The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center dance marathon is on; someone is moving to the Big Apple; rumors fly fast around the dance floor that Alice and Tasha may be in couple trouble and the HIT!'s new MC makes a shocking revelation to Kit.
Twenty-five years after her doe-eyed debut in Flashdance made her the pinup fantasy of men across America, 44-year-old Jennifer Beals is still making hearts skip a beat—only now it’s in the role of power lesbian Bette Porter in the sixth and final season of Showtime’s The L Word.
The Chicago native is the perfect choice to headline our Love Issue; she’s got the “L word” on the brain, as well as other “L words,” like life, lesbians, and her left-leaning political views.
And despite her whisper-soft voice, Beals has a lot to talk about: From campaigning for Barack Obama to growing up biracial in Chicago, from gay marriage to her dream of getting a part that brings her back to her hometown, we got her to deliver the straight scoop.
MICHIGAN AVENUE: Describe your career journey, starting with Flashdance—how were you discovered?
JENNIFER BEALS: It wasn’t like someone walked by and said, “I’m going to discover you.” I had an agent in Chicago, and when I was 14, I worked quite a bit with Victor Skrebneski, mostly doing catalog work. I saved my pennies and then went off to college, and I got Flashdance in my first week at Yale.
MA: In many ways that movie has defined your career. How do you feel looking back on it now?
JB: I look upon it fondly. It was the entrée into my professional and creative life.
MA: I was a kid when Flashdance came out, and I remember being struck by the fact that you were a dark-haired, dark-skinned heroine in a lead romantic role. I actually wondered if I was going to look like you when I grew up.
JB: It’s funny when you talk about not seeing yourself reflected back, because I spent my childhood not having anyone to identify with. There was no real person in the world that represented me, so I identified more with fictional characters, like Spock or Proteus.
MA: A lot of people don’t know that you grew up in Chicago—what was your childhood like?
JB: My father had a couple of businesses in Altgeld Gardens, where he was a community organizer. A grocery store is the one I remember the most. I was quite young. I just remember him coming home with all the coupons people gave him at the till, and it was my job to organize the coupons.
JB: I had the whole experience, from junior kindergarten through the 12th grade. I can still recite, “A school should be a model home, a complete community, an embryonic democracy.” That’s what Colonel Francis Parker said, and he was the driving force behind the school. Marie Stone was a teacher there who was incredibly influential for a lot of us, and really quite central to my experience at Parker. She taught American literature, but she also taught you about the world and your place in the world. Ideas like: If not you, then who? She said that it’s incumbent upon you to take part in the world and be a responsible member of the community and to help other people.
MA: You could have never predicted the impact you’d have on the gay community, playing a lesbian on The L Word. Were you nervous about taking on the role?
JB: I just thought it was a great part, and I didn’t even think about the love scenes. I was so committed to preparing for the whole work story, because so much of Bette’s life is work. What does it mean to run an art gallery? That was the focus—and then I realized, In two days I’m shooting a love scene and I don’t have a friggin’ clue what I’m doing. I’m going to be outed as such a hetero chump! And then I thought, I just have to relax.
MA: Does the title of the show stand for “Lesbian”? “Love”?
JB: Every episode is another “L” word—there’s a whole myriad. “Luminous” is a good one.
MA: How has playing a lesbian changed your views on homosexuality?
JB: Oh my god, it’s completely changed. There were issues I would have had no idea about. I had no idea that the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community is not included in hate-crime legislation. That makes hate codified within the culture. To say: All these people are covered but you’re not. What the fuck is that about? Pardon my French, but I was really upset. I became aware of the Matthew Shepard Act [to expand the 1969 US federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability], and hopefully that will pass soon.
MA: Your character is known as the “Big Cheater.” Has that been fun or difficult for you to play?
JB: When [executive producer] Ilene Chaiken first wrote it I was like, Really? Really, do we have to? I was so upset. But I thought, OK, all right, I’m not going to try to make it any less than truthful. But it was hard.
MA: Lesbianism seems to be more culturally accepted these days. Do you think The L Word is partially responsible?
JB: I think in some ways it has shifted, but with Proposition 8 passing it clearly hasn’t shifted enough. I was really disappointed but I also realized it’s a matter of education and exposure. For me it was a lesson in campaign organization—or disorganization, if you will. The opposition was fired up and organized. You can’t wait until you realize your opponent has $15 million in the bank; you have to frame your argument right away. All the numbers show the younger generation supports same-sex marriage, so it is inevitable. Someday people will look back and say, “I can’t believe there was a time all people couldn’t get married.”
MA: You were very involved in Barack Obama’s campaign—what drew you to him?
JB: I heard him speak in LA in November of 2007 and afterwards I got in my car and just started shaking. I’m such a hermit by nature; I’m not genetically encoded to speak. I realized I was going to have to change my DNA. This was something that was bigger than me and needed my attention. So last year I interviewed Tobias Wolff, the chair of the National LGBT Policy Committee for Obama’s campaign. We made a video about where Obama stood on policy issues, and posted it on Ourchart.com.
MA: Where were you on Election Day?
JB: I was in Vancouver, and when it was 16 to 3 [electoral votes] in favor of McCain, I called Tobias and said, “Direct me to a phone bank. Who should I call? What state is important right now?” He said Nevada, and I just got on the phone and started phone-banking to 77-year-old men in Nevada. Most of the calls were to assisted-care homes. I just couldn’t take it. I thought, There’s no way I’ll be sitting here when there’s somebody in Nevada who has to vote. So when I called, I asked them, “Do you need a ride? I’ll call and arrange the vehicle.”
MA: You’re such an inspiration! I hear you’ve also amped up your physical activity in the last couple of years.
JB: I’ve been trashing my skin the last two years, doing open-water swimming. Last weekend I did a swimming seminar—four hours each day of swimming technique, and I couldn’t have been happier. I did my first triathlon a year and a half ago—if somebody had told me that I’d do it three or four years ago, I would have told them they were nuts.
MA: You’ve been married since 1998 to a Canadian entrepreneur. You have one child together and he has children from a previous marriage. What are your feelings about blended families?
JB: You have to be respectful of your spouse, and their ex as well. It can be tricky when different belief systems collide. You have to take time to listen to someone else’s point of view. It’s too easy to start fighting. Listening is work.
MA: You’re quite revered in the gay community. There are websites, blogs, and a Wikipedia entry dedicated to your character. How does your husband feel about being married to a gay icon?
JB: We don’t talk about it—it’s just part of my work. I don’t say, “Hey honey, the gay icon is home!”
MA: I know you split your time mostly between LA and Vancouver these days. How do those cities compare to your hometown?
JB: You get so spoiled by Chicago… the architecture is so stunning. Then you go to Vancouver, which is a lovely city except for its architecture, and you stand there and think, Did nobody take time to plan the city? In Chicago, when you’re going by Buckingham Fountain and part of the White City area and downtown, it looks like all the architects had a conference and talked to one another to coordinate their work.
MA: Do you think you’ll be spending more time in Chicago now that The L Word has wrapped?
JB: I know that the universe is really good at surprising me, so we’ll see what the next gift at the doorstep is. I can offer my suggestions to God, but I’m sure God has a better plan. Who knows, if I get a series in Chicago, I could be in Chicago. I’m just suggesting, universe! I’m not demanding. It’s a thought.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JASON BELL
STYLING BY BASIA ZAMORSKA
HAIR BY JOSHUA BARRETT FOR ARTISTSBYTIMOTHYPRIANO.COM
MAKEUP BY ANTHEA KING FOR ARTISTSBYTIMOTHYPRIANO.COM
Jenny throws a baby shower for Max; Bette and Tina hit a roadblock in the adoption process; Bette goes solo to her gallery's opening night celebration leading Kelly to go in for the kill; Shane is feeling boxed in by Jenny; and Alice starts to feel like three is a crowd.
606 Promo - Happy For You Both
606 Promo - From Nevada
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Posted by didie211 at 10:44 AM
Ever since The L Word entered homes across the country six years ago, the Showtime drama series has affected the lives of legions of fans. The groundbreaking series has become a pop culture phenomenon, as it brought the lesbian community into the mainstream consciousness, and elicited controversy, pride, empowerment and conversation.
Now in its final season, the direction and goal of the series has always been very cle arly defined to provide the lesbian community a voice and sense of place in society at large. Revolving around the lives of a tight-knit group of women living in Los Angeles, who are all trying to navigate and learn from where life and love takes them, the show’s last eight episodes also center around the ultimate demise of Jenny Schecter (Mia Kirshner) and her tangled web that could leave anyone responsible.
Actor/singer Leisha Hailey has spent the last six seasons playing Alice Pieszecki, a journalist and the show’s only self-proclaimed bisexual. The 37-year-old Hailey, who has filmed a spin-off pilot that will hopefully be picked up after The L Word is finished, recently spoke to MediaBlvd Magazine about how the tension in Alice’s relationship with Tasha (Rose Rollins) and frustration with Jenny could make her the killer.
MediaBlvd Magazine> What do you love about Alice?
Leisha Hailey> Oh gosh, so many things. I think she’s so outspoken and honest and, although she puts her foot in her mouth many times, it’s that thing that I wish I had where I’m just off the cuff constantly, and just witty and gregarious. I just love her. She’s just a big light, and I hope that I learned some things from her that I can take into my own life.
Jennifer Beals is, by her own admission, fascinated by mythology. “What is it about vampires? There are so many metaphors,” she says, considering her own question. “It’s incredibly alluring, especially to young girls.” She has a point. Look no further than the “Twilight” books and movie and HBO’s new series True Blood, and one will notice that vampires are in vogue once again. “There’s that sensation of coming into your authenticity and being introduced to your own mythic power.” Beals is still talking vampires, but her words could easily apply to the phenomenon of the Showtime series The L Word, now in its sixth and final season. Since its debut in 2004, the show has been a beacon of empowerment for young women while dispelling myths about lesbianism and gender roles. The storylines have never ceased being provocative. In the current season, pre-op transsexual Moira/Max (Daniela Sea), finds out she’s pregnant as she prepares to undergo gender transition.It’s been 25 years since Beals lit up the screen in Flashdance, as she helped to popularize leg warmers, loose-neck sweatshirts, and to a lesser extent, barely legal steel-mill welders. She’s stayed busy over the years, populating her resumé with interesting roles in eclectic films (The Bride, Vampire’s Kiss, Devil in the Blue Dress, Runaway Jury, Twilight of the Golds), but her turn as Bette Porter on The L Word has solidified her standing with a new generation of fans.
It’s been 25 years since Beals lit up the screen in Flashdance, as she helped to popularize leg warmers, loose-neck sweatshirts, and to a lesser extent, barely legal steel-mill welders. She’s stayed busy over the years, populating her resumé with interesting roles in eclectic films (The Bride, Vampire’s Kiss, Devil in the Blue Dress, Runaway Jury, Twilight of the Golds), but her turn as Bette Porter on The L Word has solidified her standing with a new generation of fans.
After taking some time to decompress following her h photo shoot, Beals emerges from her dressing room to meet me. She looks stunning: Her smooth, flawless features seem impervious to the passage of time. Soft-spoken and verbally precise, she projects a cultured elegance befitting a museum curator. It’s a testament to how thoroughly Beals embodies her character, who has been portraying a dean of arts at a California university in the series. Picking up on the parallel, I ask her if she catches herself doing or saying things that are decidedly Bette Porter-esque. “Definitely,” she responds. “There are certain words that I don’t normally say. Intractable. Six years ago, I wouldn’t have used that word, but it’s found its way into my vocabulary.”
Beals says she did not consider her character’s sexual orientation in her initial research of the role. Instead, she delved into Bette’s professional identity, “because work is paramount to her.” The L Word’s fairly graphic portrayal of its characters’ relationships did not faze Beals. “I didn’t really think about it,” she insists. “I imagined it would be as graphic as a heterosexual show would be.” As for preparing for a gay love scene as opposed to a straight one, she says, “There’s no difference at all, other than just trying to figure which position technically works. For me, when I’ve done love scenes or intimate scenes - however you want to characterize them, because they’re not always about love and they’re not always intimate - it’s just about the story. I didn’t think about it until the time came that I had to do the love scene. Then I thought, ‘Let’s just hope I don’t
come off as a total chump.’”
At the outset of Season One, Bette Porter seems to posses the most even-keeled presence in the cast, even though it’s perpetually career-absorbed. She’s in a committed, seven-year relationship with girlfriend Tina Kennard (Laurel Holloman), a driven Hollywood professional with a high-profile job; she and Tina are preparing to start a family. But over the next few seasons, their well-manicured façade begins to crumble, culminating with Bette kidnapping her and Tina’s child in the midst of a bitter custody dispute. This season, after a few ups and downs, Bette’s life has stabilized: She and Tina are a couple again and are trying to adopt their second child.
Working on The L Word has been a gratifying, collaborative process, says Beals. Because the show uses different directors during the season, the actors bear some responsibility for maintaining character consistency. “Obviously, [series creator Ilene Chaiken] does that, but she’s taking care of lots and lots of different characters. You’re sort of the keeper of the flame—the heart and truth of the character,” she says.
One of the greatest triumphs of the show is the fluid interaction of its ensemble cast: a collection of vivid personalities, not drenched in stereotypes, that are authentic and believable. Whether it’s a delicate balance of female energy or just guilty-pleasure frenemy drama, the chemistry is still there. Five of the core actresses – Mia Kirschner, Katherine Moennig, Leisha Hailey, Holloman, and Beals – have been with the show from the beginning. Another central figure in the show, around which intrigue and occasional controversy revolves, is “The Chart”. Created by quirky journalist Alice (Hailey), The Chart is a massive “hook-up map” that diagrams relationships and connects people like a series of gigantic constellations. The idea is that there are traceable degrees of separation within the lesbian community among commonly shared sex partners. One of the main hubs on The Chart is the androgynous Shane (Moennig), whose reputation as a serial heartbreaker has only fueled her legendary status.
Then, of course, there’s Jenny (Kirschner). She comes to L.A. a naïve – if not completely innocent – heterosexual waif who discovers her inner lesbian early on. In the fifth season, her thinly-veiled memoir of her life with the rest of the series’ cast, Lez Girls, is developed into a movie. All the while she has fluctuated from being a sympathetic figure to being a cold, calculating manipulator. And so, no huge surprise, in the final season opener, Jenny has turned up dead. The answer to who offed her and why (there is a veritable tool shed of axes to grind) will be ostensibly revealed in the remaining episodes. Plans are already in place for a spin-off series, The Farm, which is centered on Alice and set in a prison. (Whether this is a plot giveaway or coy misdirection is anyone’s guess.)
Over the years, Beals has been taking various photos on the set of the show. She’s planning on putting a book together for the cast and crew to commemorate six seasons of memories. While attending an L Word convention recently, she got the idea that making such a book available to fans could be a good vehicle for raising money for various organizations. She’s since gotten other cast members to contribute text commentary for the book as well.
Beals has become much more informed on LGBT issues due to her association with The L Word. “I had no idea – no idea – that the gay and lesbian community wasn’t included in hate-crime law,” she says. (Legislation that added gays and lesbians to federal hate-crimes law finally passed in May 2007.) On a broader spectrum, Beals believes ensuring the rights of any minority has an overall positive effect on the majority. “Once one part of the collective sees themselves represented and is given permission to celebrate their own authenticity, then it helps the rest of the collective to see how everyone is connected,” she reasons. “It behooves all of us to have everyone experience their deepest, most beautiful, most profound and powerful self, because those people are more apt to give their gift to everyone else rather than shudder in fear.”
I ask Beals if her experience on the show has caused her to reevaluate what a modern “birds and bees” talk should entail. (She has a three-year-old daughter, so the subject is still a few years off.) “It’s more inclusive,” she says. “There used to be whole realms of people who weren’t talked about—whose very existence didn’t seem worthy subject matter for pop culture. Now that’s starting to change a little bit. And so those conversations we have at home with our children about love and about sexuality will then therefore change. The first question of sexuality comes from love—who loves whom—and you realize that is the unifying principle.”
Beals is clearly energized by the new direction the country is taking, and the positive impact the Obama administration can make on the world stage. “I think we hit the breaking point and the paradigm needed to shift or we all would have perished. I know that sounds so dramatic,” she acknowledges. “The biggest shift was for people to understand that they are all agents of change.”
Beals volunteered for the Obama campaign early on in the primaries. She went to Ohio and Pennsylvania twice, working phone banks and knocking on doors. “As much of a hermit as I am, I realized after the first time I heard Obama speak that I had to become involved. He was the only candidate I saw that could bring everybody back to their most powerful self.”
A Chicago native, Beals got pegged for the career-launching role of aspiring dancer Alex Owens in Flashdance while she was studying American literature at Yale. After allowing herself a moment to recall frat house floors coated with the sticky residue of keg beer, she says, “That girl – who I was – is very dear to me,” she says. “In some ways, I was older than I am now.” An admitted perfectionist, the actress rarely watches her own work. She’s seen Flashdance “maybe one-and-a-half times.” During filming, she likes watching the dailies, because the creative process is in full swing. “I like working with the director and carving out a communal point of view,” she says. “But when it’s all put together, there’s nothing left for me to do…. I’m too harsh on myself.”
As for what comes after The L Word, Beals replies that she would consider another series if the writing measures up. Beyond that, she’s not sure. “I don’t know what the next thing is for me, what way I can be useful and creative. I’m sure it will be revealed to me—sooner rather than later.” (Sooner, indeed. Just a few days after our interview, Beals signed on to star in The Book of Eli, an action/thriller that reunites her with Devil in the Blue Dress costar Denzel Washington.)
I ask the former American lit student to name some of her favorite works. She’s a huge fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald and deems “The Great Gatsby” one of the greatest books ever written. When she’s traveling, she’ll usually have with her Walt Whitman’s “The Leaves of Grass” or Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.” Lately, her shelves have become populated with child psychology books. Then there’s the “Twilight” series. She’s read them all. “I’ll take that to read in the trailer during shooting,” she says.
So the question remains: What is it about vampires that makes them so intriguing?
“When I was a little girl, I was afraid of the vampire, but I still didn’t understand why Lucy didn’t want to let him in.” she recalls, referring to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. “It’s like, he’s so much more interesting than the fiancé.
So…what’s the problem?”
While the myth of the vampire will always be cloaked in mystery, The L Word has done more than its share to bring lesbian issues and discussions of sexual identity into the light of day. And that’s a good thing—for the gay community and for society.
Posted by didie211 at 5:18 AM
Promo 1 - Another Script
Promo 2 - Whatever You Want
“The truth is that I’m not technically out yet. There. Put that in your magazine. For me, there’s never been a distinction about anything to do with sexuality, so there was no declaration to be made. My siblings and I would bring home men and women, and as long as they were human it wasn’t a big thing.”
Her reasons for choosing to come out
“I never want to put a label on my self – but knowing that not everyone comes from such a liberal place, when something like Prop 8 [banning gay marriage in California] comes out, you realise it’s important to stand up and be counted. A little gay kid in a small town is more important than whether I want a label.”
She talks about the rumoured relationship between her and co-star Kate Moenning
“Yes, they’re tricky – and clearly we did our jobs right if there are rumours. But I hate to squash them, too. Whatever I say people are going to have their own ideas. Basically we’re really good friends now and people can draw whatever conclusions they want.”
On whether she is currently dating
“Yes, I am, but it’s new and I wouldn’t call it a relationship. I don’t want to say too much and jinx it.”
On her co-star in the L-Word and mother in real life Cybil Shepherd
“Mum and Jane (Lynch) have such a great energy together, on screen and off. They’re still friends. I want them to be together so badly; it’s my secret dream.”
The March issue will be on sales February 12, 2009.
Posted by didie211 at 6:50 AM
604 Promo 1 - true to your passion
604 promo 2 - being pregnant