Does Jennifer Beals really need introducing? After six seasons in power suits as Bette Porter, Beals has been keeping busy: She thanked fans with a book of photos from The L Word set and recently landed the lead in her first post-L Word project — as Chicago’s first female superintendent of police on Fox’s RideAlong.
AfterEllen.com caught up with the actress to discuss why L Word fans are the "most amazing" she’s ever had, flirting with women on set and how RideAlong‘s Teresa is "Bette times 100."
AfterEllen.com: What sort of feedback have you gotten from The L Word book?
Jennifer Beals: I feel like I’m making a family album available for sale, which is kind of bizarre, but people seem to get a kick out of it. We just made the prints available for sale, and that’s been going well. The print sales right now are benefiting Partners in Health, their women’s health program initiative that they have in Haiti; and City of Joy in the Congo.
AE: You ranked No. 7 overall on AfterEllen.com’s Hot 100, No. 1 in Women Over 40 and No. 1 in Women of Color. What does having such a large lesbian following a year after The L Word ended mean to you?
JB: Wow! I have to say, and I tell this to my co-stars on RideAlong, that The L Word fans are by far the most loyal and the most amazing fans I’ve ever had. People don’t want anything from you — they just want to say thank you and it’s just really lovely. They’re the best fans that I’ve ever had by far, and even still, it perplexes me.
I get women coming up to me saying, “Thank you for taking on this role,” as if it weren’t the most extraordinary thing that’s been put in my professional lap. Not only did I get to play a great part but by virtue of the nature of the show, and the show’s place in history, it gave everybody on the cast and crew a sense of agency. So you weren’t just there doing a job; there was a certain purpose there and I think people really took their characters seriously.
AE: The show has done so much for lesbian visibility.
JB: I know that people, as much as they love the show, they love to pick it apart. It’s a healthy thing in a democracy. But I am looking forward to the day when it will be replaced with something else on television; another fictional show based on these types of stories. I just don’t know when it’s going to happen, to be honest. It’s really frustrating, but it’ll happen. It will just take someone who has the will to get their stories told. Ilene (Chaiken) was very driven to get these stories told and at the end of the day, that’s how it happened.
AE: What was it like reading scripts and projects again after so many years of being in the relative comfort of such a female-centered, female-driven show?
JB: To be honest, it was really nice to be on a set where I could get a whiff of men! [Laughs.] But it was also very confusing because I had spent six years playing Bette and flirting with women and being with women as this character. So when I got to Lie to Me, being on a set and being in a power suit, my brain thinks I’m playing a lesbian character.
So I’m on the set flirting with Kelli Williams‘ character in a scene and Tim Roth is like, "Wait, wait! You’re not supposed to be flirting with her, you’re supposed to be flirting with me! This is the set-up!" And it was almost automatic that my character was flirting with this woman. It was like automatic pilot.
Jennifer Beals with Tim Roth in Lie to Me
AE: Do you miss flirting with your co-stars?
JB: I never flirted with my co-stars but within the scene, it was always interesting. I’m not really good at flirting with women on a day-to-day basis. It gets a little confusing, and I don’t want to confuse anybody. I think sometimes people think I may be flirting with them when I ask them where they got their jeans or something. I don’t know if they think it’s a come-on line, but it can be confusing. So I just try to steer clear. I don’t want to confuse anybody. [Laughs.]