Scroll To Top

Soul of The L Word

Soul of The L Word


We may argue about The L Word, but on this we all agree: Jennifer Beals takes our breath away. The star opens up about shooting sex scenes, being a new mom, and giving lesbians what they want

By virtue of her acting chops and star power, Jennifer Beals unshakably anchors the L Word ensemble as lipstick lesbian dynamo Bette Porter, who aspires to run the world and never break a sweat. Born in Chicago, her mother Irish and her father African-American, Beals was 19 years old when she ripped the neck out of a sweatshirt and aerobicized herself into film history with 1983's Flashdance. Directed by Adrian Lyne and cowritten by Joe Eszterhas, this was just one of a crop of would-be imitators of Saturday Night Fever. With her model's stature and wounded eyes, Beals turned it into something else again.

The "wounded eyes" thing shows up in every story ever written on Beals, and no wonder. Those liquid brown eyes are a gift of nature, and Beals--an agile intellect who majored in American literature at Yale--deploys them to stunning advantage. In The L Word, Beals has put The Eyes in the service of lesbian fans everywhere, using that smoldering gaze to create some of the most erotic woman-to-woman love scenes in memory. Even Chaiken can't explain how Beals works her magic. "I've never met anybody else," says L Word creator Ilene Chaiken simply, "who can do it like she can."

Do people still assume that you have to be a lesbian to play one on TV? No, not at all. At least they don't say that to me. I heard a rumor that somebody--a studio executive in L.A. who saw some of the show--assumed I was bisexual. Which was a huge compliment to me, because oftentimes I will go Leisha or Kate or Ilene or Rose Troche most often and ask, "OK, is this the right thing to do? Is this not the right thing to do? Am I going to seem like a total chump if I do this?" And so I feel really proud, actually, that somebody would think that I was bisexual--I was pleased with myself. And I don't care, frankly. But I think mostly people will ask the question to get a titillating lead for their article. My older brother is a journalist, so I know how the game works.

Some in the lesbian community have said, "Everyone's too pretty, too rich"--all of that. But on this season there's going to be a more explicit look at butch and femme roles. Yeah, I think Ilene's explored that so far. But, you know, it is TV. I don't know any group of people in New York who look like the characters on Friends either. But I take their point. It excites me that if people don't like something, they voice their opinion about it. Because this, by and large, is a group that's never been represented. And instead of just saying, "Oh, we're so thrilled to be represented and we'll take whatever we can get," there are very specific opinions of how people want to be represented.

Let's talk about season 3. Your character, Bette, is at a crossroads. The job's gone. Her father has died. Her relationship with Tina has to be rekindled. And then there's a new life that requires more commitment than she's ever given anybody. Yes, it's true. It's the curveballs that come, one after the other. The second season was definitely the trials of Job in a way, and then this season has its own trials that aren't as necessarily evident but are profound nonetheless.

In what direction does Bette most need to grow at this point? [Sighs] I don't know. It's hard for me to presume to say how someone needs to grow. Then I'm standing back and judging her, which is a tricky thing to do as an actor. I think she needs a really good attorney at this point. [Anne laughs]

Having seen the first couple of episodes, I can only say that baby Angelica is a gorgeous, beautiful baby. Oh, that kid is just--her name is Olivia, and she's just such a delight. She makes me laugh so hard, and she's been so patient with all of us. Oftentimes, working with children can be very hard. They don't know where they are, they don't know why they're there, and they don't enjoy it. But she clearly enjoys being around.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Anne Stockwell