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‘The L Word’ Star Jennifer Beals Talks About Her Early Career

Ten years after “The L Word’s” cancellation, Jennifer Beals is ready to make her return as the ever-so-professional Bette Porter. She’ll not only star in the continued story, but she’ll also executive produce alongside original co-stars Leisha Hailey and Katherine Moennig, and creator Ilene Chaiken.

Beals has been hard at work in front of and behind the camera. In addition to the highly anticipated show’s premiere, Beals has made headlines recently for her work as an executive producer on “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” as well as her book “The Hive.”

Her first mention in Variety was on Oct. 20, 1982, for her star-making role as Alex Owens in “Flashdance.”

Have you seen your first mention in Variety?

Can I be honest? I had never seen it before and it’s because I was at a point in my life where I didn’t even have a career. I had a longing to have that actor’s high when things click into place, which I experienced really briefly in high school and had been chasing ever since. So, I had this longing, but I didn’t have a career. I didn’t even know how to do that.

Who were some people you looked up to?

I was very good friends with Daryl and Paige Hannah and the Wexler family. So I would see them go to auditions. After school, they would go to auditions and I had a job at Baskin Robbins. I was trying to make money for myself because my mom was a single mom and there wasn’t a lot of money to be had. It was definitely touch and go. And then I watched them going to these auditions and I had this experience on the stage and I kinda put two and two together and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to make a living at something that you love to do?” When I did “Flashdance,” [producer] Dawn Steel really took care of me, and she really had my back as did Adrian Lyne our director. He was really wonderful. That’s also where I met Tom Jacobson, who is my producing partner right now.

Did you have any idea how big the movie would be for your career?

I wasn’t thinking in terms of career. I was thinking in terms of joy. I want to go chase my joy. That’s what I want. I didn’t know enough to think about career and … after I did “Flashdance,” I went back to school and I couldn’t find a project that I was really excited about.

At what point in your career, did you look back and realize you were one of the big names in the industry?

I’ve never ever realized that. There are times when I’ve looked back and I thought, “Oh wow, that road’s pretty long back there,” but … I’ve met some extraordinary people and gone through some extraordinary challenges but I never thought I’m a big player. I have thought I have a responsibility to certain stories. “The L Word,” for example. I was so fortunate to be cast as Bette and at a time when no one was talking about having representation as actors in certain roles. Now I live in a time where it’s really important to, for example, have trans actors play trans roles and I think that will roll out to make sure that everybody has an opportunity. So I’m acutely aware that I’m a straight person playing a lesbian woman and I embrace that responsibility.

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