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

As you already know, Jennifer Beals is a supreme being. She’s beautiful, talented and her body is a temple of organic vegetables, yoga and marathon endorphins. When not running impossibly long distances in tight spandex, being a Mom or acting (most recently in the film Book of Eli, and on the TV in Lie to Me and The L Word), Beals has been honing her photography skills. An avid photographer since high school, J-Beals has developed a tradition when she’s working on a film or TV project especially close to her heart — she takes her camera on set and ultimately uses the pictures to make a gift book for the cast & crew at the project’s end.

Because of the intense fanbase spawned by Showtime’s The L Word, Beals decided she’d make her L Word photo journal available to fans, too. The book provides a deeper look into the daily life of the show with 400 never-before-seen photos, commentary from her castmates, script bits, call-sheets and production memos.

All of the proceeds from the book sale will be donated to three charities: the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Mia Kirshner’s organization I Live Here Projects, and The Pablove Foundation.

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

After my six years of obsessing and deconstructing The L Word, I had a TON of questions for Jennifer [that’s Dean Porter to you].  We spoke about her disappointment in Obama, the Johnny Weir controversy, the possibility of an L Word movie, the TiBette phenomenon, closeted Hollywood actors, and just what makes her so goddamn perfect.

On the L Word Book…

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Jess: What was the cast reaction when they found out you were putting together the L Word photography book?

J. Beals: Oh, they were excited!  I went to all of them and I showed everybody their pictures and let them edit their pictures and their text and let them know if there’s anything they wanted to say to send it to me and I’ll put it in the book. I gave people a list of questions to get started but it seemed like the photographs themselves were the biggest prompt for the cast to remember specifics.

Jess: Was there anyone in particular who was excited about it?

J. Beals: Everyone was, really… Mia was, Kate was, Leisha was…and Laurel just wrote me cause she was very excited, especially now that it’s finished and they get to see it. But everyone was excited cause it’s all their history, ya know? It’s a family photo album.

Jess: Do you have a favorite photo from the book?

J. Beals: I have a couple favorites. One of the ones I really love is the one of Laurel very, very pregnant in my trailer, I think it was just a couple days before she gave birth, and that to me is very meaningful and it was such a lovely time in the show and for her, and for me – for all of us. We were all on the cusp of everything. I also love the ones from the Vanity Fair shoot of Kate and Leisha. I like the ones where we’re all together. It’s also cumulative sometimes. Sometimes there are pictures that don’t mean much as a photo, but as a cumulative document in a way it adds to the story.

Jess: Who do you speak to regularly from the cast?

J. Beals: I talk to pretty much everybody, really. Rachel [Shelley] and I email each other a lot, and Pam [Grier] and Alex Hedison. And, I hear from Laurel [Holloman] every now and again. I was so out of the loop on her paintings! [Laurel has been auctioning off several of her paintings for charity].  Like, my god, look at these paintings that she’s done!  They’re amazing!  And Mia [Kirshner] I talk to all the time, and Kate [Moennig] I just heard from. It’s everybody kind of in a cycle.

On the Possibility of An L Word Movie…

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Jess: Any update on an L Word movie, if that’s happening?

J. Beals: You’d have to call Ilene on that one, I don’t know…

Jess: If a movie should happen, where would you want the story to pick up on?

J. Beals: I think Bette and Tina should get outta dodge. I think it should be in New York.

Jess: Have the other cast members expressed interest in a movie?

J. Beals: Yea, everybody’s interested, but we have other stuff that we’re doing so to make this happen is really gonna require quite a bit of effort in terms of scheduling, so it will be interesting to see if and how that happens.

Jess: In the L Word book you and Kate Moennig talk about the Six Feet Under series finale. Would you have wanted the L Word characters lives and stories to be finite in the way that Six Feet Under ended?

J. Beals: Well, I loved the way Six Feet Under had ended. I have never seen anything like that on TV. It was phenomenal. Because what it did was, you were appreciative of these people’s lives as individuals and then you all of a sudden became aware of a trajectory of an entire life. Not only an individual life, but how those lives are woven around family and friends and it became about the sum of all the parts, and that’s profound and incredibly moving.

Jess: Would you watch the new reality show on Showtime produced by Ilene?

J. Beals: I want to go to Ilene’s house and watch it! I’d love to go watch it with the cast; I think that would be really fun!

On Imparting Her Wisdom on The L Word:

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Jess: If you had the opportunity would you have wanted to write an episode?

J. Beals: No… [laughs]  No one would’ve wanted me to write an episode, that wouldn’t have been a good idea!

Jess: Did you have a favorite episode or storyline?

J. Beals: For me, it was really all about 607 [Last Couple Standing, the dance marathon]. Like, in terms of celebration, to have the cast together in that dance episode that Rose Troche directed, it was really about having everybody together and celebrating and watching people do their work and watching them do things that were sort of our of their purvue, and it was exciting. It was my favorite episode to shoot.

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Jess: Did you ever bring anything to the table with ideas for storylines or plot points? [aside from making Bette biracial]

J. Beals: Well, I just brought ideas in as far as tweaking things. I liked being surprised by Ilene and rather than dictate to her from my imagination I liked seeing what she would bring and then tweaking things, not huge plot points. After seeing Marlee [Matlin] on Dancing with the Stars I joked that we should have a dance episode at The Planet and …. [607].

Jess: You mentioned in an old interview that you stood up for Bette refusing to kiss the Dana Delaney Senator character so you did influence the story in that way. Were there any other instances like that where you put in your two cents for Bette’s choices?

J. Beals: It’s funny, there were so many that I don’t even think I can name them. There were so many times that the baby isn’t even present and Laurel and I would look at each other [laughing]… You never see our child! How is this possible?! [laughing]  And behold, Angelica would be part of the scene.

On the Tibette Phenom…

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Jess: Any insight as to why Bette and Tina inspired the largest fan base in comparison to the other couples on the show?

J. Beals: Gosh, I don’t know… Why do you think?


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Next: “I feel in some way Johnny Weir is being punished for his presentation, and I feel he continues to present himself as authentically as possible, and franly I believe he’s unbelievably fabulous and I would love to meet him one day!”

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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 266 articles for us.

66 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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 🙂

    • 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.

    • 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!

    • 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!

  3. 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. “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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

  9. 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.”

  10. *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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

      • 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? 😉

  17. 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.

  18. 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

  19. 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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  21. 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 😉

  22. 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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