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Benz Branches Out Far Beyond ‘Dexter’

hollywoodexclusive1Julie Benz has been branching out beyond her "Dexter" role — and how! In "The Boondocks Saints II: All Saints Day," due in September, "I get to play a badass. I've always been the damsel in distress. In this I play this really, really phenomenal FBI agent who's smart and sexy and feminine. She can shoot a gun better than the guys. She wears pink rubber gloves and stiletto heels to a crime scene, but she can hold her own with the fellas, no problem."

"It's a highly-anticipated sequel. They've done an amazing job," she adds. "I can't give anything away, but it's such a cool movie. There's one stunt in it that is so amazing and we only had one take to do it. It's probably the coolest thing I've ever gotten to do."

Benz notes, "I didn't have any time to train for it because I was wrapping for the last season of 'Dexter.' They put a gun in my hand on the first day and I had to break into a room and start firing away like a pro. That's when your acting technique and sheer will kicks in."

MEANWHILE: Benz has also branched out to star in the Lifetime Movie Network's TV movie "Held Hostage," airing July 19, in which she plays real-life kidnapping victim Michelle Renee. "Michelle and her daughter both came on set for a couple of days so I got to meet them. I was so overwhelmed when I met Michelle I started to cry," Benz tells this column. "Her story of being kidnapped and having a bomb attached to her and her daughter and having to rob a bank — it so deeply touched me and moved me that I was at a loss for words when I met her. She complemented me on my work and what was I supposed to say, 'Thanks for going through such an awful thing so I could have a great role to play. No,'" she notes. "The whole thing was just very intense. There was a lot of sensitivity in developing this project and really being as true as possible to what happened, and I'm really proud of the movie."

THE VIDEOLAND VIEW: Kandi Burruss, who joins Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" in the new season premiering July 30, is already experiencing fallout from doing the show, "and I can only imagine what it's going to be like when it actually gets on the air," she says. A former member of the platinum-selling musical group Xscape, who won a Grammy for her work on TLC's megahit "No Scrubs," Burruss is engaged.

She admits her man, A.J., has had "a hard time with it. As soon as people found out we were doing the show, ex-girlfriends and other people started popping up. Suddenly to have people saying things about you in their blogs — it kind of threw him for a loop." Burruss also tells us, "I was having stress before the show started. My mom doesn't want me to marry my fiance. Then it got worse during the taping. You'll see, I guess."

Burruss did find some pleasant surprises in joining the Atlanta "Housewives." Aspiring country singer Kim Zolciak, who's been in very hot water with the rest of the cast (attacked as an habitual liar, for instance), has a daughter around the same age as Burruss' daughter — and the two moms found themselves simpatico.

"You make opinions about people based on what you see on television, so I wasn't expecting her to be cool. But I was like, 'OK, she isn't so bad as she looked.' I will work with Kim. I'm going to work with her."

But, does Zolciak have any talent? "Many people who may not necessarily be the strongest vocalists in the world still get hit records," answers Burruss. "You need to have someone who knows what they're doing in the studio with them. If someone has a dream, you can't let everyone tell you whether you can do it."

Umm-hmm. We see. The pro, who has written tunes for Mariah Carey, Destiny's Child and Alicia Keys, says to expect an announcement of Kim's first recording for sale soon — and also, expect to hear a new single and album from Burruss herself. She has both on the way.

PRODUCTION NOTE: With production about to begin on "The Experiment" in Iowa, they're down to casting the final characters in the drama to be directed by "Prison Break" creator Paul Scheuring, and starring Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Elijah Wood and Cam Gigadet. Casting forces have been looking to fill the role of Benjy, who's described as in his 20s and the weak sacrificial lamb of "The Experiment." This film is a remake of "Das Experiment," which in turn was inspired by the famous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment behavior study, in which undergraduates playing prisoners and guards rapidly began displaying behaviors true to their roles — with a third of the guard actors exhibiting unforeseen sadistic tendencies. "The Experiment" fictionalizes and takes the story further, chronicling a behavioral experiment simulating life inside a state penitentiary that takes a harrowing turn.

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster.

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2009 MARILYN BECK AND STACY JENEL SMITH

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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