Jennifer Beals Shoots L Word Book, Is Perfect: The Autostraddle Interview

Jess: Well, I think they had the emotional connection for people to relate to. And they were also the least threatening characters, compared to someone like Shane, who might make some people uncomfortable because her sexuality is right out there and in your face.

J. Beals: Right, see, but I think that would draw me in and be alluring…  It’s a true mystery, one of the myths of the universe. I don’t know… but I’m grateful for it!

Jess: Were you satisfied with how the show dealt with Bette being biracial?

J. Beals: I think we could’ve done more things but I’m glad that we dealt with some of it anyway. Obviously there’s a lot more that we could’ve touched on but there were a lot of characters on the show and a lot of stories that needed to be told so you do what you can…. But, I’m glad that we did do something with it.

On Obama and Current Events…

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Jess: How are you feeling about Obama so far?

J. Beals: I have to say, as far as the LGBT community goes, I’m really frustrated. I’m really frustrated, frankly. I don’t know what he’s done. And I campaigned really hard for him and people who I know keep saying “be patient…be patient…” so, I’m hoping that good things will come. At a certain point I believe you just have to wait and I know that there are many things on his plate, and I get that – but, that doesn’t stop me from being incredibly frustrated.

Jess: Living in Vancouver, I’m sure you were following the Winter Olympics. Do you have any thoughts on the Johnny Weir controversy? [The 2010 Olympic figure skater widely believed to have been underscored because he’s flamboyant. Broadcast commentators were also called out for their thinly veiled homophobic comments.]

J. Beals: I think it’s absolutely appalling. You know, I saw him skate for the first time this year, I didn’t know of him before that, and I watched him skate and he was so fantastic and so accomplished and I really don’t think his scores were commensurate with his ability.  And I feel in some ways he’s penalized for his presentation, and I feel he continues to present himself as authentically as possible, and frankly I believe he’s unbelievably fabulous and I would love to meet him one day!  The way he was treated was appalling and almost from another era. They should really be ashamed of themselves.

Jess: The best was when he skated to Poker Face.

J. Beals: I love it. He’s amazing… I have a little crush on him.

On Closeted Actors in Hollywood…

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Jess: Why do you think so many actors and actresses are still closeted in Hollywood?

J. Beals: Fear. I think they’re afraid.

Jess: Do you think it’s important for actors and actresses to come out publicly?

J. Beals: I think it’s important to make the decision that’s best for them… But I think they stay closeted probably out of fear, and I hope that one day they won’t be fearful.

Jess: Had you been gay, do you think you’d choose to come out publicly?

J. Beals: It would be that or perish, honestly. I mean, I think I would have to but I can’t possibly presume what that would be like for me… And it also depends on so many things, not only your sexual orientation but it also depends on your class, like how much money do you have? Because some actors may not even feel like they can afford to do it. And they go to that place where they go “oh, I need this job…” – and they get into that mindset. If you’re independently wealthy you can be independently everything.

On Family…

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Jess: How has becoming a parent in your 40s changed your outlook on life?

J. Beals: Everything feels very new, and I appreciate sleep so much more.

Jess: Did your family ever watch the show?
J. Beals: My mom did sometimes… my mom’s not a big TV watcher either but she did sometimes…

On Her Own Perfection…

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Jess: You always come across very ethereal and Zen-like. Were you always this centered and together?

J. Beals: I do meditate and I also do yoga, which helps. But I was actually more grounded when I was younger in a way. I was much calmer when I was younger. I mean, I lose it upon occasion, that’s for sure and I certainly did with the end of the 6th season which I talk about in the book a little bit. Everybody talks about how they processed the 6th season. As much as everybody was so grateful to be on the show, like deeply, hugely, immensely grateful to be on the show, everybody had an issue with the 6th season and that may have happened for a lot of reasons. Maybe it happened because people knew that the show was gonna end and they’re processing ending this thing that meant so much to them. And then there’s the issue of storylines that you may disagree with and how they’re represented. I’m not always really calm, but I try not to get taken away by things that are incredibly transitory.

Jess: Let’s talk about your workout routine.

J. Beals: Well, it depends on the day, but lately I’ll go swim for 30 minutes and then I’ll go run or do yoga or work out with lots of light weights afterwards.

Jess: What are you reading or some of your favorite authors?

J. Beals: I just read – and this is gonna sound so “deep” [laughs] – it’s this really great Viktor Frankl book called Man’s Search for Meaning which a friend of mine gave me while I was shooting this movie called A Night for Dying Tigers [also starring Lauren Lee Smith aka Lara Perkins the Soup Chef], it’s an independent film and it’s about this incredibly dysfunctional family, like extraordinarily dysfunctional family and I was talking to one of my friends on the set and he had recommended this book so I went out and bought it and it was really interesting. I keep re-reading parts of it, it’s a very engaging book.

One of my favorite authors is Walt Whitman, for sure.  I’ve read Leaves of Grass over and over and over again.

Jess: What are you listening to right now?

J. Beals: I tend to play the Dixie Chicks ad nauseam.  [I mention they need to come out with a new album cause it’s been so long]  I know, my husband is really getting tired of the same rotation. I’ve also been listening to a lot of David Gray, and I’m a huge Joni Mitchell fan.

On Photography…

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Jess: I read that you prefer to shoot with film rather than digital, why is that?

J. Beals: Film surprises you in a way that digital can’t… Film is this unknown thing that happens where you just don’t know, even just in terms of the age of the film, the particular chemicals on that particular roll of film. I like being surprised in that way.  And, I’m sure that somebody somewhere has a digital camera that they know how to make all of those certain effects happen, and I kind of secretly like the waiting [for film to develop].

Jess: Do you use a particular kind of camera?

J. Beals: Oh, I have several! I use a Mamiya 67 which is nice, a Rolleiflex 2.25, a Leica M8.2. I know I should probably stick to one and learn that one really well but I get a kick out of using different kinds.

Jess: You mentioned you just finished shooting A Night for Dying Tigers. Do you have any other projects lined up after that?

J. Beals: Not really, I mean I’m developing a couple things, but there’s nothing imminent. I really, truly need a break after that [A Night for Dying Tigers.]  That was a roller-coaster ride so I need a little bit of a break now.


The hard cover book is available for order at lwordbook.com.

Feel free to send your review of The L Word Book to jbphotobook[at]tibette.com


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Jess is a pop culture junkie living in New York City. She enjoys endless debates about The L Word, Howard Stern, new techy gadgets, DVR, exploring the labyrinth of the Lesbian Internet, memoirs, working out, sushi, making lists, artsy things, anything Lady Gaga touches, traveling, puppies, and nyc in the fall. Find her on Twitter @jessxnyc or via email.

Jess has written 267 articles for us.

66 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

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    Mamiya 67? Wow, rare person who uses medium format nowadays. I’d love to see her other work.

    What did she use to shoot the ones for this book? Probably something lighter and smaller. Did she use the Leica in page 1?

    Will Jenny be resurrected if they make a movie?

    Well, everyone hated Season 6, even enlightened zen and yoga- heads would lose it.

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    Great interview / so in love with J.Bealz etc…but more importantly – you guys…you interviewed Jennifer Beals. When you started Autostraddle did you ever think that would happen? Because I’m feeling super proud of you ladies :)

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      Thanks, Mindy! This has really been a highlight for for me as far as working with Autostraddle. Riese & Alex & co have done SO much in 1 year, creating an environment for everyone, even someone as high profile as JB.

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      So true, feeling v proud too! I haven’t even read it yet but when I saw it come up on the homepage I almost couldn’t believe it because I mean…this means Autostraddle has made it right?! Like soon you will take over the world and make a ton of money, or enough to eat nice food. Hopefully. Anyway, congrats!

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      I completely had the same feeling when I saw the headline on the home page. I was like: wow…for real? This is HUGE! Not that all the other content isn’t…I love it all. But really!! Congrats on a great, multi-faceted interview!

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      I feel like there have been a few interviews on the homepage that surprised me and made me want to hug people in celebration of Auto-awesomeness.

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    Good interview. Happy to hear she is pissed off at Obama, the media and the judges for their treatment of Johnny Wier and Ilene for the crap that was Season 6. The supreme being has spoken!

    Wonder what whose project she is working on involve??

    Just wish she would have done a book tour so we could all get out copies signed.

  4. Thumb up 1

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    “Jennifer Beals, Supreme Being of Life…”

    Wouldn’t it be funny if sometime in the future we find out Jennifer Beals has all kinds of character defects and engages in all kinds of unhealthy behaviors? lol *just kidding*

    Thanks for a great interview and article Jess. I love Jennifer Beals and she did a great job on the L-word book. It was really generous of her to do that. Maybe she’ll become a big humanitarian actor like Paul Newman and make spaghetti sauce or something to sell for charity. Hollywood needs many more like her.

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    GREAT interview, Jess. I especially appreciated J-Beal’s comments about how class implications can influence someone’s decision about whether or not to come out; I think that’s something people don’t always think about. Thanks for sitting down to talk to Autostraddle, Ms Beals! I can’t wait to check out the book.

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    As a 60 year old closeted lesbian I have to agree that I believed coming out would destroy my career and I couldn’t afford that. I love Jennifer and all things Jennifer; were she to run for office, she has my vote

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    Wonderful interview! I just got the L Word Book and it is an incredible gift to us all. I especially loved the pictures of Laurel Holloman and the comments by Jennifer & Rachel about her. Of course, as a besotted Tibetter, I only wish there were more pictures of Jennifer & Laurel together.

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    Great interview,bravo…
    This woman is a gift…
    About Tibette,she must know the unbelievable chemistry on screen…..
    Thanks Ms Beals

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    Her and I prefer film for the same reasons. People who never learn film rely too much on the “now” factor. They get to see what happens as soon as the picture is taken. With my 35mm, I have to think about what’s in the frame so much more, because I don’t want to waste the film. It makes every shot so much more vital that you really work to get a good shot. Plus, I love dark rooms.

    I’ve been seriously debating ordering this book. To those who have it, should I? Like, really?

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      In a word – YES. J-Beals interviews all of the cast (particularly Leisha, Kate and Mia) and they talk very frankly about the 6th season and how it ended. Things they haven’t said in other interviews. For example, Mia said she just wanted to go on the record that she hated the ending. Stuff like that.

      You can also read the conversation between Jennifer & Kate about the Six Feet Under series finale that I bring up in this interview.

      There are tons more pictures that haven’t appeared online yet.

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      Yes definitely buy the book. I was skeptical at first, especially when Afterellen.com showed a two-page spread of the book and a lot of people said it looked very amateurish. It’s actually very well done. The pictures are great, it has a lot of commentary and is really well-organized. I’m impressed and very happy I bought it. In fact I’m going to buy a couple more as gifts.

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    You should definitely buy JB’s L Word Book–it is full of some great pictures of the cast (and their dogs) and a lot of comments by the cast that will provide real insight, I think, about what was going on behind the scenes. It is also funny.

    Here is an example. All of the core cast talk about how focused and determined Ilene Chaiken was about her vision of the story being told.

    .LAUREL HOLLOMAN :”I dreamed Ilene gave me a script where we were all naked in the planet for an entire episode. I woke up in a panic attack sweating. In the dream she was very determined.”

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    *swoon* I swear, Jenny Bealzies is literally one of my favorite people in the world. She’s so smart, and talented, not to mention incredibly beautiful.

    And what I love most about her, is that she’s one of the only straight people I know who is a vehement supporter of GLBT rights. She’s a rare being for sure.

  12. Thumb up 0

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    Fuck, I can’t believe Autostraddle got JBeals!!!!!!! I mean, I CAN — you guys are very smart and capable. And hot. But wow.
    I am glad that she likes the dance-off episode. I can never hear “Back to Life” without thinking of Bette and Tina totally making Tasha, Alice’s and Homewrecker’s dance look like a junior high talent show. It was so epically and gloriously gay!

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    I kind of think of her as the cool straight friend that actually gets it. I’m grateful that she took the time to get to know some of the concerns of our community, when she easily could’ve just played the role and gone home.

    The book looks like a lot of fun, I’m glad she made it available to the public. I love that she gives back via various charities.

    CONGRATS on the interview!

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    I like what she said about digital vs. regular photography too. I used to be really into photography but then when everything went digital it sort of lost its appeal. I loved the anticipation of not knowing how it would turn out, and I looooved developing the photos myself. Anyhow.

    I didn’t really know anything about J-Beals as a person until we went to that Times Talks event when I was totally blown away by how genuine and thoughtful and positive she was. It’s a very rare energy that only a few people have.

    Hey-o! Way to interview JENNIFER BEALS you little whippersnapper! You guys this is clearly Jess’s destiny in life

  15. Thumb up 0

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    Great inter[view]…JB is…[swoon]…anyway this interview just keeps reasserting the need for me to take a photography course 101.

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    loved loved loved :
    Jess: Had you been gay, do you think you’d choose to come out publicly?

    J. Beals: It would be that or perish, honestly.

    +

    great interview, jess! perfect balance of L Word / real life.

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    i’m right there in the “i can’t believe a member of the autostraddle team interviewed jbeals” section of the conversation. twas a great interview, i love that she brought up angelica never being on screen (something that may or may not have been mentioned in about every other autostraddle recap since the character was born). this is so fullcircley, i’m having trouble wrapping my tiny little mind around it.

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    Such a good interview obviously engaged her, she was incredibly candid and forthcoming in a way I have not seen before.
    The book is terrific, it’s much more than a photo book, and any diehard will
    really enjoy it … stoopit as it could be sometimes, losing the L Word, and Jennifer et al is really a loss.

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        It is a great interview Jess, thank you for doing that for us. You know, I wouldn’t have said this a year ago after Season 6, but I do hope they do an L-word film. I miss the community that the L-word helped to build. My friends and I used to have L-word parties, cook great food, watch the, eat drink and laugh.

        It was great to have a show just for us, flawed as it was at times. Did Jennifer tell you how to call up Ilene and ask about the movie? ;)

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    WoW what a great interview. So nice to not have all the same old stupid questions of old. I miss TLW; because of JB and tibette.

    JB is not the only one disappointed with Obama. JB keep on being you.

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    Press close bare-bosomed night – press close magnetic nourishing night!
    Night of south winds – night of the large few stars!
    Still nodding night – mad naked summer night.
    Smile O voluptuous cool-breathed earth!
    Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!
    Earth of departed sunset – earth of the mountains misty-topped!
    Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue!
    Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river!
    Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my sake!

    Smile, for your lover comes

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    i’m so late but this was such a great interview, i’ve read so many interviews with Jennifer Beals and this is by far my favorite, you asked everything I want to know…now part of me loves you lol

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  23. Thumb up 0

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    lovely interview! i would love to see this book… jen is so genius <3 and i have a lot more of respect for her since i discovered she's shooting at film ;)

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    Jess, Great JB interview. If you happen to interview her again, ask would she ever consider being an ambassador for social change/issues; as she is eloquent, articulate and tends to speak from the heart.

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