Exclusive: Julie Benz & Michael Chiklis Interview For NO ORDINARY FAMILY

Julie Benz & Michael Chiklis

ABC’s new super-powered series NO ORDINARY FAMILY is finding its groove as a family drama/crime procedural/comedy hybrid and Julie Benz and Michael Chiklis, who star as Stephanie and Jim Powell, are obviously a huge part of that.

Daemon’s TV recently talked to Julie and Michael, who kindly took the time to tell us about what drew them to No Ordinary Family, how future episodes will balance different elements of the show, and why they took such care assembling the terrific cast.

No Ordinary Family airs on ABC Tuesdays at 8pm/7 central. You can find all our No Ordinary Family coverage here.

What drew you both to ‘No Ordinary Family’ and the roles of Jim and Stephanie?

Julie Benz: I think for me, coming off of ‘Dexter’ and playing Rita who was very vulnerable and damaged and very much a passive character, I was looking for the strongest female character I could find. Stephanie Powell was that character. She’s a workaholic. She’s a mother and a wife. She’s juggling so much and trying to keep all these balls in the air. She’s a very strong female, an active character. I’d also promised my mother that I would try to find a comedy where I wouldn’t killed off because my mother does not like seeing me in a bathtub of blood.

Even I stayed away from bathtubs for a while after the ‘Dexter’ finale –

Julie Benz: Yeah. I still do.

Michael Chiklis: Well, for me, I was looking for a great script, something that I could enjoy and live in. You can’t just look at a pilot as a stand alone. Obviously you have to look at it for it’s potential long term and this was just so fresh and different and presented so many possibilities long term that I thought, ‘Wow.’ Also, it was something entirely different than ‘The Shield’ and something that was a huge removal from Vic Mackie. So for all those reasons and more I was very attracted to this.

You two have great chemistry, the entire cast does. Was that something that you had right away or does that have to build?

Julie Benz: I think we found it right away.

Michael Chiklis: I was very involved in the casting process because I was brought in sort of as a partner with Greg [Berlanti] and Jon [Harmon Feldman] from the top and I just believe that that’s a necessity in all things whether it’s television, film or theater. I think chemistry is massively important just on so many levels. Look, also at this stage in my career if I’m going to go and spend twelve to fourteen hours of my life every single day on a set I want to enjoy the people I’m around. I want to feel like they’re like spirits and they’re fun and great to be around because it goes in the life’s-too-short bin for me. I just think the world of all these people. I think Julie is so much fun to be around and she has a great spirit and a phenomenal work ethic and I could say that about Stephen Collins, about Romany Malco, about Autumn Reeser. I’m sorry to go on and on about this but it’s really important. One of my old friends, God rest him, the late great Scott Brazil who was one of our executive producers on ‘The Shield’, he used to say to me, ‘Look, Michael, the way that hire is this way. You could be the best person in the world but if you’re not talented enough to get the job you don’t get the job. Conversely, you could be the most talented person in the world and if you’re a bad person you’re not getting the job.’ So I look for people who are fundamentally decent human beings and then if they’re talented then they get the gig. Then all of a sudden what that does is create an atmosphere of fundamentally decent people that are professional and have a common goal. The next thing you know it’s a formula for making a show that has a much better chance of succeeding. I just had to go off on that.

Did you feel it right away, too, Julie?

Julie Benz: Yeah. I felt an instant chemistry with Michael. We had met about ten years ago. My ex-husband did the ‘Three Stooges’ movie with him and we’d spent time in Australia together, and so I knew that we had that kind of built in familiarity. Michael and I have the same approach to our work and I haven’t really worked with other actors who take on that same approach as I do. So that helps. It helps so much. We both have an unspoken understanding about how we approach our work and what it means to us. At the end of the day, like Michael said, I don’t want to spend fifteen hours on set with people that I don’t like. You spend more time on set than you do in your own life with your own family and it’s so wonderful to actually really enjoy the company of the people that you’re working with an truly like them. I’ve always truly liked Michael. What’s not to like? He’s just an amazing person with an amazing spirit and an ultimate professional. But he’s got a huge heart and he makes everything okay. That’s his role in life. You feel protected as a cast. I think we all feel protected as a cast because he’s the head of our acting department. He’s our mentor, who we go to. He’s so intelligent and smart about not only the scripts and the shows but also the politics involved. He’s very level headed. There’s no ego that gets in the way. To have him be our leader really sets the tone. It trickles down from there and it’s really just been an amazing experience. We all stay on set. None of us sit in our trailers. We all talk and hangout and have a great time. It just feels like such a gift.

Michael Chiklis: The other great thing is that I got that sense from Greg Berlanti and Jon Feldman as well. They’re very collaborative. It’s hugely important that there’s not an us-and-them kind of feeling between the writers and the actors. These guys make us feel included and inclusive and so what that means is that over time, if we’re given the time, this show will do nothing but get better. That’s exciting because it’s good already.

The show is very balanced between the family, the crime procedural, the action and comedy. I think, Julie, you called it a dramactionomedy.

Julie Benz: A dramactionomedy, yes.

Is that balance going to continue or will it shift one way or the other?

Julie Benz: I think that’s the great thing about the canvas of the show, that you can continue to do it along the lines of a dramactionomedy because there’s nothing reigning us in or holding us back. You can continue the mix of drama, action and comedy. Certain scripts are more drama oriented. Certain scripts are more comedy oriented and certain scripts are more action oriented but we’re able to keep a wide open playing field.

Do either of you have a favorite part of that, the drama, comedy or action, that you prefer to play?

Michael Chiklis: I think that both Julie and I love that we get to do it all. I think any actor wants to cover a lot of bases and it’s wonderful to do a scene that’s light and fun and hilarious and then go and do a hard hitting sort of action scene. That keeps things fresh and fun.

The scenes that you have with your sidekicks, are they as much fun to shoot as they are to watch?

Julie Benz: Yeah.

Michael Chiklis: Yes. Romany Malco kills me.

Julie Benz: It’s hard to get through a scene with Romany and not laugh, not crack up at least once in the middle of the take.

Michael Chiklis: He’s so funny.

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