'Defiance' Star Julie Benz Talks Keeping the Peace in Season 3

In the Season 2 finale of "Defiance,” Earth's destruction seemed imminent, as a possessed Irisa used alien technology to terraform New York City. With the rest of the planet at risk, Defiance’s former mayor Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) came close to shooting Irisa before Nolan intervened. He stopped his adopted daughter by breaking the control over her, but the two were left trapped in a pod buried beneath the town.

As Season 3 opens Friday on Syfy, Defiance resembles a ghost town, with Amanda and the remaining residents left to pick up the pieces – and brace themselves for a new alien threat.

On the Toronto set of sci-fi series, Benz sat down with journalists to discuss Amanda's state of mind, political fallout, strained relationships and the introduction of the Omec.

Your character had quite a journey in Season 2. Where do we find her this year?

Julie Benz: Season 2 was quite a dark path for Amanda. We see at the beginning of Season 3 that she is out of the darkness. She's back to being mayor. She's really fighting to keep the town alive. The E-Rep have buggered off. The mines have shut down, so there is a lack of gulanite in the town. Those who can leave have left. It's pretty desolate at the start of Season 3, so she’s really struggling to hold everybody together and hold the town together.

How do you feel Amanda has changed politically in this new world?

Someone asked me whether she’d been reelected and I was like, "I really don’t think there was a reelection." There was nobody to step in, so she just stepped in. Amanda has always been the heart of Defiance. She has always represented everything that Defiance stands for, which is unity, equality and survival. She’s an idealist within that, and I think with the town struggling, she’s starting to emerge as a very strong leader. In the beginning, she was appointed mayor for some manipulative reasons and she didn't rise to the occasion. She was struggling and then she lost the election, obviously. She had her downfall in Season 2. In Season 3, we see her really coming into her own as a leader in a town that is just having one of its worst times. Her politics are still the same, if not stronger. I don’t think Amanda could ever leave Defiance because I don’t know how she would define herself then.

In what ways do you feel Amanda makes a good mayor in Season 3?

She wears her heart on her sleeve; she is an idealist. In a town where everyone has a secret and everyone has their own agenda, Amanda truly doesn't have an agenda except to lead the town. We saw in Season 2 she was manipulated by so many dark forces. Amanda is very transparent. Her needs are very clear. Her endgame, her goals are all very much spelled out as far as what she wants to do. She believes in Defiance. She believes that Votans and humans can live amongst each other at peace. Every decision Amanda makes is about being fair and leading people in that direction. She believes it so much because that's the only way they are going to survive in the world that has been created. She also tends to think everyone is being transparent with her and that's not always the case. It seems that everyone else has a hidden agenda, but she doesn’t always see it or recognize it. In many ways, she is the hero of Defiance. She's the heart. She has to be that idealist. She has to believe in people's goodness and humanity for the town to survive.

In the last two episodes, Amanda had Nolan arrested and she discovered that Stahma murdered her sister. How fragile are those relationships moving forward?

It’s very complicated, for sure. We will see how their relationships evolve and how those past events create complications within those relationships. The relationship with the Tarrs has always been a very strange one, and I don’t think she ever fully trusted them. Now, knowing that they were behind the murder of her sister, I don’t really think we can expect to see them sharing sugar bread and having tea together. How do you come back from that? It's definitely part of the journey of Season 3.

Nolan understands Amanda and the choices that she makes. Amanda doesn't do anything that's not fair, that's not right. Her decision to have Nolan arrested had to happen. She was the one who offered to shoot Irisa. Amanda has a history of not being able to pull the trigger. In many ways, she wanted to take on that responsibility, hoping that Nolan would come up with a plan to save the world and figure something out. She's not trigger-happy, but she knew if she had to do it, she would at the very last minute if something else didn't happen. I think he understands that about her.

Is Season 3 more challenging for you as an actress than the previous ones?

No, there are always new challenges to be faced. That’s the great thing about working with [executive producer] Kevin Murphy and the writers on the show. They really try to challenge us as actors. This season, especially, there have been certain moments that have been extremely challenging for me as an actress to have to face. Some demons that Amanda has to come to terms with and face were really scary and challenging for me.

What is Amanda's take on this new alien race called the Omec? How do they throw her off balance?

At first, she doesn’t even know what the Omec are because she’s never heard of them. When they appear, she’s not really sure if they are a threat or not. Obviously, there is some sort of threat because it's this new alien race. Then, she does discover that they are not what they seem. She sees in T’evgin a certain amount of integrity and leadership. She trusts that.

Is there anything else you can say about the Omec?

The Omec are purple. They are beautiful. They are stunning.

Who are Amanda's allies this season? Who can she trust?

Berlin, Nolan, Irisa and, in a strange way, Doc Yewll. It's getting to be slim pickings.

Why Doc Yewll? She created that doppelganger of Amanda's sister.

But Amanda doesn't know that. There's still large parts of this story Amanda doesn't know. I'll just say during the seven months from where we left off to where we pick up, in the town of Defiance, you've seen a lot of people leave. Doc has stayed and a lot of it is because Amanda keeps begging her to stay. We need a doctor in town. If she leaves, people will die.

Amanda knows that everything Doc Yewll does is for Doc Yewll’s benefit, but they do build a weird kind of friendship. When you are fighting to save a town, and you're fighting to save your people, and this one person stays, you have to rely on them.

If Amanda is back as mayor, what's become of the brothel establishment?

Well, she still owns it. It’s still a brothel and a bar. It also becomes a marketplace. With no gulanite, there's not enough electricity, so this becomes more of a meeting place. We also see it more as a gambling establishment. Amanda still owns it, it’s just running itself and being utilized for what the people needs.

What do you look for when pursuing a role?

I like strong women. Rita [on “Dexter”] was kind of not that, but for me, at that time in my career, I was looking to play a “real woman.” I had been bouncing around the WB world of "Buffy" and "Angel" and coming out of that, it was time to grow up and play somebody who was a "real woman." For me, I wanted to strip down the façade and just be in all my damage and vulnerability. After playing Rita, I wanted to look for a more dynamic character. I wanted someone with a gun, someone who was a fighter and who could be a little more active. I discovered late in my life that I actually like doing action movies and I like doing stunts. That's a large part about what I like about Defiance is that they let me do a lot of my own stunts. I do have stunt doubles who do the really dangerous things because I can't do any of that stuff. The little bit of fighting that they let me do is a lot of fun. The weapons training that I’ve had is fun. It scares my husband. I’ve never just been “the girl” that the guy falls in love with and they live happily ever after.

Production has literally built the town of Defiance on this Toronto backlot. How have the practical sets helped you as an actor?

This backlot that has been built is really an amazing showpiece of Defiance. Everybody who comes to visit me, I bring them to look at the sets and they are all amazed. I've never worked on a show that had this much put into it with a whole town being built. It's creepy at night when you walk around. I've had fun this year photographing random things that are there, like we had a pile of mannequins laying in the middle of town. There's a stuffed deer that's been sitting outside all year. I think it's fantastic. It adds a realness. We can have scenes that take place outside and go inside, and do walk and talks without having to transition into another building. I will say the gravel takes a toll on your feet and back walking around on it. If Amanda stays Mayor, I'd love if she raised money to have the streets paved. I would love to have the streets of Defiance paved. The crew would be happy. The cast. My back wouldn't hurt so much. Last season, I had to run around in heels on the stones and in the rain without falling down. It was impossible, so I'd like to get the streets paved. My next election speech, "I'm going to pave the streets of Defiance after we kill everyone who is trying to take over our town."

”Defiance” airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy.

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