The J word

Former Flashdancer Jennifer Beals takes on a sexy role in Showtime’s new lesbian series.

BY Lisa Kennedy

January 01 2004 1:00 AM ET

Go ahead. Admit
it. What you really want to ask about is the sex scenes.
It’s OK—Jennifer Beals is ready for you. The
star of The L Word is especially ready if you
happen to be a journalist like the one she encountered
at a luncheon Showtime hosted for its new series
“about women… and the women who love
them.”

“This
older guy asked me, ‘So are you having a relationship
with someone on the show?’ ” Beals
begins on the phone, having just returned to her hotel
from said luncheon. “Me or my character?”
asked Beals, who’s been married for five years
to a film technician named Ken. “He said,
‘No, you.’ ”

Beals went
Socratic on him. “When is the last time you slept
with someone?” she asked. “Who was it,
what was it like, was it good?” She then told
him, “If I were George Clooney and Catherine
Zeta-Jones was standing next to me, you
wouldn’t ask me if I’d had an affair with her.
Because it’s a gay-themed show you find it salacious.
In your older, heterosexual male mind, you think
it’s OK to ask me that question.”

The reporter must
have eaten some crow with his chicken that day.

Actually, George
and Catherine never got it on as lovingly as Beals’s
Bette Porter and her mate of seven years, Tina Kennard, do
in The L Word. Still, Beals is right: the new
show, which also stars Pam Grier and Leisha Hailey, is
more than the sum of its entwined, tender parts.

It is the
teasing, aching tale of a group of friends who live in West
Hollywood, Calif., and frequent a café called the
Planet. Once called Earthlings, the 13-episode
series premieres this month.

At the heart of
this coffee-swilling klatch are Bette and Tina (Laurel
Holloman). Bette is a very stylish, very focused museum
curator (check out the foxy white-on-white ensemble
she wears in the pilot). Tina is a movie exec taking
time off to begin their family. When first we meet the
gals, they are on an at-times goofy, then tense quest for
the right sperm.

“It was
exciting to portray this person who is such a type A
personality,” says Beals, who has been doing some of
her finest work in intelligent, independent fare
(Rodger Dodger, The Anniversary
Party
). “Bette seemingly has everything on the
ball, but at her core is so vulnerable.”

A lifetime ago
Beals debuted in a sleeper of a flick called, hmm…oh,
yeah, Flashdance. Young girls bought leg warmers and
ripped their sweatshirts. Steel-mill welders traded in
their safety goggles for toe shoes.

OK, maybe not.
But it struck a chord.

Twenty years
later Beals has ambitions about hitting a deeper note.
“Some young gay girl in the middle of nowhere
will see The L Word,” she says like a
sweet convert, “and see in some small way herself,
and know she should celebrate that self.”

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