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Jennifer stars as "Bette Porter" on Showtime's series "The L Word", a lesbian based genre. A thin, naturally attractive brunette with a personable smile and the brains to match her beauty, actress Jennifer Beals was virtually propelled to overnight stardom and fashion icon status with her energetic performance in director Adrian Lyne's 1983 dance drama Flashdance. Though her career would suffer a slight setback when it was revealed that Beals didn't perform all of her own dance moves in the sleeper hit, the talented actress would endure to make something of a comeback in the late '90s. A Chicago native who was traveling in Europe when her publicist called her for a New York audition that the filmmakers were pitching as a "female Saturday Night Fever," Beals booked the first flight back to the states and, despite the presence of thousands of other eager young actresses, somehow managed to stand out from the crowd to impress producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. Beals' only other film work to that point was as an extra in 1980's My Bodyguard, so it was quite a gamble to cast a virtual unknown in the lead. This was especially true, given that, days before the film's premiere, Paramount Pictures sold off 25 percent of the film; however, the gamble paid off and Flashdance became nothing less than a cultural phenomenon. With ripped, oversized sweaters adorning teenage girls nationwide, it seemed as if Beals had the cinematic world at her fingertips -- and then the bottom dropped out. When it was later revealed that Beals impressive moves weren't entirely her own, audiences felt betrayed (as if action stars really do all of their own stunts) and subsequently protested the burgeoning actress without taking into consideration that she was the dramatic core of the film. Opting to continue her education at Yale immediately following Flashdance's production, roles in such efforts as The Bride (1985) and Split Decisions (1988) were squeezed in during Beals' summer breaks. Though neither effort did much to forward Beals' career, the actress would continue to appear in such quirky, low-budget efforts as Vampire's Kiss (1989) and Blood and Concrete (1991) moving into the 1990s. Beals was married to director Alexandre Rockwell in 1986, and in 1992 she would appear opposite Steve Buscemi and Seymour Cassel in Rockwell's comedy drama In the Soup.
If the majority of the 1990s found Beals relegated to mostly unseen independents, high-profile roles in such acclaimed efforts as Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), and The Last Days of Disco (1998) proved without a doubt that the now-established actress certainly had the skills and endurance to maintain a successful screen career. Though the early years of the millennial turnover may have found Beals on shaky cinematic ground with such efforts as Jim Wynorski's Militia and the tiresomely derivative sequel Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying (both 1990), her reputation as something of an independent darling would solidify with roles in such critically acclaimed indies as The Anniversary Party (2001) and Roger Dodger (2002). Despite her divorce from Rockwell and remarriage to another man unassociated with the film business, Beals would later turn up in the Rockwell-directed comedy 13 Moons (again opposite Buscemi), while preparing for roles in such upcoming features as Runaway Jury and Break a Leg (both 2003). In 2004 Beals took a turn as a lesbian in the made-for-cable series The L Word. In her spare time Jennifer Beals is an avid photographer. Jennifer was born on December 19, 1963 in Chicago, Illinois, USA.
More fun stuff about Jennifer Beals
Jennifer Beals film debut was as an extra in My Bodyguard which was filmed in Chicago where she was raised. She was 19 when she was chosen for Flashdance, the movie that defined 1983.
Thousands of young women from all over America had already danced away in hopes of getting the role, but it was Beals who impressed producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer enough to let an unknown carry a major movie.
She wasn't looking to be a star. In fact at the time she was far more interested in going to college and that's what she did as soon as they stopped shooting the movie.
During her summer breaks at college, Beals managed to film The Bride, The Gamble, Split Decisions and Vampire's Kiss. She then got married to director Alex Rockwell.
Their marriage lasted 10 years.
Beals has continued to star in at least one movie a year.
Most recently, she was featured in Devil in a Blue Dress, The Twilight of the Golds, The Last Days of Disco and Prophecy II.
Beals has a cameo in the edgy relationship comedy Something More. She filmed the movie in Regina which took five days, but remembers that she laughed the entire time. Her costars include Michael Goorjian, Chandra West and David Lovgren.
In 1998, Beals married a Canadian film technician who she met while filming a movie in Vancouver.
Beals spent another summer in Ontario filming Amanda America, a film which allowed her to explore her African-American roots. Her father, who died when she was 10, was black. Her mother is white.
In the true story Amanda America, Beals plays the mixed-race daughter of a wealthy plantation owner in Georgia in the mid-1800s.
His name was David Dixon and he fathered a daughter with one of his slaves. He raised Amanda, who was the only child in the big house and when he died, he left her his entire estate. Dixon's white relatives tried to contest the will.
Sam Waterston (Law & Order) plays Amanda's father and Lisa Gay Hamilton (Beloved) her mother. Tim Daly (Wings) is the lawyer Amanda hires to help her hold on to her inheritance.
Beals says that if her adult life hadn't started with such a flash, she would probably have become a photo journalist instead of an actress.
She goes all over the world taking pictures and has had several showings of my Haiti collection in New York
in Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), she plays a woman passing for white who is actually the daughter of an interracial couple. In real life, this is Beals's racial background, too.
She put her career on hold to graduate from Yale.
While at Yale, she was classmates with David Duchovny, who suggested her for a part on The X-Files (which went to Gillian Anderson).
She turned down the opportunity to play herself in "It's Like, You Know."
Jennifer Beals returns with ‘The L Word’
The spicy series continues to ride the cutting edge. Ask Jennifer Beals what she’s learned playing a gay gal on “The L Word,” Showtime’s sexy melodrama about lesbian life in L.A., and she sizes up the human condition: “There are more similarities among us than differences.”
One notable example is how all manner of girls and boys will join in welcoming “The L Word” when, back for its second season 10 p.m. ET Sunday, it reunites the dishy sapphic sisters played by (among others) Mia Kirshner, Katherine Moennig, Erin Daniels and Leisha Hailey. And finds Beals’ character, Bette, in a real stew.
This season Bette will face fearsome funding problems at the art museum she runs. Worse, it looks like her relationship with Tina (Laurel Holloman), her longtime partner now pregnant with the child they had dreamed of parenting, is on the rocks.
“What a brutal year! It’s awful!” Beals chuckles. “There’s this moment in the eighth episode where Bette has one little moment of victory and joy. I burst into tears when I read it. ‘Something good happens to Bette, everyone!’ I was so excited.”
A veteran actress who at 41 appears barely older than she did as the welder/would-be ballerina in 1983’s “Flashdance,” Beals says she originally came to “The L Word” far less focused on portraying a fashion-forward lesbian than on the challenge of depicting an art museum boss.
A lesbian relationship “is about love and it’s about attraction,” she reasons. “I understood love and attraction. I didn’t know anything about art.”
A spicy recipe for success
The art of “The L Word” has been its spicy recipe of girl-on-girl explicitness blended with a hip California lifestyle anyone might fantasize about.
By design, the series is au courant. But thanks to Bette and Tina, with their ups and downs, it has scored a bit of unsought currency: Since “The L Word” premiered, gay marriage has been certified as a wedge issue splitting the nation.
“I’m always shocked that gay marriage is such a big deal,” says Beals over coffee in a Lower East Side patisserie she loves visiting when she’s in town. “You have to realize how precious human life is, when there are tsunamis and mudslides, when there are armies and terrorists — at any moment, you could be gone, and potentially in the most brutal fashion.
“And then you have to realize that love is truly one of the most extraordinary things you can experience in your life. To begrudge someone else their love of another person because of gender seems to me absolutely absurd.
“It’s based in fear, fear of the other, fear of what is not like you,” she says. “But when you are able to see lives on a day-to-day basis, rather than reducing it to politics, then it humanizes a whole community of people that were otherwise invisible. I think pop culture is really helpful in letting people see another side of life.”
One side of life she had a personal stake in displaying: “I requested that we make Bette biracial,” says Beals, herself of mixed-race parentage.
This gave the series another useful twist, allowing Kit, a straight friend played by Pam Grier (“Foxy Brown”), to become Bette’s half-sister. “A biracial character is something I would have liked to have seen on TV when I was a child.”
A long way from ‘Flashdance’
Since she took a break from Yale to make off-the-shoulder sweat shirts de rigueur in “Flashdance,” Beals has logged dozens of films. Among those for which she feels special pride: “Devil in a Blue Dress,” “Roger Dodger,” “Twilight of the Golds” (a 1996 Showtime movie) and “In the Soup,” an independent feature released in 1992. Also “Flashdance,” which she made, then — refusing to bank on its spectacular success — followed up by heading back to Yale.
“I never wanted to be a superstar,” says Beals, flinching. “My heart just did an ‘uhhhhhhhhhh’ at the thought of it.” No wonder. This is a private person who identifies her husband only as Ken, and loves describing the Philosophy of Sanskrit class she’s currently enrolled in, but declines to say where.
Hers is a career she’s happy with, she says, “and I hope I’ll be acting till the day I die. It’s something you can never finish, never get to the center of.”
Happily, she isn’t finished with “The L Word”: It’s already renewed for a third season, which means the series’ sisterhood will reconvene in Vancouver, where it’s shot, in a few months.
Then Beals can again rely on one more thing she’s learned playing a lesbian: That in their shared state of undress, actresses will protect each other from the camera’s prying eye.
“You can say, ‘I don’t feel so great about this part of my body today. When we roll over, can you make sure your hand is covering that cellulite?’ And you can have her augment things: I’ve had scenes where I went, ‘Can you just lift it up, so I look a little bit more ripened?’
“Every guy I’ve ever done a love scene with has forgotten. But women understand what you mean, they understand how important it is,” says Beals, smiling at this case of sisters doing it for themselves: “I’ll cover yours if you cover mine.”
Jennifer Beals Tackles Issues of Race, Sexuality on The L Word
When Showtime's new series The L Word premieres next month with Jennifer Beals as a lesbian of mixed racial heritage, it will not only be a big step forward for lesbian visibility, but for the visibility of biracial women, as well.
Beals originally came to fame as the welder-turned-dancer in 1983's hit movie Flashdance, a role she landed as an undergraduate at Yale University. She has starred in several movies since then, but most have been small roles in large studio films, like Denzel Washington's Devil in a Blue Dress and the recent John Cusack/Gene Hackman film Runaway Jury, or roles in small independent films, like Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, The Last Days of Disco, Twilight of the Golds, and The Anniversary Party.
Then last year, she was cast in The L Word as Bette, a lesbian museum director trying to have a baby with her partner, Tina (Laurel Holloman), and the rest is about to become history.
Beals is not a lesbian in real life (she was married for 10 years to director Alexandre Rockwell before they divorced in 1996), but she finds it easier to play one on TV because she's biracial, so she has "always lived sort-of on the outside," she told Curve Magazine last December. "The idea of being the other in society is not foreign to me."
With an African-American father and an Irish mother, Beals belongs to the growing group of Americans--seven million, in fact, according to the 2000 census data--who have a racially mixed heritage, but she did not publicly identify as biracial until recently. Prior to taking this role on The L Word, in fact, only two of the dozens of characters Beals played over the years have been biracial; the rest have been white women or women whose race was unspecified but assumed to be white. This likely has less to do with Beals, however, than with the fact that there have been almost no explicitly biracial characters on film or television.
Although there have been plenty of TV characters, including several lesbian ones, played by biracial actresses--like Sonja Sohn on The Wire, Iyari Limon on Buffy, and soon, Karina Lombard on The L Word--there have been few TV characters of any sexual orientation, let alone lesbian ones, who identify as biracial.
Which will make Beals' biracial lesbian character Bette a rarity on TV.
Bette is just one of several characters in The L Word, a series about a group of mostly-lesbian friends in L.A., but she is one of the more prominent ones. Beals describes her character as "a total type-A, multi-tasking, slightly bossy women, who is moved the most by art...and she's biracial. So there's all kinds of things you get to play with. You get to play with the mystery of sexuality and you get to play with race and you get to play with class and all kinds of things."
Bette does indeed struggle with issues of race and sexuality, beginning with the very first episode of the series when she and Tina argue over whether to have a biracial child, prompting a conversation between Bette and her older half-sister Kit (Pam Grier) about how Tina sees--or doesn't see--Bette's racial identity, and Bette's own complicity in this. But even when Bette is not dealing explicitly with her biracial identity, just her weekly presence will chip away at television's restrictive practice of casting race in black-or-white terms.
The L Word has been criticized for featuring a cast that overall is mostly white, and Beals' character certainly does not eliminate this concern. But by exploring some of the issues biracial women face, as well as the intersection between race and sexuality, The L Word broaches topics that are still largely avoided on television. Even on the rare occasion when we see TV characters who identify as biracial or multiracial, they almost never talk about it, nor do the show's writers explicitly explore the impact of the characters' mixed racial heritage on their lives.
Besides simply wanting to bring more authenticity to the series, perhaps The L Word writers are more willing to tackle the "taboo" subject of biracialism because they figure a show about lesbians is already so risque that attacking the sacred cow of racial purity won't have much, if any, negative impact. It also doesn't hurt that some of the show's writers and directors are women of color.
Beals, however, is most enthusiastic about the potential for this role to help break down popular misconceptions about lesbians of all races. "What's so wonderful about [the L Word] is that it will undoubtedly destroy certain stereotypes that people have of the gay community," she told the Vancouver Province in June. "It's incredibly exciting to me that some young woman, who's living in the middle of nowhere and having no access to this kind of community, will turn on the show and be able to relate to the characters and realize that she does have a place in the world--that there are other people like her and her sexual orientation doesn't mean that she should feel as if she is less than. That's a huge reason that I took [the role]."
Bette's sexuality does occasionally become an explicit focus of attention in her life, such as when she unexpectedly finds herself identified as "the lesbian museum director" by an influential art patron, or when her father indicates an unwillingness to fully accept Bette's relationship with Tina. But Bette most often challenges stereotypes just by being a realistic, sympathetic character who happens to be a lesbian.
As an amateur photographer--a "brilliant" one according to The Anniversary Party writer, director and co-star Jennifer Jason Leigh, who had Beals take all the photos that were featured in that film--Beals is very concerned with imagery and representation. With her role on The L Word, she hopes to give the gay community the images of themselves that have been so sorely lacking. "They talk about the fact that history is written by the victors," she told The Windy City Times last summer, "but if you can make yourself victorious by writing your own history and supplying your own images, then you've done yourself and the world a great service."
Although The L Word is getting the most attention for giving lesbians (and to a lesser extent, bisexual women) long-overdue images of themselves, the show's potential to do the same for biracial women--and specifically, biracial lesbians--is also an important contribution to improving the quality of television. While The L Word still has room to develop a more racially diverse cast, its efforts to challenge stereotypes of sexuality and race through Bette nonetheless represent a significant step forward for TV, and for Beals--who is about to show just how far she's come as an actress since her Flashdance days.
A Tribute to Jennifer Beals: Flashdance, Sundance and Beyond
We always hear about an actor leaving school to pursue a dream to be a star. Jennifer Beals made a tough and exceptional choice by evading the lures of Hollywood Celebrity and by choosing a determined path towards wisdom and completeness. Jennifer Beals performed a rare feat in starring in a blockbuster film while still a college freshman at Yale University and then continuing with tenacity to receive a degree in American literature from the school. A chapter complete.
Perseverance is a word that faithfully journeys with Jennifer Beals as she continues to surprise audiences with a fresh and unpredictable approach.She is often associated with her stirring role as the welder-turned-dancer, Alex, in director Adrian Lyne's Flashdance (1983)-a role for which she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture.
Her exotic looks have made it physically possible for Beals to assume a diverse gallery of roles and not find herself typecast. Since her breakthrough in Flashdance, Beals has mesmerized audiences with such varied roles as the re-animated 18th-Century Eva in Franc Roddam's The Bride (1985), the whimsical Angelica in Alexandre Rockwell's multi-award-winning comedy, In the Soup (1992), and the abused Angela in the anthology, Four Rooms (1995).
Unlike most actors who like to "play it safe" when choosing their roles, it has been a practice of Beals to accept some very unexpected characters, and one can certainly be challenged to find her playing the same character twice. Of particular note in her wealth of adventurous parts is the portrayal of the enigmatic and dark Rachel of the black comedy, Vampire's Kiss (1989), where she lures Nicholas Cage into his self- made hell. Further revealing her vicissitude and drive to challenge herself, Beals has even worked abroad with such celebrated European directors as Carlo Vanzini (The Gamble, 1988), Claude Chabrol (Dr. M, 1990), and Nanni Moretti (Cannes Film Festival winner, Caro Diario, 1994).
Following successes from afar, Beals again focused on American cinema and amassed more critical praise for her depiction of the neglected Gertrude Benchley in Alan Rudolph's Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994) and the mysterious beauty possibly involved in murder in Carl Franklin's Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), for which she was nominated for an Image Award as an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture.
Cinequest's maverick vision is easily defined by an artist such as Jennifer Beals. Through her innovative and creative essence, she has introduced us to many inspiring, sensual and clever characters. From girl-next-door to femme fatale, she always provokes a multitude of emotions in us, while making sure we continually perceive her self-assuredness.
Ms. Beals will be appearing for this special tribute with a screening of the Bay Area theatrical premiere of Twilight of the Golds, also starring Brendan Fraser, Garry Marshall, Faye Dunaway, Jon Tenney, Rosie O'Donnell. In the Soup, another outstanding film in her career, will be screening the following night.
Jennifer Beals on Live with Regis and Kelly
Jennifer Beals appeared on Live with Regis and Kelly on March 31st to talk about The L Word.
They three started out bantering about Jennifer’s recent horseback riding trip to Patagonia, in South America. She went on a horse-packing trip with her husband and some friends, where they camped each night. Kelly made a few jokes about camping and why didn’t Jennifer stay at a Four Seasons Resort.
Next Kelly mentioned that Jennifer is a photographer. Jennifer pulled out a camera and took a photo of Regis and Kelly. She said she prefers film to digital.
Then the conversation turned to The L Word. Regis and Kelly seemed to get a little uncomfortable discussing lesbians.
Regis: What does the L Word mean? I think it means Leonard.
Jennifer: Leonard. I’ve never heard that one before. It can mean a lot of things. It can mean love, lascivious. On a bad day it can mean laxative. But in this case I think most of all it means lesbian.
R: Ahh… So, you’re playing a lesbian. How did you research that role?
J: Aren’t you a funny guy… I researched the role in that the woman is a director of an art museum. She’s very focused on her work. I spent a lot of time trying to learn what it takes to run a museum. That’s really the research that I did.
R: How many girls are there in this show?
J: There’s 6 or 7 or us.
Kelly: Do you all get along?
J: Yes, Very well. In fact I was walking down the street talking with Mia Kirsher the other day, and telling her about all the cute shops and stuff.
R: Here in Manhattan?
K: Do you have kissing scenes and if so, are they uncomfortable? (giggles)
J: We have kissing scenes and at first it was just strange because it’s so different. It’s just softer.
R: It was softer, you say?
J: Yes, softer than kissing a man. To Regis: You know what it’s like to kiss a woman.
R: It is softer from a woman’s point of view to kiss another woman?
J: It’s softer than kissing a man. Well, most men.
R: Which do you… Well, I know which you prefer… You prefer a man.
J: Well, I’m married to a man…
R to Kelly: Did you ever kiss a woman in all your acting days? On All My Children, did you ever kiss a woman?
K: No, never. I played a straight character.
R: Did you have any lesbians on All my Children?
R: Was that part of the plot line?
K: Not my plot line, but a plot line.
R: What has been the reaction to the show?
J: It’s been incredibly positive. It’s been incredibly positive.
R: Well, you’re back for a second season.
J: We got picked up really quickly, after two episodes.
K: I have to tell you all of our writers over at Hope and Faith love it. It’s their favorite show. They love it. Its what they live for.
J: I think what’s really interesting about the show is it’s about these women’s lives and their loves and their ambitions, and work, so, in a way it points out the ways in which we’re similar are much more numerous, than the ways in which we’re different. So the audience that watches the show is across the board. It’s not one group of people. I think everyone can relate to it in one way or another.
R: Let take a look at a clip from the L Word. Here you are being confronted in group therapy.
J: And she hates group therapy.
Break to a clip of Bette & Tina in group therapy.
R: The L Word on Sunday nights at 10pm on Showtime.
Beals' Laundry Mistake Becomes a Fashion Must-Have
Jennifer Beals has let a movie secret slip - the famous grey sweatshirt that became one of Flashdance's big fashion must-haves was a "laundry mistake". The 40-year-old actress reveals the ripped and plunging look the 1983 film pioneered would never have taken off had it now been for the fact she left her favorite shirt in the spin-dryer too long. She says, "The sweatshirt was a total accident. I had a sweatshirt and I put it in the dryer for too long and I couldn't get my head through the hole, so I cut the hole. Who'd have thought a laundry mistake would have made such an impact."
Flashdancer Sues J. Lo
The female construction worker who inspired cult movie Flashdance is suing Jennifer Lopez for copyright infringement claiming her video "I'm Glad" is an unauthorized depiction of her life story. Maureen Marder, who was portrayed by Jennifer Beals in the 1983 movie, claims that Lopez's promo, which recreates scenes from Flashdance, owes both its story and its soul to her. Marder's attorney Robert Helfing says, "My client has received almost nothing for her contribution. Now her life story is on the screen again and other people are profiting from it."
Was "Tribute" a Rip-off?
Jennifer Lopez has acknowledged that her dance number in her new video "I'm Glad" uses the same routine that appeared in the "What a Feeling" sequence in the 1983 movie Flashdance, starring Jennifer Beals. Responding to a legal notice sent by Paramount Pictures to Sony, whose Epic Records company produced the video, a spokeswoman for Lopez said Wednesday that the dance was intended to pay tribute to the movie. A Paramount spokeswoman told reporters Wednesday that Sony has agreed to pay a licensing fee for use of the routine.