfy)

The Monday, April 15 premiere of “Defiance” was the highest rated for Syfy since the 2009 premiere of “Warehouse 13,” so if you missed it, you can check it out here on XFINITY before the second episode debuts on Monday, April 22.

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“I think what sets ‘Defiance’ apart from the other post-apocalyptic shows is that we’re really dealing with what happens after the war, after the apocalypse,” says Julie Benz, who plays Amanda Rosewater, the newly appointed mayor of the boomtown known as Defiance. “[We look at:] How can we rebuild our planet? Can aliens and humans live peacefully together? It’s more of an immigration show and less about the actual apocalypse.”

The United States is famously known as a “melting pot,” but “Defiance” takes it one step further and is set on a radically transformed planet Earth, which is now inhabited by not just humans but also by seven unique alien races — the Castithans, the Irathients, the Vulge, the Gulanee, the Indogene, the Liberata and the Sensoth — known collectively as Voltans.

The time is the not-too-distant future, but far enough out to allow for a prolonged war between humans and the Voltans to have taken place. But wisely, both groups came together before Earth became completely uninhabitable and an uneasy peace was declared by all parties, who are now trying to cohabit in Defiance.

“Politics is a huge part of the show and it was interesting because when we were filming the show, it was during the presidential election. So it was, for me, a great time. I watched all the debates and watched all the body language so I could learn more about being in a debate situation as a political,” says Benz, whose character began as a janitor, moved up to an assistant, and then had the mayoral reins handed to her. “She’s just starting out on the job and she makes mistakes, but she always manages to pull through because her intentions and her heart’s always in the right place.”

Catch-up on the Pilot Episode of “Defiance” Below:

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With seven alien species to depict, the decision was made that several of them would be played by real actors in prosthetics, contact lenses and makeup and hair, rather than CGI. It helps keep the costs affordable, but it is also preferable for the actors playing humans, who get to interact with another person instead of a green screen.

“I love the fact that I’m not in prosthetics and I get to watch everybody else be in prosthetics,” Benz says. “They really do have an effect on you as the actor. I forget sometimes what Jaime Murray looks like outside of her makeup. She’s Stahma so much that I forget what she looks like. And the same with Tony Curran [Datak Tarr]. We have all these moments on screen together and then, all of a sudden, I see Tony out of makeup and I’m like, ‘Whoa!'”

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For Syfy fans, who prefer computer-generated material, never fear, “Defiance” has that, too, with at least two of the alien species CGI and special effects that are cinematic in scope.

That said, the one thing that “Defiance” has is heart, as in every episode we discover more of what the town stands for and how it got its name.

“There are so many elements going on in the show,” Benz says. “We’re trying to see if aliens and humans can live peacefully together in this one town, but then there’s also outside factions trying to take over the town. They don’t believe aliens and humans can live peacefully and they want either a pure human race or an all-alien race, so ‘Defiance’ is about the struggle to keep our independence.”

The second episode of “Defiance” premieres Tuesday, April 22 at 9 p.m. on Syfy.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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