While her roots in Italian horror ([[Feature~V51383~Two Evil Eyes~twoevileyes]]) and penchant for small-screen fantasy ([[Feature~V174873~Buffy the Vampire Slayer~buffythevampireslayer[tvseries]]], [[Feature~V181391~Angel~angel[tvseries]]], and [[Feature~V278437~Taken~taken]]) may not make actress Julie Benz the most likely candidate for mainstream stardom, the prolific ice skater-turned-onscreen talent has come quite a long way since her early days in community theater and has since become one of the most promising emerging talents in film and television. A native of Pittsburgh and professional ice skater from the age of three, Benz made a name for herself in both singles and ice dancing and was at one point ranked 13th in the United States for her remarkable grace. While professional skating afforded Benz the extraordinary opportunity to travel the U.S. and visit foreign lands, the training needed to maintain one's footing on the ice is rigorous to say the least, and she ceased competitive skating at the age of 16. The daughter of a vascular surgeon, Benz hailed from a long line of doctors and was determined to become the first female medico in her family. Of course, some folks just aren't cut out for a career in medicine, though, and shortly after witnessing her first surgery, Benz realized that she was a bit too squeamish to become a doctor. With her days as a professional skater over and a life behind the scalpel out of the question, the talented teen auditioned for a role in a local community theater production and later connected with New York-based agent [[Performer~P426888~Vincent Cirrincione~vincentcirrincione]] during a local acting seminar. After honing her craft in New York City, Benz set her sights on Los Angeles and never looked back. She also appeared in the horror sequel Saw V, the action film Punisher: War Zone, and the long-anticipated sequel The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.
In 1990, Benz made her screen debut under the direction of legendary Italian horror specialist [[Performer~P79899~Dario Argento~darioargento]] in the "Black Cat" segment of [[Feature~V51383~Two Evil Eyes~twoevileyes]], though it was walk-on roles in such popular television shows as [[Feature~V286471~Married With Children~marriedwithchildren[tvseries]]], [[Feature~V307443~Boy Meets World~boymeetsworld[tvseries]]], and [[Feature~V286501~Diagnosis Murder~diagnosismurder[tvseries]]] that served to introduce her to stateside viewers. Of course, big-screen appearances in [[Feature~V158803~As Good As It Gets~asgoodasitgets]] and [[Feature~V176020~Jawbreaker~jawbreaker]] only helped to increase her profile, but to many fantasy fans, Benz will always be known for her role as malevolent vampire Darla on the hit shows [[Feature~V174873~Buffy the Vampire Slayer~buffythevampireslayer[tvseries]]] and [[Feature~V181391~Angel~angel[tvseries]]].
With additional appearances in the miniseries [[Feature~V278437~Taken~taken]] and and the TV show [[Feature~V181389~Roswell~roswell[tvseries]]] (not to mention vocal contributions to the hit video game Halo 2), it seemed that Benz had become something of a sci-fi mainstay, yet the rising star wasn't willing to be pigeonholed just yet and soon began to branch out with appearances on such popular shows as [[Feature~V295554~Navy NCIS~ncis[tvseries]]], [[Feature~V220880~CSI~csi:crimesceneinvestigation[tvseries]]], and [[Feature~V273921~CSI: Miami~csi:miami[tvseries]]], as well. In 2006, Benz settled into her most stable small-screen role to date, playing Rita Bennett -- the emotionally damaged love interest of a Miami Police Department blood-spatter expert...who also happens to be a part-time serial killer -- on the the Golden Globe-nominated Showtime series [[Feature~V361081~Dexter~dexter[tvseries]]]. In 2008, she appeared opposite action icon [[Performer~P112464~Sylvester Stallone~sylvesterstallone]] in the belated, bullet-strewn sequel Rambo. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi