|Known for||Alexandra Owens: Flashdance|
Bette Porter: The L Word
(m. 1986; div. 1996)
Jennifer Beals (born December 19, 1963) is an American actress and a former teen model. She made her film debut in My Bodyguard (1980), before receiving critical acclaim for her role in Flashdance (1983), for which she won NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical.
Beals has appeared in several notable films including Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), The Last Days of Disco (1998), Roger Dodger (2002), The Book of Eli (2010), and Before I Fall (2017). On television, she starred as Bette Porter on the Showtime drama series The L Word (2004–2009) and later went on to star in the series The Chicago Code (2011), Proof (2015), and Taken (2017). She reprised her role as Bette Porter in The L Word: Generation Q beginning in December 2019.
Beals was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois' South Side, the daughter of Jeanne (née Anderson), an elementary school teacher, and Alfred Beals, who owned grocery stores. Beals' father was African-American, and her mother is Irish-American. She has two brothers, Bobby and Gregory. Her father died when Beals was 9 years old, after which she spent a summer at Cheley Colorado Camps in Estes Park, Colorado. Her mother married Edward Cohen in 1981. Beals says her bi-racial heritage affected her... she "always lived sort of on the outside," with an idea "of being the other in society." She got her first job at age 13 at an ice cream store, using her height at the time (she is now 5 ft 8 in [1.73 m]) to convince her boss she was 16.
Beals was inspired to become an actress by two events: working on a high school production of Fiddler on the Roof and seeing Balm in Gilead with Joan Allen while volunteer-ushering at the Steppenwolf Theatre.
Beals graduated from Francis W. Parker School, then participated in Goodman Theatre Young People's Drama Workshop. She graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in American Literature in 1987. She deferred a term so she could film Flashdance. While at Yale, Beals was a resident of Morse College.
Beals had a minor role in the 1980 film My Bodyguard, then came to fame with her starring part in Flashdance. The third-highest grossing U.S. film of 1983, Flashdance is the story of 18-year-old Alex, a welder by day and sensual dancer by night, whose dream is to be accepted someday at an illustrious school of dance. Beals was cast for this key role while still a student at Yale. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and the film received an Academy Award for Best Song. Many of Beals' elaborate dance moves were actually performed by dance double Marine Jahan. Gymnast Sharon Shapiro performed the flips as a body double for actress Beals.
After she filmed Flashdance, Beals resumed her studies, making only one film during that time: playing the titular character The Bride with singer-actor Sting, a gothic horror film loosely based on the 1935 classic Bride of Frankenstein, shot during her summer break. She also appeared as Cinderella in the eponymous episode of Faerie Tale Theatre, opposite Matthew Broderick. Beals was asked by Joel Schumacher to do St. Elmo's Fire but turned it down, preferring to stay at Yale.
After graduating from Yale in 1987, Beals resumed her acting career, playing the love interest in the boxing film Split Decisions opposite Craig Sheffer. Starring opposite Nicolas Cage, she portrayed a lusty and thirsty vampire in 1989's Vampire's Kiss.
In 1995, Beals and Denzel Washington co-starred in Devil in a Blue Dress, a period film based on a Walter Mosley novel featuring L.A. private detective, Easy Rawlins. Beals plays a biracial woman passing for white. That same year she appeared with Tim Roth in two segments of the four-story anthology Four Rooms, one of which was directed by her then-husband, Alexandre Rockwell.
Rockwell had previously directed her in the 1992 independent film In the Soup, which was a Grand Prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2003, she played one of the sequestered jury members in the film adaptation of Runaway Jury.
She had a leading role in 2006's The Grudge 2, sequel to the hit horror film of two years earlier. In 2010, Beals reunited with Denzel Washington in the post-apocalyptic action drama The Book of Eli, where she played a blind woman who is the mother of Mila Kunis' character and a consort of a local despot played by Gary Oldman.
In 2017, the actress played the role of Samantha Kingston's mother, in the film version of Before I Fall.
In 2019, she played the role of Karen in the romance movie After.
In 1992, she appeared in 2000 Malibu Road as attorney Perry Quinn. It was her first ongoing television series; she said she had been leery as she previously had not "found a character I wanted to live with for several years".
In 2004, Beals made a brief cameo in the final episode of Frasier. In 2007, she appeared in the small TV drama My Name Is Sarah, in which she plays Sarah Winston, a sober woman who joins Alcoholics Anonymous to conduct research for her book but finds herself falling in love with a recovering alcoholic and—as a result—having to deal with her original deception in joining the group.
Beals starred in Showtime Network's The L Word, wherein she played Bette Porter, an Ivy League-educated lesbian. At Beals' request, Bette was made biracial, enabling Pam Grier's Kit Porter character to become Bette's half-sister. Beals' initial research for the part focused more on the woman's profession as an art museum director than on her life as a lesbian; "I was much more obsessed by the work that Bette did, because she was so obsessed by the work that she did." The series ran for six seasons and ended in March 2009.
Beals turned down an offer to appear on Dancing with the Stars, saying: "I am not a dancer. They asked me and I said 'no.' You could back up a truck to my door filled with cash and I wouldn't do it."
On March 10, 2014, it was announced that Beals would star as Dr. Kathryn Russo (character's name is Dr. Carolyn Tyler) in Proof, a TNT supernatural medical drama about a hard-nosed surgeon, struggling with the loss of her teenage son, who begins to investigate that there may be life after death. The series ran from June 16 through August 18, 2015, and was produced by Kyra Sedgwick.
In December 2019, Beals reprised her role as Bette Porter in The L Word: Generation Q, the sequel series to The L Word, and also executive-produces the show. She stars alongside fellow The L Word cast members, Katherine Moennig and Leisha Hailey.
Beals is also well known for her support of women's rights. In August 2012, she appeared alongside Troian Bellisario in the web series Lauren on the YouTube channel WIGS. Its first season is a three episode arc featuring the stories of women in the army being abused, predominantly by more powerful superiors. The stories focused on the frequently reported cases on sexual abuse and how and why most of the cases went unreported or unsettled. Beals has also appeared in two interviews, discussing her views in relation to Lauren.
In January 2013, Troian Bellisario confirmed on her Twitter and Instagram that she and Beals were filming more Lauren web episodes. Lauren returned on May 3, 2013, with a second season of 12 episodes.
While attending Yale, Beals dated future film executive Robert Simonds. She married Alexandre Rockwell in 1986, before divorcing in 1996. In 1998, she married Ken Dixon, a Canadian entrepreneur. On October 18, 2005, Beals gave birth to their daughter. Dixon also has two children from a previous marriage.
Beals has described herself as a spiritual person. She has expressed interest in the Bible and Catholicism, as well as Judaism, to which she once considered converting, and is a practicing Buddhist.
She has been a vocal advocate for gay rights, saying, "I think after playing Bette Porter on The L Word for six years I felt like an honorary member of the community." Beals was a Celebrity Grand Marshal at the 2006 San Francisco Pride Parade. In October 2012, she received the Human Rights Campaign's Ally For Equality Award, in recognition of her outstanding support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
Beals is a photographer and has had shows featuring her work under her married name, Dixon. In 1989, she spent some time in Haiti photographing the elections. She published a book about her time on The L Word featuring her own photographs.
In 2010, Beals served as the Grand Marshal of the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago, during which she spoke of the two charities important to her, the Matthew Shepard Foundation and The Pablove Foundation.
|1980||My Bodyguard||Clifford's Friend||Uncredited|
|1983||Flashdance||Alex Owens||NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture|
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical we
|1985||The Bride||Eva||Nominated—Razzie Award for Worst Actress|
|1988||The Gamble||Lady Olivia Candioni||a.k.a. La Partita|
|1988||Split Decisions||Barbara Uribe|
|1990||Dr. M||Sonja Vogler|
|1991||Blood and Concrete||Mona|
|1992||In the Soup||Angelica Pena|
|1992||Day of Atonement||Joyce|
|1994||Dead on Sight||Rebecca Darcy|
|1994||Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle||Gertrude Benchley|
|1994||The Search for One-eye Jimmy||Ellen|
|1995||Let It Be Me||Emily Taylor|
|1995||Devil in a Blue Dress||Daphne Monet||Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture|
|1995||Arabian Knight||Princess YumYum||Voice|
|1998||Body and Soul||Gina|
|1998||The Prophecy II||Valerie Rosales|
|1998||The Last Days of Disco||Nina|
|1999||Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying||Jessica|
|2001||Out of Line||Parole Officer Jenny Capitanas|
|2001||The Anniversary Party||Gina Taylor|
|2002||They Shoot Divas, Don't They?||Sloan McBride|
|2003||Runaway Jury||Vanessa Lembeck|
|2004||Catch That Kid||Molly|
|2005||Break a Leg||Juliet|
|2005||Desolation Sound||Elizabeth Storey|
|2006||The Grudge 2||Trish|
|2006||Troubled Waters||Special Agent Jennifer Beck|
|2009||Queen to Play||L'Américaine|
|2010||The Book of Eli||Claudia|
|2010||A Night for Dying Tigers||Melanie|
|2015||Full Out||Coach Val|
|2015||The Laws of the Universe Part 0||Inkar||Limited theatrical release|
|2016||Manhattan Night||Lisa Wren|
|2017||Before I Fall||Mrs. Kingston|
|2018||The White Orchid||Vivian|
|TBA||Luckiest Girl Alive||Post-production|
|1985||Faerie Tale Theatre||Cinderella||Episode: "Cinderella"|
|1990||The Madonna and the Dragon||Patty Meredith||Television movie|
|1992||2000 Malibu Road||Perry Quinn||Main role|
|1992||Indecency||Ellie Shaw||Television movie|
|1992||Terror Stalks the Class Reunion||Virginia||Television movie|
|1993||Night Owl||Julia||Television movie|
|1997||The Outer Limits||Robin Dysart||Episode: "Bodies of Evidence"|
|1997||The Twilight of the Golds||Suzanne Stein||Television movie|
Satellite Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
|1997–1998||Nothing Sacred||Justine Madsen Judd||2 episodes|
|1998||The Spree||Xinia Kelly||Television movie|
|1999||The Hunger||Jane||Episode: "And She Laughed"|
|2000||Without Malice||Samantha Wilkes||Television movie|
|2000||A House Divided||Amanda Dickson||Television movie|
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
|2001||The Big House||Lorraine Brewster||Television movie|
|2001||After the Storm||Mrs. Gavotte||Television movie|
|2001||The Feast of All Saints||Dolly Rose||Television movie|
|2002||They Shoot Divas, Don't They?||Sloan McBride||Television movie|
|2004–09||The L Word||Bette Porter||Main role|
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series (2007–08)
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama
|2004||Frasier||Dr. Anne Ranberg||2 episodes|
|2007||Law & Order||Sofia Archer||Episode: "Charity Case"|
|2007||My Name Is Sarah||Sarah Winston||Television movie|
|2009–11||Lie to Me||Zoe Landau||Recurring role (6 episodes)|
|2010||The Night Before the Night Before Christmas||Angela Fox||Television movie|
|2011||The Chicago Code||Teresa Colvin||Main role|
|2012||Castle||CIA Agent Sophia Turner||2 episodes|
|2012–13||Lauren||Major Jo Stone||Main role, 10 episodes|
|2012–13||The Mob Doctor||Celeste LaPree||Recurring cast, 4 episodes|
|2013||Westside||Lisa Carver||Unsold TV pilot|
|2014||Motive||Sophia Balfur||Episode: "They Made Me a Criminal"|
|2014||A Wife's Nightmare||Liz||Television movie|
|2015||Proof||Dr. Carolyn Tyler||Lead role|
|2016||The Night Shift||Dr. Syd Jennings||Recurring character (season 3)|
|2017–18||Taken||Christina Hart||Lead role (26 episodes)|
|2017||The Last Tycoon||Margo Taft||Recurring character (season 1)|
|2019||Swamp Thing||Lucilia Cable||Main role|
|2019–present||The L Word: Generation Q||Bette Porter||Main role|
|2019||The L Word: Generation Q||Co-executive producer|
Awards and nominations
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- "'Flashdance,' 30 Years Later: B-Boy Recalls Girling Up for Final Scene". Yahoo. April 15, 2013.
- Griffin, Sean (2017). Free and Easy?: A Defining History of the American Film Musical Genre. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781118322901 – via Google Books.
- Monteyne, Kimberley (2013). Hip Hop on Film: Performance Culture, Urban Space, and Genre Transformation in the 1980s. Univ. Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781628469035 – via Google Books.
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- Fresh Air. April 6, 2004. NPR.
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- "Chicago Code Canceled: Fox Scraps Crime Drama After One Season". The Huffington Post. May 11, 2011.
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- Andreeva, Nellie (March 9, 2014). "Jennifer Beals To Topline TNT Pilot 'Proof' Executive Produced By Kyra Sedgwick". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
- Andreeva, Nellie; Petski, Denise (September 28, 2018). "'Swamp Thing': Jennifer Beals Joins DC Universe Series In Recurring Role". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on September 28, 2018. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
- Donahue, Rosemary (2019-11-21). "Jennifer Beals Opens Up About The L Word's Highly Anticipated Reboot". Allure.
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- Bellisario, Troian (January 24, 2013). "She's back! Filming more "Lauren" for @wigs with @jenniferbeals. Somebody pinch me". Instagram.
- Bellisario, Troian [@SleepintheGardn] (April 19, 2013). "I gave you the sneak peek yesterday but now its official! S2 of #Lauren with @JenniferBeals returns to @WIGS on 5/3. wigs.ly/11mnzSR" (Tweet). Retrieved April 19, 2013 – via Twitter.
- Bellisario, Troian [@SleepintheGardn] (March 22, 2013). "12 more episodes premiere in mid-April! RT @OMGee_na: @SleepintheGardn are you going to do any more episodes of "Lauren"" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
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