Jennifer Beals on The Return of ‘The L Word’

Jennifer Beals

And whether she still dances…

For the past decade, many of us have been missing The L Word, Showtime’s groundbreaking series about a group of lesbian friends in Los Angeles. But never fear: The beloved show has been rebooted. The L Word: Generation Q premieres on Sunday, December 8, so we caught up with one of its stars and co-executive producers Jennifer Beals about what to expect. And of course, we had to ask Jennifer — who starred in the 1983 hit Flashdance —whether she can still move like a “maniac, maniac on the floor”… Check it out.

Katie Couric: When ‘The L Word’ left off more than 10 years ago, your character Bette was eager to move to New York and have another child. So where does her story pick up?

Jennifer Beals: It actually picks up after New York. Bette has moved back to Los Angeles with her daughter, who is now 16. She’s been working at the Department of Cultural Affairs, and she’s had some pretty life changing events happen in the past ten years. So she decides to run for mayor of Los Angeles! When the show picks up, she’s in the middle of her campaign.

We heard that the show’s revival came together largely because you pushed for it. Why did you feel like this was the right time?

My costars and I all pushed for it. We started hearing that there were these discussions happening on social media about The L Word, and that even though it was off the air, people were thinking up new stories for the characters. The world has changed so much — there’s a whole new generation that’s refusing to allow people to define their experience, and that felt like a really compelling world for this show to pick up in.

After the 2016 election, the show’s co-creator Ilene Chaiken and I really dedicated ourselves to the idea of having The L Word come back. We understood that the LGBTQ community would be under assault by this new administration. We understood that visibility — while it’s not everything — is important, and that was one small thing we could do to support that community.

When you first signed on for ‘The L Word’ back in 2003, it was really groundbreaking. How did it feel to be part of a show that was so important in giving a voice to the LGBTQ community? Did you ever hear from fans about what the show meant to them?

As a cis straight woman, I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility for having been cast as such a powerful lesbian character. I feel incredibly honored to be in that position, and to have been accepted in that position.

I have had women come up to me, women of all ages, and say, “Thank you for playing this part. Thank you for erasing the negative narrative about who I am, or who I’m supposed to be, that has been fed to me since I was a child.” There were so many people who told me that The L Word gave them the courage to come out — to their families, to their coworkers, to their friends. That was incredibly meaningful.

‘The L Word’ was ahead of its time in a lot of ways, but the show also received some criticism, particularly when it came to a lack of ethnic diversity and trans representation. You’re an executive producer this time around. Did you take that criticism into consideration in the revival?

When we were in the early stages of the revival, we had a number of conversations about what was important. A couple of things kept coming up for all of us — certainly inclusivity and diversity were very high up on that list, but also making sure that trans actors were cast in trans roles. That was absolutely crucial. We took that feedback seriously, and incorporated it into this show.

You and ‘The L Word’ creator Ilene Chaiken are teaming up for another project — ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.’ What drew you to this project?

I had just finished playing Margo Taft in The Last Tycoon, and she’s my favorite character that I’ve ever played. I just loved her so much. I missed her when the show went off the air — it was almost painful. I was explaining the character to a friend of mine and she said, “That sounds so much like the main character of this book book by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.” And so she got me an advance copy of the book, and there were so many similarities in the characters. It was almost like The Last Tycoon meets The L Word. So I brought it to Ilene, and she loved it. Before you knew it, we had sold the show.

I love working with Ilene because I learn so much from her. She’s incredibly generous with her knowledge and with her time. She’s very open and funny. She is part partner, part mentor to me. She’s extraordinary.

Bette is such an iconic, memorable character, but she’s certainly not the first iconic character you’ve played. Your first starring role was as Alex Owens in ‘Flashdance,’ which premiered more than 35 years ago. How does it feel that the film has become such a cult classic?

It’s funny… I don’t really think about Flashdance very often! It feels like an eternity ago, so I think people recognize me more often now from The L Word or Devil in a Blue Dress. Although I’m never surprised to see people dress up as Alex for Halloween — it’s a great Halloween costume because it’s so easy to do last minute!

Do you still dance? And if not, how do you stay in shape?

I still take a dance class every now and again! But I also do yoga, I go hiking, I swim… I just try to keep moving. I don’t do any one thing consistently or I get tired of it. I have to mix it up. I also meditate — meditation is really important to me.

And lastly, with the holidays coming up, do you have any fun holiday traditions you can share with us?

We all go on a hike after the meal. Whether there’s snow or not, no matter how cold it is, we always go on a hike together. We like to get outside.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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