Talk Nerdy With Us recently chatted with actress Stephanie Bennett. Bennett is best known for her roles in Leprechaun: Origins, UnReal, Descendants and The Unauthorized Full House Story. Currently she’s starring as cocaine addict Dee in CBC’s gritty drama The Romeo Section, and this January she’ll be portraying Lydia Branwell on Freeform’s highly anticipated new series Shadowhunters. Keep reading to see what Stephanie had to say about her audition processes, playing Dee, superheroes and more.
Tell me a little bit about your audition process for The Romeo Section?
I had about 4 auditions total before I was offered the role of Dee. The first one was just a meet and greet, with Chris Haddock, he was nice enough to have a sit-down with the actors before the audition process even started. Then I got to read the script and I had my first audition and totally fell in love with the project. I was surprised when I found out that I was being brought in for a callback. I got to do a read with the actor who plays my boyfriend, Juan Riedinger. He is phenomenal. The read went really, really well. Then about a week later I had my final audition with Chris and the director of the first episode, Stephen Surjik. Then after that I got the call.
For a show like The Romeo Section, where you find out more and more each episode, how much of Dee’s back-story and history did you get to know before the audition?
I didn’t know too much. I knew that she was drug addicted, mentally and emotionally unstable, I also knew that she was having an affair with one of the main character spies, who is my boyfriend. Then I also knew that she’s the wife of a high-end drug lord. I knew that going into it. When I got the first script, I had more discussions with Chris, he kind of talked about Dee’s back-story, where she’s coming from, how she met these people, sort of where’s she’s going, but he kept a lot a mystery from us. I was kept on my toes!
Did you have a back-story for how long Dee and Vincent have been married, and how long Dee and Rufus have been together? Is that something Chris told you?
Yeah, Chris and I actually had some conversations about the back-story of the characters and how we all met, and how long things have been going on for. That was really helpful, going into that first episode having a bit more of an understanding on where we all came from.
Is that something the audience will get to find out?
There will definitely be some information revealed on that, but more so it was just for us actors to kind of know where we’re coming from and to develop that history, because the difference between Vince and I being together for 2 years to 10 years is crazy. In future episodes you will find out more about the relationship between Vince and Dee, and where that came from.
The first time the audience saw Dee she was really bloody and in the hotel room, was that the first scene you filmed, or was there a different scene in the first episode that you filmed first?
The very first scene I filmed was when I was in the car wearing those giant sunglasses (laughs), watching Vince ask Rufus to be his second. That was the very first scene I filmed, which was really exciting. Then the next day I did the crazy scene in the hotel. (Laughs). It was nice to have a more calm scene before going crazy the next day.
What preparation did you do for the role of Dee ? It’s not your typical role.
No, Dee has, as I said, some serious addiction issues so my prep involved a lot of research on that, on addiction, particularly in young women. I watched a lot of documentaries in the process of preparing for it, then I also just spent some time on the downtown east side. I figured out more about myself too. There’s a lot of levels to Dee, so figuring out why she’s acting the way that she is in each circumstance, what is missing from her life to make her the way that she is, make her behave the way she does, and what’s missing for her. Why is it that she’s so driven to get what’s missing? I had to do a lot of research on myself too, to figure out how to make playing her truthful.
How do you get into the mindset of Dee?
I actually felt a connection with the character from the start. I developed a lot of empathy from her right away, even just reading the script, it’s so well-written and it’s all there. I kind of immediately dropped into it, but I also had to find a trigger for myself that helped me depending on the scene. Sometimes it’s playing certain music that will help me get into that mindset, other times it’s finding certain triggers from memories that I have, that help me relate to what she’s going through, or watching a specific scene from a movie that inspired me before doing something, that’s a similar circumstance in The Romeo Section. It was a different sort of exploratory process for me (laughs), because there are a lot of crazy scenes, so I had to kind of explore and find what was going to work as I went through.
In what ways are you similar to Dee and in what ways are you different?
One thing about her is that she’s got a huge personality. She really knows what she wants. I found I’ve developed that side too, when I really want something I will do whatever I can to get there. (Laughs). Dee and I have that in common for sure. She doesn’t really know how to communicate in a healthy way. She can dial back when she needs to, but she is also very explosive, so her emotions and her anger get the best of her. I like to say that I’m not like that (laughs), I’m much better at controlling that, but it was interesting to play the character, I had a lot of empathy for her when she was exploding.
In last night’s episode you worked with Juan (Riedinger’s) real wife. What was that like?
She’s lovely. Working with her was awesome! Her name is Agam (Darshi) and she’s been in the industry much longer than I have and she’s very experienced. Working with both of them was amazing, they’re this power couple, but getting to work with her was really cool. I was really excited when I found out she got that role.
What can you tease about Dee’s storyline this season?
I’m going to say that every episode is more and more thrilling, but the last few are the craziest. It’s shocking.
How long does it take for Dee’s make up (blood, black eye, etc.)?
Depending on the theme and what Dee is going through, it isn’t too long, we have a really good make up team and hair team. They really transform me, I don’t feel like myself when I’m playing Dee at all. There isn’t a lot of crazy special effects or anything, so it’s been pretty quick.
Does not recognizing yourself any more help you get into character?
Definitely, yeah. The a whole team involved in what I look like as Dee is amazing. The wardrobe really helps as well and the make up and the hair, all together, I really don’t feel like myself. They’ve done an incredible job. I had an idea of what I wanted Dee to look like before the first day, and they just nailed it. They were right on the same page as me, so I was really impressed.
Do you think Rufus and Dee really care about each other? Should they stay together?
I believe that they are in love, it might not be the healthiest relationship (laughs), but they do care about one another for sure. I there’s an element of addiction to one another as well as the drugs. I think they’re hooked on one another.
You’ve done a little bit of everything this year. You’re currently doing this spy thriller, you did UnReal, which was a dramatic comedy, and you’re doing Shadowhunters, which is fantasy, what’s your personal favorite genre?
I thought after doing UnReal that I wanted to do mostly comedy, because it was so much fun, but now I’m really loving doing drama. Then I got to do fantasy, so honestly, I can’t choose. I loved getting to do this amazing fantasy role as well as this gritty real role at the same time. I love doing all different kinds of genres.
Did the filming for The Romeo Section and Shadowhunters overlap?
It did, yeah. I actually was flying back and forth from Vancouver to Toronto about every week, week and a half, for the last 3 months. It’s been crazy but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I really wouldn’t! (Laughs).
What can you tell us about your Shadowhunters audition?
I initially auditioned for a couple other characters before I was offered the role of Lydia. I got to know about the series a few months before I actually was told I’d be working on it, so I’ve loved it from the start. I actually flew down to L.A. at one point to get in front of casting in person and then eventually, a few months later I was offered the role of Lydia.
Since our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us, what do you nerd out about? What makes you a nerd?
(Laughs). I’ve always wanted to play a superhero. That’s something I’m pretty nerdy about. I love the fantasy world and superheroes, that’s something I kind of dream about and fantasize about.
Who’s your favorite superhero?
I would say Supergirl.
Did you watch the pilot?
I did, it was amazing! It’s awesome, I would love to work on that show one day.
The Romeo Section airs Wednesdays at 9pm on CBC and Shadowhunters premieres Tuesday, January 12 at 9pm/8c on Freeform!
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