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.
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…
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…
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:
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.
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 …. .
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…
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?
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!”
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…
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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