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The J word

The J word


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

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 cafe 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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