Known for her roles in Inkheart and Nanny McPhee, English actress and singer Eliza Benett got candid with VULKAN as we discussed her portrayal of Jules in MTV’s Sweet/Vicious, creating characters that inspire women and how she dealt with the tough subject matter that came with the series.
You’ve portrayed such vastly different characters in your career already. At this stage, do you find yourself more drawn to a role like that of Kayleigh in Confine or Jules in Sweet/Vicious?
I don’t think I’ve ever been more drawn to role than Jules in Sweet/Vicious. Jules was so well written, so complex and gave me an opportunity to play a vigilante, a sorority girl, a sexual assault survivor. She was written so beautifully by Jennifer Robinson and I knew I wanted to grab the chance to work with her and be a part of a show that had meaning and a social voice.
What’s usually the deciding factor for you when you decide to audition for a role? Is it more the individual character or the story as a whole?
I definitely think it’s a combination between the two or either! Sometimes a script will really speak to me or sometimes an individual character will be unlike anything I’d played before and that’s exciting too. Then sometimes you’ll get to audition for a show that you are a huge fan of and then it’s just exciting to be a part of that project.
What about Jules do you think inspires women?
I think many of the women in Sweet/Vicious are inspiring because it’s refreshing for women to turn on their television sets and be able to see themselves represented on television, to see women that are multifaceted and as broken as they are strong. To watch female friendships that are empowering and sorority’s that aren’t ‘bitchy’. With Jules in particular, she is a sexual assault survivor who’s on a journey that I don’t think has been shown on a TV show before. We so often see rape used as a ‘shock factor’ and women need and deserve to have their story told properly and maybe there is even some therapy in watching Jules confront her rapist as so many victims are unable to.
I understand at this point MTV has unfortunately decided not to renew for a second season. Where were you when you found out, and what goes through your mind when you hear news like that?
I was in England and my beautiful Sweet/Vicious creatives conference called me. It was heartbreaking, we were all heartbroken. I so desperately wanted to tell the incredible survivor community that had welcomed our show with open arms that we were being given the opportunity to tell more of their stories. But decisions are out of our control and sometimes things in this industry can be unjust and cruel and ultimately, I am so proud of Season 1 and the critical acclaim it achieved and our incredible fans. We are still fighting though and I will be an advocate for this cause for the rest of my life. Sometimes this industry just punches you in the throat.
It was such a fresh take on very real and common issues within our society. What one thing do you hope fans of the show took away from Season 1?
I hope they had fun because although the show is about a very real and serious subject, the show is also funny, kick ass and empowering. I hope that we were a positive part of this important conversation and provided support and maybe even some healing for survivors and if you watched the show with no experience of sexual assault, I hope we were able to educate people that it’s on all of us to support survivors and hold our communities accountable to keeping men and women safe on campus.
What will you miss most about the show and its cast?
It’s not very often that your work colleagues become your best friends and I will miss working with these incredible people every day. Thankfully I still hang out with a lot of the gang when I’m in LA so we still play Mario Kart and eat pizza often. And honestly, I will miss Jules. I think it’s hard saying goodbye to someone that you care so deeply for and that has become a part of you. It’s a strange job sometimes!
With the themes the show tackled begin quite heavy at times, how did you manage to keep in control of your character? Did you ever find yourself needing a mental break from filming because of the subject matter?
There were definitely days that were harder than others and episodes that I knew were going to be difficult, episode seven in particular when we flash back to exactly what happened to Jules the night she was raped. When telling her story, there were times where you weren’t in control anymore and that was okay and necessary and then there were times when I made sure I had a weekend to relax and unwind. I was so supported by our team though and the rest of the cast were incredible, Taylor whisked me away for a weekend in Santa Barbara after my hardest week shooting.
There were a lot of stunts and high action in the show, is there anything in particular you had to learn for the role that you really enjoyed?
Taylor and I did a month of martial arts training which was so fun, we had a blast. We went in completely amateurs so it was such a blessing to learn.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Liza Boone
HAIR & MAKEUP ARTIST: Stacy Bisel
STYLIST: Kassey Rich
INTERVIEW: Jaimee Jakobczak
Post expires at 4:00am on Wednesday April 4th, 2018