Interview with Jennifer Beals

AE: Has The L Word changed the way you select your projects?
I have a lot less tolerance for bulls–t. I really have a lot less tolerance for being subjugated to simply being the emotional center of a story, rather than being the active portion of the plot. It’s as if women can’t drive the action so often in stories. I don’t know who made up that rule but it can get very frustrating if there’s not more to play.

There are times when that’s interesting — if it is complex enough. I read this one script where she’s just supposed to comfort the guy all the time. She doesn’t question anything that he does, she doesn’t question herself or who she is or what she wants in life. And the director said she’s just really there to listen to him and support him. I thought, "My God, that just sounds like the ’50s and so boring and there’s no way in hell that I would want to potentially dedicate years and years of my life to playing that part."

Jennifer Beals as Bette Porter in The L Word

AE: Is the fact that Teresa drives the story line what attracted you to the role on RideAlong?
It’s funny. In the beginning, both of them really drove it and I think Teresa and Jarek (Clarke) still drive it. She goads him into doing things that he wouldn’t necessarily do now, whereas it used to be the other way around in the original pilot. But it’s very attractive to play the first female superintendent in the city of Chicago. That’s a very intense position. It’s really Bette times a hundred. She has to be very righteous and very confident. Not only intellectually confident, but also physically confident, as well politically confident.

The politics were appealing. The idea of what it means to be a female police officer was interesting. How do you maintain the feminine in such a masculine context? It was really interesting to be able to go on ride-alongs with homicide detectives in Chicago and see what they see and to try and understand what they go through on a day-to-day basis, which is extraordinary. And to try to wrap my mind around what it means to be a woman in that context.

Jason Clarke and Jennifer Beals in Ridealong

AE: Do you think the gay fans you’ve cultivated over the years will relate to your character on RideAlong?
I hope so. In her strengths, I would imagine they would. And having to fight against a stereotype, I’m sure they would. And they might find the uniform fetching, I don’t know. [Laughs.] I think if people like Bette, they’ll like Teresa. She’s more intense than Bette, for sure. Even more focused. Not as emotional. She’s got a bit of a Chicago accent. She’s very intense and very dedicated to trying to do the right thing. We’ll see if she ends up doing not so much the right thing, in order to achieve the greater good. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the character. I haven’t met the writers yet. It’s just going to be a surprise. I think it’s going to be a really interesting show.

AE: We’ve certainly already enjoyed you in trench coats.
[Laughs.] There’s times when the superintendent just gets to wear the trench coat and power suit [but] every now and again, she busts out her uniform. I do get to wear a gun all the time, which is really fascinating as well. I’ve been to the firing range and practiced firing the gun and that was really interesting. It does change you to hold a gun, it really does.

AE: Next year you can be No. 1 on the Hot Chicks With Guns list.
[Laughing] Oh my God!

AE: Kidding, of course.
[Laughing] Who knows! Maybe next year there will be a new category.

AfterEllen: Well, no matter what people say about the show, we’ve always loved you and the role of Bette.
That’s all Rose Troche and the writers.

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