For more than a year, Jennifer Beals (“The L Word,” “Flashdance”) has been dying to talk with anyone outside her family about her role on the new “Star Wars” series “The Book of Boba Fett.”
“I wanted to tell everybody and I couldn’t tell anyone,” she says to Variety in her first interview about the show.
Fans have known next to nothing about the Disney Plus series — which is executive produced by Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and frequent episode director Robert Rodriguez — ever since it was announced with a surprise post-credits scene at the end of the Season 2 finale of “The Mandalorian.” In the scene, Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) saunter into the late Jabba the Hutt’s compound, where Boba kills Bib Fortuna (Matthew Wood) and takes over Jabba’s criminal organization.
Since then, however, Lucasfilm has shrouded the show with its customary veil of secrecy, including who other than Morrison and Wen would be starring in it — until the first trailer, when Beals appeared in a brief shot as a Twi’lek, a member of an alien race with two long appendages on their heads called lekku.
Beals says she had a “tremendous” time working on the show. “Tam and Ming-Na make the set incredibly joyful,” she says. “In between takes, Tam is singing to everybody. There’s music everywhere. Robert’s room was next to mine and he’s playing his guitar. It was an incredibly creative environment.”
Until “Boba Fett” premieres Dec. 29, however, that’s everything Beals can say about the character. Well, almost everything. She also gamely discussed shooting “Boba Fett” at the same time she was in production on Season 2 of Showtime’s “The L Word: Generation Q” and her recent step into the world of producing.
What do you remember about the first time you saw the first “Star Wars” movie?
It’s not as if I’m well versed in “Star Wars” lore at all. But that moment when Luke is instructed to use the Force identified for me my beginnings of my understanding of the universe, in a way, as a young woman. I thought to myself, “Oh, yes, that’s, that’s what this thing is this, this energy that, that I will feel sometimes if I’m in the forest or I’m focusing.” It was just the first time that was identified for me. So, to be part of that — I never even imagined that it would be possible for me to be in the “Star Wars” family. I get really excited still.
How closely did you follow the franchise as you became an adult?
I hadn’t really followed it. I got taken off on to other tracks and, you know, watch other films, but also I was doing a lot more reading. But the last movie I saw before lockdown was “Star Wars.”
“The Rise of Skywalker”?
Yes. That was the last film I saw in a theater before I was cast. As it happened, I didn’t know about “The Mandalorian” really, either. My older brother called me and said, “I’m going to go watch ‘The Mandalorian’ with [my] kids.” And I said, “Oh, tell me about ‘The Mandalorian,'” and he started telling me about the show and how great it was. And I walked into the house and the phone rang and that was the offer [for “The Book of Boba Fett”]. So that night, I started watching. I was just gobsmacked. It just was so beautiful with so cinematic and heart-centered at the same time.
So this franchise that unlocked a kind of spiritual connection for you came back to you in the most Kismet-like way, it sounds like?
Yeah, yeah. I had worked with both Jon [Favreau] and Robert [Rodriguez] many, many years ago. Jon and I were both in “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle,” and Robert, I worked with on “Four Rooms.” And knew him from that circle of friends with Quentin [Tarantino] and my ex-husband, Alex Rockwell. But it’d been decades since I’d seen them.
I know there’s not much you can say about your character, but did you know a lot about her at first?
Are you kidding me? I mean, I knew about the character. But this is how good they are at the lockdown of secrets: Even when I first stepped onto the set, I didn’t realize that I was in “The Book of Boba Fett.” I just knew that I was getting to be part of this story.
Did you know what a Twi’lek is or did you have to research it?
I had to be reminded of what that was and who they are and where they’re from. Dave Filoni is just extraordinary. He’s like a walking encyclopedia. Instead of relying on the internet — which, you know, I don’t know who the authors are of certain articles that I’m looking at — I would go to the source. I would go to Dave, and we would talk about character and how is this person different perhaps than the lineage that’s come before, and what has informed her experiences and then how does that change the way she looks or behaves — or dresses for that matter.
What is the process of putting on the appendages, the lekku? How heavy are they?
The team really went to the ends of the earth to make sure that not only were they incredibly light, but that they were balanced perfectly for my skull. They were easy to keep on during the day. We could take them off during during a break if I needed one. But [wearing them] just changes everything. It’s like this incredible crown of sensitivity and identity.
I do want to make the observation that the most prominent Twi’lek in the “Star Wars” universe, Bib Fortuna, was killed by Boba Fett at the end of Season 2 of “The Mandalorian.” Please remain silent if that is significant for your character.
(Pause) Please remain silent if that is significant for my character? That was the question.
(Pause) Did I remain silent or did I ask you a question? I don’t know.
OK, let’s try this: Most Twi’leks are enslaved, but in the brief shot of your character in the first trailer, her outfit looks expensive, like she’s a person of stature.
I would say that’s fair, just to summarize it that way.
Ah, my instincts were right!
I think that’s fair that I say that to you. What am I gonna do, go, “Oh, I don’t know, is she?”
So you were shooting the second season of “The L Word: Generation Q” at the same time, and I cannot really think of two shows that would seem to be more different. How did they compare?
It was wild. You’re on “The L Word,” and she’s like the Little Engine That Could, and then you go to “The Book of Boba Fett” and it’s a pleasure dome that’s already been built, and they have so many resources, not the least of which are the imaginations of the people who are running the organization. They’re just 180-degrees different.
Both of those shows are reexamining legacy characters that a certain generation of viewers grew deeply fond of when they were first in the world. In the case of “The L Word,” how has revisiting Bette so many years later have changed your perspective on the character?
It’s really hard to say because sometimes I feel like I’m so inside of it that I won’t know until we know that we’re completely finished. But I feel her struggling to evolve, really determined to evolve, being her own worst enemy sometimes, being the source of her own undoing, but really trying to expand her agency of goodness in the world, if only for the sake of her daughter and generations to come.
Do you know yet if the show is going to be returning for Season 3?
I’m very hopeful.
Season 2 ended on something of a cliffhanger, with Bette confronting whether she wants to be with Pippa (Vanessa Estelle Williams) or her ex-wife, Tina (Laurel Holloman). Do you have a sense of what you would like to do to continue that part of the story if you had the chance?
Well, it allows you to continue the story of really profound love — with either person. And allows you to continue a story of the complexity of love, especially love that is rooted in the past, which both of Bette’s love interests are. You know, Pippa is somebody that she idolized when she was a young woman, and certainly Tina is the love of her life in many regards. And that’s all based in the past. Neither relationship is purely new.
You’re an executive producer on that show, and I gather you’re moving more into producing?
There’s one particular producing project that’s in the midst of finding a home right now. So hopefully, we’ll have some good news to share about that in the coming weeks.
What have you learned with producing?
I love it. I love story. I love writers. I love helping shape story and talk about story. To get these things into the world is not always easy, but but I am enamored of the process.
Finally, this is the inevitable “Star Wars” question: Do you know yet what your action figure is going to look like?
I don’t know that I get one? Who knows. We’ll see! We did do that incredible room where they have hundreds of cameras all around you taking your picture so that they can make the action figure. But I don’t know. Who knows if they’ll decide to do it. They I think they say that to all the girls.
This interview has been edited and condensed.