Jennifer Beals is well-known to many Americans as an acclaimed actress with a long list of film credits, including her starring role in the break-out hit, “Flashdance,” and her work with Denzel Washington in “Devil in a Blue Dress,” and her TV roles on “The ‘L’ Word,” “Lie to Me” and most recently, “The Chicago Code.” But Beals is also a practicing Buddhist, and has been involved with the upcoming visit to Chicago by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on July 17-18. Beals, 47, was born and raised in Chicago, and now resides with her family in Los Angeles. She spoke recently by phone to Pioneer Press.

Pioneer Press: What is your formal involvement with the upcoming visit by the Dalai Lama?
Jennifer Beals: I was the spokesperson, interfacing with the press to let people know he was coming. I was the person who was running through the streets going, “His Holiness is coming! His Holiness is coming!”

Pioneer Press: Are you a member of the Theosophical Society in America?
Beals: No, I met the president (of the Theosophical Society), Tim Boyd, when we did a television interview together and I’ve been to the Theosophical Society (center in Wheaton) a few times, played in their labyrinth, they have this amazing labyrinth, and a beautiful library there.

Pioneer Press: For the Dalai Lama visit, will you be present?
Beals: Absolutely.

Pioneer Press: At both of the events?
Beals: Yes, absolutely. I believe on the 17th I may speak.

Pioneer Press: Have you met or been in the presence of the Dalai Lama?
Beals: Yes. I haven’t met him, although I feel like I have met him personally, because he makes you feel that way when he’s in the room. And he’s also very funny.

Pioneer Press: How did you get into Buddhism?
Beals: I don’t remember exactly how it began. It was 14 years ago. Formal study would have been 10 years ago. It’s a very interesting thing. The Buddha doesn’t want you to take anything on faith, but to investigate it on your own, so it requires a lot of analytical thinking. So I started studying at a center, I had a teacher who was a (Buddhist) nun. Before that, I had enjoyed meditating in a group, and remember saying to a friend that I really enjoyed the meditation part of yoga class and wish I could find just a meditation class.

Pioneer Press: Was your family religious?
Beals: No, not at all, in fact I begged my mom to take me to Sunday school. She wouldn’t take me, she had grown up Catholic and (didn’t want that experience for me). Then I asked to go to temple school, but of course we weren’t Jewish. So I just read the Bible at night before I went to bed. And I found a catechism at the back of Silver Surfer magazine that I sent away for.

Pioneer Press: You attended the Francis W. Parker School in Chicago. How did your education there influence you?
Beals: Being a progressive school, we studied world religion early on, and I think every school should have that, so we don’t learn to discriminate, especially out of ignorance. Being in a progressive school was helpful, but you don’t need to be at a progressive school to understand such beliefs. I was just fortunate that it was progressive enough at that time that the curriculum taught world religions, and the need to embrace pluralism — that everyone has a voice to be heard, and that is part of humanity and democracy, and a good way for us to not end up hurting each other.

Pioneer Press: You grew up in Chicago, but do you have a connection to any of the suburban towns in Chicagoland?
Beals: I lived in Evanston for about three months after my father passed away.

Pioneer Press: Your late father was African American, your mother Irish American. How did being biracial impact your life?
Beals: Well I think in a lot of ways. We could talk about that for all eternity. But one thing, vis-à-vis this conversation, is you get to see both worlds, and you get to understand that they are in more ways similar than different. I mean, I really felt like I was able to be in both and not a lot of people are given that. Certainly there’s a sense of otherness that comes with that, but there’s also a sense of clarity.

Pioneer Press: Through some of your acting roles, you have helped to promote acceptance of gender issues, from being a female welder in “Flashdance” to The “L” Word series and the gay issues, to your most recent role portraying Chicago’s first police superintendent. Are these roles ones you have sought out, or are you sought out for these roles of a trail-blazing woman?
Beals: I don’t know. If given a choice, I pick roles that are more interesting to me, but it seems to have just happened. I’ve gotten really spoiled now, with having parts that mean so much to a lot of people.

Pioneer Press: How do you see the world right now, with where we’re headed?
Beals: I was at the World Peace Talk the other day that His Holiness gave, and he was talking about how we have the opportunity to make the 21st century better than the 20th century, how the 20th century was so violent. There were a lot of great things that came from the 20th century, certainly in terms of civil rights and human rights, but that we have the opportunity right now to make changes to make sure the 21st century is a more peaceful one.

Pioneer Press: For the visit of the Dalai Lama this weekend, what are you hoping to get out of it, and what are you hoping others will get out of it?
Beals: Well, for me, I always hope I will get a deeper level of understanding of his teaching, because there are so many different levels upon which you can comprehend. And so for me, a deeper understanding. As for other people, in terms of developing a kinship of faith, I just hope other people can take in the teaching, and realize that the ways in which we are similar are more numerous than the ways in which we are different, and what binds us all is our desire for happiness, and our ability to show compassion. Belief in compassion and importance of compassion binds us, not only any religion that I know of, but also people who aren’t religious. It’s just a moral, ethical standpoint or view. The ability to love and the ability for compassion and affection are already hard-wired in our brain, and it’s through our awareness that we can extend it to other people.


Jennifer Talks Dresses and Triathlons

PLAYING A WELDER who dreams of being a ballerina, Jennifer Beals shimmied her way to fame in "Flashdance." Since then, she's tackled roles from Frankenstein's honey in "The Bride" to a noir heroine in "Devil in a Blue Dress." She just began her fifth season on Showtime's "The L Word" (Sundays at 9 p.m.).

EXPRESS: Having a kid, job turmoil, the death of a parent — your character, Bette, has been through a lot. Does she get a break this season?
BEALS: In some areas, yes. With her child, she gets a break. I think you'll see her sorting out her love life, too.

EXPRESS: As a straight woman, what's most intriguing about playing a gay one?
BEALS: There's a call to authenticity. If somebody's gay and out, it's incumbent on me to embrace that.

EXPRESS: You've gotten positive feedback from the lesbian community, right?
BEALS: It's encouraging, because it's a no-holds-barred crowd. They let you know when they're not happy with something, so I feel honored when they're happy. It's exciting, because in the first few seasons, when the community was critical, I felt like it was part of the democratic process. That doesn't happen often in politics, so it's nice for it to happen on television.

EXPRESS: You get lots of props for your love scenes. Why do you think that is?
BEALS: I don't get why people notice that more than other things. I'm just trying to figure out where the character goes in the story.

EXPRESS: What's your favorite thing to wear on the red carpet?
BEALS: Clothing is good! Not naked for sure. To be comfortable is always desirable, but it's rarely doable. Somehow pajamas haven't made it there yet. I've got a couple of Alberta Ferrettis, and I find Diane von Furstenberg things great and easy. I'm not a huge fashion person, but I appreciate it. It's like sculpting.

EXPRESS: How do you feel about the return of 1980s styles like leg warmers?
BEALS: I think I've seen some of it, but not on real people.

EXPRESS: In addition to acting, you're also a passionate photographer?
BEALS: I haven't been shooting much lately — mostly, I've done stuff at work, friends or family. I used to shoot predominantly strangers. It was exciting, because you'd have an entry into another world, not entirely unlike acting.

EXPRESS: Do you display your work at home?
BEALS: I only have a couple pictures of mine up, a few of Sri Lanka. A lot of my stuff is too depressing to have up there.

EXPRESS: I hear you're a triathlete now?
BEALS: I did just one, in the spring. Next year, I want to do another. It comes from having given birth without medication. I realize what my body is capable of.

EXPRESS: What was the biggest challenge of the triathlon?
BEALS: For me, the run. I always ran by myself before, so the idea of running in a group was terrifying. But then you start to feel the collective energy.


Who says friendships in Hollywood don't last? Accomplished actresses Jennifer Beals and Marlee Matlin have been close since the '80s. Now the two are starring opposite each other on the hit Showtime drama, 'The L Word.' Matlin joined the cast this season, as Jodie Lerner -- an artist-in-residence at the art school where Beals' charcter, Bette, is dean. Beals and Matlin (through her interpreter Jack) opened up to AOL Television editor Geoff Bennett about their decades-old friendship, the simmering controversies surrounding their show and Matlin's unshakeable Blackberry addiction.

When I heard you two were longtime friends, I thought it would be cool to interview you together.
Beals: Yeah, it sounded like fun, but I wish we were in the same room.
Matlin: ... and because Jennifer is a lot better to look at than Jack. (Laughs)

Can't argue with that. So how did you two become friends?
Beals: How did we meet? Did we meet at the Paramount thing?
Matlin: We met originally at the airport on the way to Los Angeles. I remember saying to Jack, "I think that's Jennifer Beals." She had a leather coat on and she looked very sort of 'Flashdance.' (Laughs) Sorry Jennifer, I had to put that in. But she looked very smart because she had all her school books from Yale with her. We were introduced to each other, and then we found out we were going to the same event, which was the photoshoot for the 75th anniversary of Paramount. Because we were the new kids on the block, we instantly were attached at the hip.
Beals: Because we were both from Chicago.
Matlin: That's right. And we've been friends ever since. And Jennifer helped me pick out stuff to wear to parties because she was more worldy than me.
Beals: That is so untrue. She's delusional. She has a really good memory about a lot of things, but that's totally delusional.

Jennifer, did you suggest Marlee for this role on 'The L Word'? How did that come about?
Beals: No, I never suggest anybody because they don't listen to anything I have to say. (Laughs) No, I just was delighted when they brought her name up. I said she's a really wonderful person and obviously a great actress.

For those who are unacquainted with the show, Marlee, what's the role that you're playing?
Matlin: I don't know how much can I say, but our characters hook up. I'm a visiting artist and she's a dean at a university, and sparks fly. You see that the first moment we meet. I have a drill and sparks are flying. (Laughs) It couldn't be any more literal. Literally sparks are flying. You'll notice I have the drill, so I don't know if that indicates what part of the relationship I am.

Does your friendship make the hook-up scenes easier to shoot?
Beals: Oh, it's horrible. We laugh hysterically the whole time. It's horrible, it's horrible. I try to be professional, and she looks at me and gives me one little look of mischief and we just lose it, and it takes forever to shoot.
Matlin: And the crew is standing there just rolling their eyes, thinking "What are these two doing?"
Beals: And it's 3:30 in the morning and everyone wants to go home.
Matlin: But you know what? I don't think that we care. At the end of the day, the job has to be fun. And this is one fun job.

Since the show shoots in Vancouver, how has it impacted your personal life?
Matlin: They were very accomodating. When I started, the kids were out of school for the summer and were busy with camp and vacation with grandma and grandpa. They almost forgot that I was in Vancouver even though I would come home every weekend, so I think maybe next year I'm going to have to change that schedule. (Laughs) It worked out very smoothly.
Beals: But I remember you missed them very, very much. It was hard sometimes.
Matlin: It helped to work with Jennifer since we had so much fun. And Jennifer is a mom and very private, and that helps a great deal because we can share intimate discussions. We're fine -- we don't need to be entertained or be out partying when we're on location.

Jennifer, a question about Bette's evolution: She started out as a classic type-A and later ends up kidnapping her own daughter and taking her cross-country. Is Bette unraveling?
Beals: I think that when you introduce a child into someone's life, they begin to realize all the things that are really important to them. And that, perhaps, doesn't become as important as the love of a child. And so they are capable of doing all kinds of things to protect that. I think she realizes pretty quickly that she made a mistake and tries to make amends for it.

Marlee, how did tackling this role compare to others you've done?
Matlin: Although some people might think developing a deaf character is difficut, it really isn't. You just write and then incorporate deafness into it. But [the production staff] has been nothing but open and receptive. For example, in our first meeting, I sat with all of the writers and they told me the character's name. I asked if they wouldn't mind changing it to Jodie because I had a friend who was a mom and a lesbian who passed away, and her name was Jodie. I thought it would be nice to honor her, and they were more than open to it. Most television series would never do that.

A few conservative Web sites took issue with the unconventional Barbara Bush sculpture featured in a recent episode. Marlee, what did you think when you first saw it?
Matlin: It was clear that it was about a student who wanted to express themselves through art and it had nothing to do with me as Marlee Matlin or the character Jodie Lerner. My character was about free speech. But I draw the line between my viewpoints and the character's viewpoints. But I was OK with it because it made sense for the character. It was about the student's point of view and naturally, I wouldn't want that piece of art in my house. But I think some people might consider it insulting. That's fine. But we're talking about TV. It's entertainment, and entertainement incoprorates a lot of viewpoints. People have a right to their own opinons and as much as they may complain, they have a right to that. Was that diplomatic enough?

Very dimplomatic, yes.
Matlin: At the end of the day, I don't care. (Laughs) I really don't care. I mean, do those conservative people even watch the Showtime? Have they even seen the show? I mean, it's Showtime! Beals: I'm just glad they watch the show! ... 'The L Word' is one of those shows, which even if people haven't seen it, they know about it.

What do you think is the biggest misconception?
Matlin: They think it's all about girls under the sheets doing their thing.
Beals: They think it's salacious.
Matlin: But I just think it's a show about relationships and one of the few shows that features a lot of women, and I think that's great. How has it increased your own sense of awareness?
Beals: There are all kinds of things that I had no idea about. I had no idea that in a same-sex relationship, if a partner -- even if they had been together for 20 years -- if one goes in the hospital, they don't have the same visitation rights as family members. It's inexcusable. And by playing this character, I'm much more aware. And even the way lesbians and gay men are portrayed in pop culture, it's really horrifying. It's so insidious and sometimes it's really subtle, but it's there.
Matlin: Being new on the show, I have learned a great deal, but nothing really surprised me because I grew up with a brother who's gay and understood the isolation he faced. But my parents have always been supportive on his behalf from day one. But it is amazing how people take time out of their lives to demean and denigrate people's choices. I still don't get it.
Beals: It's so fascinating that a group of people would denigrate someone else's love. And who is to say that one person's love is more valuable to another's? And that, I find, is really reprehensible.

Your castmate, Kristanna Loken, made news recently after she left the show, complaining about the "amount of egos and insecurities and cattiness that can go with a bunch of women." What's your take?
Beals: I've only worked on a couple of scenes with her, and when I was working with her, it seemed like she was having a really good time, and I'm sorry she didn't have a good experience.
Matlin: I'm sorry she expressed her feelings to an interviewer, when it was an experience she had on a one-to-one basis with someone. It's a great show, and for me it was a wonderful experience.
Beals: Yeah, I'm not sure what really happened. I just wish she had had a better time. And just for the record, I have never experienced a more supportitve wonderful group in my career whether they be male or female.

Lastly, what are your favorite things to do on set while you're not shooting?
Matlin: Eat.
Beals: Just watch Marlee -- it's endlessly entertaining.
Matlin: And look at my "Crackberry." Blackberry, excuse me. Don't put Crackberry because I think the folks at Blackberry wouldn't be happy.

And then it would end up on a conservative Web site.
Matlin: Exactly. "Marlee Matlin uses crack." ...


LESLIE MOONVES: Thank you, guys. Thanks for behaving. They've always been way ahead of the curve. By the way, CBS is also investing in companies and Web sites that foster community, as in the case of the latest product from our next presenters. Two nights ago, the show, The L Word, premiered its fourth season on our premium cable network, Showtime. For those of you who haven't seen the show, it's about a very close-knit group of women.Here's a quick look at what you can expect to see in the new season. We have just launched a new Web site, born right out of this show, called This is one of the first examples of a media company taking its traditional assets and building an application around it for its online audience. Here to describe what I mean are the creator and the star of The L Word, Ilene Chaiken, and Jennifer Beals.

ILENE CHAIKEN: Leslie is talking about community, which is the explicit and motivating premise for our project.

JENNIFER BEALS: Which is called Our Chart. It's a social networking site for gay women and their friends, inspired by a storyline on The L Word, but also, by the way, in which our show's viewers from the moment we debuted on Showtime swiftly and passionately anointed The L Word as the focal point for their community, claiming it as their own and congregating around it all over the country and all over the world, in clubs and house parties, and, of course, on the Internet.

ILENE CHAIKEN: And those social networking sites are all the rage these days, everybody wants one, but as it happens, we're not just jumping on a bandwagon. This idea of community and interconnectivity has been our central thematic motif from the very beginning when in our pilot Alice demonstrated her theory of relationship connectivity.

JENNIFER BEALS: Which she later evolved into a radio show on KCRW, LA's popular independent radio station, and eventually into an online site, much like the one we're about to show you.

ILENE CHAIKEN: A classic case of life imitates art. We looked at this story, and we went to our friends at Showtime and CBS and said, we really should do this, don't you think? It didn't take much convincing. Not only is the spending power of the gay market currently estimated at up to $641 million, gay consumers are more likely to use their credit cards for online purchases.

JENNIFER BEALS: More importantly, our viewers want to tell us what they think about our show. They want to process with us, talk about their own relationships, talk to each other, and let us know how better we can reflect their community back to them, and model it for the rest of the world. And they want to tell Ilene how craven she is for breaking up my character, Bette's relationship with her girlfriend Tina. Ilene says she's going to listen when they talk to her on Our Chart.

ILENE CHAIKEN: I'm going to put my ego aside, and with the help of Our Chart, I'm going to totally let the fans weigh in on the direction our L Word stories are taking. In any event, the Internet is an ecosystem in which we all benefit from shared resources, shared enthusiasm and shared interests. The unique opportunity behind which CBS and Showtime are supporting us is in creating a new kind of social networking site, one that marries the rich, beautiful content of an established media venture with innovative, interactive user-generated content in what we think will be the ultimate online destination for this vibrant and engaged community.

JENNIFER BEALS: This is the homepage.

ILENE CHAIKEN: If you're a registered user, you log in. If not, you have the option to join and create a profile. I'm already logged in. This control panel is like a portable console that lets you connect with your friends, nomatter where you are. Say I'm reading a blog post or watching a video, all I have to do is drop down my control panel and I can message anyone on my friend's list or even add friends without even leaving the page I'm on.

JENNIFER BEALS: The L Word Insider offers our fans unprecedented access, podcasts from The L Words writers' room, behind the scenes exclusives, special deleted scenes.

ILENE CHAIKEN: And most excitingly, original material from Jennifer, and our two other partners in this venture, Leisha Hailey and Katherine Moennig, like these beautiful black and white photographs Jennifer has been taking on and off set, from the very beginning of our show.

JENNIFER BEALS: Here is our main blog called the Hookup, and our featured invitational guest bloggers, we call them Guestbians, because our site, just like our show, is not exclusive to lesbians. Everyone, gay, straight, or other, is invited to join in on our conversations, including all of you.

ILENE CHAIKEN: Exactly. Our Chart members are the main thing. On our homepage we feature three items, Who's Who, Who's New, and an editor's selection of interesting items and discussions from personal pages called Off the Charts. And, of course, there's the Chart itself. Right now we're looking at My Chat, a visual representation of all my friends. We'll navigate to Leisha's chart from here, which moves her to the center and shows all of her connections. We could actually navigate through the entire chart moving from friend to friend, provided everyone was actually connected, which I think is ultimately true. We can also use the chart to display info from my full profile. This is my actual profile page where I manage all of my personal information, friends, photos, videos. I wish we could show you more, but like in television production, there's never enough time to say everything you want to say.

JENNIFER BEALS: The Our Chart social network is a logical extension of Alice's chart from The L Word, created expressly for the real life L world out there, so that, as Alice says on the show, we all can reach out from the alienation of modern life in order to make connections and form lasting relationships. We hope Our Chart fulfills that purpose for a large and growing community. Thank you.

LESLIE MOONVES: Thanks, Jennifer and Ilene. It's truly exciting to think about the possibilities that our content opens up. A word on Our Chart. It just launched, so go easy on it. It's in beta. I think media needs to get used to putting up content that is not quite complete, letting the audience fill it in"

USA TODAY: Beals returns for new season of 'L Word'

Ask Jennifer Beals what she's learned playing a gay gal on The L Word, Showtime's sexy melodrama about lesbian life in L.A., and she sizes up the human condition: "There are more similarities among us than differences."

One notable example is how all manner of girls and boys will join in welcoming The L Word when, back for its second season 10 p.m. ET Sunday, it reunites the dishy sapphic sisters played by (among others) Mia Kirshner, Katherine Moennig, Erin Daniels and Leisha Hailey. And finds Beals' character, Bette, in a real stew.

This season Bette will face fearsome funding problems at the art museum she runs. Worse, it looks like her relationship with Tina (Laurel Holloman), her longtime partner now pregnant with the child they had dreamed of parenting, is on the rocks.

"What a brutal year! It's awful!" Beals chuckles. "There's this moment in the eighth episode where Bette has one little moment of victory and joy. I burst into tears when I read it. 'Something good happens to Bette, everyone!' I was so excited."

A veteran actress who at 41 appears barely older than she did as the welder/would-be ballerina in 1983's Flashdance, Beals says she originally came to The L Word far less focused on portraying a fashion-forward lesbian than on the challenge of depicting an art museum boss.

A lesbian relationship "is about love and it's about attraction," she reasons. "I understood love and attraction. I didn't know anything about art."

The art of The L Word has been its spicy recipe of girl-on-girl explicitness blended with a hip California lifestyle anyone might fantasize about. By design, the series is au courant. But thanks to Bette and Tina, with their ups and downs, it has scored a bit of unsought currency: Since The L Word premiered, gay marriage has been certified as a wedge issue splitting the nation.

"I'm always shocked that gay marriage is such a big deal," says Beals over coffee in a Lower East Side patisserie she loves visiting when she's in town. "You have to realize how precious human life is, when there are tsunamis and mudslides, when there are armies and terrorists — at any moment, you could be gone, and potentially in the most brutal fashion." "And then you have to realize that love is truly one of the most extraordinary things you can experience in your life. To begrudge someone else their love of another person because of gender seems to me absolutely absurd." "It's based in fear, fear of the other, fear of what is not like you," she says. "But when you are able to see lives on a day-to-day basis, rather than reducing it to politics, then it humanizes a whole community of people that were otherwise invisible. I think pop culture is really helpful in letting people see another side of life."

One side of life she had a personal stake in displaying: "I requested that we make Bette biracial," says Beals, herself of mixed-race parentage. This gave the series another useful twist, allowing Kit, a straight friend played by Pam Grier (Foxy Brown ), to become Bette's half-sister. "A biracial character is something I would have liked to have seen on TV when I was a child."

Since she took a break from Yale to make off-the-shoulder sweat shirts de rigueur in Flashdance, Beals has logged dozens of films. Among those for which she feels special pride: Devil in a Blue Dress,Roger Dodger,Twilight of the Golds (a 1996 Showtime movie) and In the Soup, an independent feature released in 1992. Also Flashdance, which she made, then — refusing to bank on its spectacular success — followed up by heading back to Yale.

"I never wanted to be a superstar," says Beals, flinching. "My heart just did an 'uhhhhhhhhhh' at the thought of it." No wonder. This is a private person who identifies her husband only as Ken, and loves describing the Philosophy of Sanskrit class she's currently enrolled in, but declines to say where. Hers is a career she's happy with, she says, "and I hope I'll be acting till the day I die. It's something you can never finish, never get to the center of." Happily, she isn't finished with The L Word : It's already renewed for a third season, which means the series' sisterhood will reconvene in Vancouver, where it's shot, in a few months.

Then Beals can again rely on one more thing she's learned playing a lesbian: That in their shared state of undress, actresses will protect each other from the camera's prying eye. "You can say, 'I don't feel so great about this part of my body today. When we roll over, can you make sure your hand is covering that cellulite?' And you can have her augment things: I've had scenes where I went, 'Can you just lift it up, so I look a little bit more ripened?'" "Every guy I've ever done a love scene with has forgotten. But women understand what you mean, they understand how important it is," says Beals, smiling at this case of sisters doing it for themselves: "I'll cover yours if you cover mine."

USA TODAY: 'The L Word' here is limelight

Jennifer Beals didn't sign on to a starring role in Showtime's provocative new ensemble series, The L Word, to get attention. She's going to get it anyway, starting Sunday when the drama — a cross between a female Queer as Folk and Sex and the City— makes its debut with a two-hour opener (10 p.m. ET/PT).

Beals, still most identified with her role as the welder/dancer in 1983's Flashdance, the movie that launched her career when she was barely out of high school, isn't comfortable in the spotlight.

"I'm a very private person," she says over lunch at a Santa Monica beach hotel restaurant, seated at one of the more secluded tables.So what is she doing in a racy series about a group of trendy lesbian friends in L.A.?

"It's funny, I didn't think of it as being a bold move," says Beals, 40, who is married to a Canadian she identifies only as "Ken." (Her 10-year marriage to director Alexandre Rockwell ended in 1996)."I just read a script that had a really wonderful character, and it seemed that something really amazing was being set down in my lap."

Beals plays Bette Porter, an art curator on a mission to find the perfect sperm donor for her partner, Tina (Laurel Holloman).
Race, as well as sexuality, is an issue in the early episodes. Beals' character is biracial; her girlfriend is white. On The L Word, Beals is able to tap into her own racial heritage — her late father was African-American, her mother is white.And she says race will continue to be a "really big" part of the 13-episode series."So much of the show is about identity: How do we define ourselves? How do other people see us and what are the confines that our culture puts us into?"

The L Word doesn't waste any time proving it will embrace physical intimacy. But as Beals points out: "Two women who are in love with each other and who are having sex with each other is much more permissible in society than two men."

Though nudity is not in short supply, Beals is not one of the actors who bares it all."You don't see anything of me," says the Yale graduate. Beals made it clear to Showtime she wouldn't do nude scenes unless she saw a good reason for it, believing "a well-placed hand" suggests just as much.

Still, Beals has her share of steamy sex scenes, which are not always easy to shoot."The way we approach the love scenes, they're not always about love. Sometimes they're about possession. Sometimes they are about intimacy, and sometimes there is fighting going on at the same time."

She has made one discovery, however.
"Doing a love scene with a woman is easier than with a man. Because when you say to the other woman, 'Look, I have issues with this or that part of my body, can you put your hand there,' they know what you're talking about, and the hand doesn't move. Whereas a guy will forget. Because he doesn't know the meaning of cellulite."

PLANET OUT The L Word: an interview with Jennifer Beals
by Greg Archer

It was bound to happen. When a TV nation has been "Queer as Folk'd" and "Queer Eye'd" all the way to the Clinique counter, it stands to reason that the flip side of gay maledom has to come out of the closet sometime. This month, it's a post-Ellen estrogen parade.
Welcome to "The L Word," Showtime's head-turning, perception-busting new series about a group of lesbian gal pals living and loving in L.A. Created by Ilene Chaiken, the show boasts one of the most impressive, captivating gaggle of female thespians ever to share the boob tube: Jennifer Beals, Laurel Holloman, Mia Kirshner and Pam Grier. Hot? Yes. But the real coup, at least creatively it seems, is where the show promises to go: into emotionally deep waters with storylines dripping with drama.
In one corner, there's the committed lesbian couple (Beals and Holloman) wanting to start a family. They're surrounded by new neighbors (Mia Kishner and Eric Mabius), a bisexual journalist (Alice Pieszecki), a hairdresser (Katherine Moenning), a closeted tennis pro (Erin Daniels) and Bette's (Beals) musician half-sister (Pam Grier), who's also a recovering alcoholic.
Already generating buzz for its concept and its appealing cast, "The L Word" also delivers a dramatic Jennifer Beals, who seems to officially rise above the ashes of the fickle pop-culture wreckage of "Flashdance". Beals takes creative risks here as she morphs into the in-love go-getter named Bette. And while everybody at Showtime is zipped lips about particular story arcs destined to raise eyebrows, Beals maintains that "The L Word" isn't just about lesbians. It's about people; it's about relationships; it's about love -- however it shows up.
The new series looks intriguing.
Yeah, I'm excited.
What's so captivating about "The L Word" in your opinion?
It's about how we find the things we enjoy in life. It's about relationships. It's about the people we love, the city we love, how we stay alive with joy.
Tell me what is so intriguing about playing Bette.
Well, you know, I think she is a complete Type A personality, somebody who is very driven, very organized. She's a very focused person, but at her core, I think she is much more diffident than she appears, and that dichotomy was interesting to me. That attracted me to the role. What attracted to the project was the fact that it could make a difference in a person's life -- that it was the type of project that could change somebody's mind and could save somebody's life. Not too be too dramatic, but it's true.
You mean, just by people experiencing these characters in certain situations, or is it more the gay theme?
Well ... you think of a young girl in the middle of Kentucky or somewhere, who doesn't have any access to an extended community, and to be able to see herself represented in some way, shape or form gives her a cause to celebrate rather than be ashamed, which I am sure is what the government would want her to be.
Tell me what we can expect to see happen with your character and what will happen with her relationship with Tina [Laurel Holloman]. On the show, your characters want to start a family.
I think her journey is really about what it takes to start a family and where the relationship should be in order to set the foundation for family. And how to do that when you are pursuing a career -- or not, in Tina's case -- and balancing work with a relationship.
One of the things you said about this show was that it gets to the heart of who we are and why we are so intrigued with the mystery of sexuality and who we are attracted to. Can you elaborate on that?
Well, that was in response to a reporter's question about who was gay in the cast, which I thought seemed an "interesting" question to ask at the time. I think the reason she felt so compelled to ask it is that the mystery of sexuality is so profound, so that when you are playing a character, people want to know where the line is drawn -- when reality blends with fiction.
Sexuality is a mystery -- why do you think so?
It's the mystery of where we come from and where we are going and who we love. ... It's much more complex than race.
The whole premise here seems deep and dramatic. Looking at some of the roles you've taken over the years, would you say you are drawn to deeper things?
I think I always have been. I think it's whether, financially, I am able to fulfill that. I think all people are attracted to things that deepen them in some way, don't you?
Yes. For me, it's writing.
And that act -- going deeper -- in and of itself, is dangerous. Because you can't go deeper without some kind of danger to yourself. You don't know what you may find.
How is it working with what appears to be an amazing cast?
Really exciting and really fun. They have all been supportive. Whenever we had big group scenes, people would come to my house on the Monday before we had to shoot and we'd rehearse so we wouldn't have to worry about the scene. I think everybody cared very deeply about their work and their characters and each other -- and how the scenes played out.
What do you love most about acting?
The danger.
Do you mean exploring something that you quite don't know is there?
Yeah. It's dangerous. It's kind of like jumping out of a plane. You don't know what's going to happen. You know the lines, but you don't know what's going to happen.
Is it easy to turn this character -- any character -- on and off?
It's usually easy, but there was one scene Laurel and I had, which appears later in the season, that was emotionally very hard to let go of. It was very disturbing.
What inspires you?
Everything. Anything. All kind of things.
You love life?
Most of the time.
What bores you?
I don't understand the concept of boredom. I don't get that one. Way too much to do.
What makes you laugh?
My dog. It's a lab-terrier mix.
What make you cry?
A lot of things -- and it's usually self-induced. Right now, the U.S government is making me cry a lot. I have huge anxiety about it. It's a horrendous time. The Patriot Act makes me cry. You know when librarians are saying "No" that something is going on that is wrong.
Are you very political?
I think everyone is political if you are alive and breathing. Because every choice you make has something to do with politics, or the environment -- whether you choose to recycle, whether you vote or not. All of it is political. How you treat other people on the street. The personal is political, period. And I don't think I thought of myself as overtly political, but I do realize that every act I do has a political consequence.
Do you have any thoughts on the gay-marriage issue?
Well, I think the very fact that people would think that marriage was designed to be about love between two people ... I mean, really, it was about property and men making sure they could secure property. So, to say to an entire group of people, "No, you can't get married because now we are going to pretend it's all about love and the American family," is bogus. In fact, it's about legal rights.
I mean, if your partner is dying in the hospital, you should be able to help him pass. If you built a life together, a home together, you should be able to have that home. It's incredibly absurd and incredibly self-righteous to deny people that -- that your love doesn't count as much as our love. You know, if people want to get married and enter into that institution, they should be able to do that at their own joy and at their own peril.
That's interesting, and it reminds me of something a dear friend said, which was that you can say you dislike anybody -- you can "hate" anybody -- but the minute you love somebody, everybody has something to say about that.
Oh ... love is the most dangerous thing in the world.
What do you think is one of the most challenging things about marriage?
Making sure that you leave room for the other person -- and to set your ego aside.
What's something most people don't know about you?
Probably something I wouldn't want to tell you.
How about something quirky?
I am a thumb-wrestling champion.
Nice. When I say the name Pam Grier, who plays your half-sister on the show, what comes to mind?
Oh, I see somebody who is laughing and singing and riding horses. She's an excellent horsewoman.
How about Ilene Chaiken?
Somebody who has a great passion, who is disciplined and mischievous. Intelligent.
Laurel Holloman?
Laurel is patient and kind and free-spirited.
Mia Kirshner?
Mia is the queen of mischief. She's a very intelligent woman -- and prone to flashing new directors and making prank phone calls.
The best advice you've been given?
The worst thing they can say is no.
And the best advice you've given?
I once told Gwyneth Paltrow not to give out her address in an interview.
What's the most interesting thing you learned about yourself lately?
How to swim better. I should stretch from the middle of my back, not the shoulders, because it opens my lungs more.
What could TV use more of?
Better executives. People who aren't at the service of the government or a corporation -- and you can put an equal sign between the two. I don't feel like I can watch the news, including CNN, and get what's really happening
What do you hope for as "The L Word"unravels?
Well, it's a groundbreaking series in that it's the first of its kind, and I hope that it is widely accepted, not only by gay people but by straight people. And ... I hope that George W. Bush will not be able to make a whole group of people invisible.

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The L Word: an interview with Jennifer Beals
Beautiful "L Word" star Jennifer Beals recently sat down with PlanetOut entertainment editor Jenny Stewart and show producer Ilene Chaiken to talk about the Bette-Tina breakup, celebrity crushes and, of course, the jail scene.
Director Rose Troche apparently made a videotape of various onscreen love scenes for the cast to watch. Was this helpful?
Yes, she made a cassette for us of a series of both lesbian and heterosexual love scenes, and she thought some of those scenes worked and some of them didn't. She wanted us to see and judge for ourselves which ones worked and which didn't -- and why.
So what were some of those movies?
"Bound," which worked really well, "Claire of the Moon," "The Hunger." And when we watched them, the ones that worked, regardless of the director, were the ones where the actors weren't fearful. When somebody was fearful, you could see it right away. It takes you out of the story, and that's to be avoided at all costs.
So this tutorial helped you?
Well, it wasn't a tutorial. However, there was an "alleged" tutorial given to us by a woman named Iman, and interestingly enough, we talked about sex for about three minutes, and the rest of the hour was spent talking about politics and class. Which is very telling!
Ilene Chaiken: She was supposed to be a "sexpert." We were there to talk about lesbian sex because we were just starting the pilot and we were a bunch of people who, presumably, had questions. We wanted to have an open forum. And what happened was, we got there and I think we all realized we knew everything there was to know about sex! [Laughs.]
Jennifer: [Laughing.] Yeah, pretty much!
OK, well I want to talk about your performance in the jail scene. Was that hard for you to do?
No, because I just watched the Genet movie and I just imitated the guy in the movie!
What's the name of that film?
It's called "Querelle," and it was clear that the episode, or at least the jail scene, was an homage to that film. I had watched the film and I said to the director Lynne Stopkewich, 'See this guy, and see what he does to the wall? I want to be that guy, I want to do this.
What was the most challenging episode for you this season?
The finale. Absolutely the finale.
A lot of people were surprised when you took a lesbian role, but you actually do have a gay background -- you were in "Twilight of the Golds," and you played a transvestite in a movie called "Sons."
Yes, I loved doing "Twilight of the Golds," and "Sons" was a lot of fun.
Is that movie available on video? I'm sure that's something that everyone's going to want to see.
I think "Sons" is available on video. I hope so.
Do you think Bette and Tina are a good couple?
Bette and Tina are an excellent couple. [Looks at Ilene.] And I think you are a hussy for making me have an affair!
Wait, Bette hasn't had the affair yet.
Hello! What do you think the jailhouse scene was?
No, because you didn't technically have sex!
Oh, listen to Bill Clinton over there!
I don't want you to have an affair! Oh, well. OK, what do you think attracted Bette to Tina in the first place?
I think at first, when Bette met her, she fell in love with Tina's beauty. And then I think ultimately, as far as being in love, I think that she's so different from Bette, she's so grounded and very big-hearted and so generous with people so easily, you know? And I think that Bette is so much more judgmental, and things like that are a little harder for her. And I think that [looks at Ilene again] they should be back together![Laughs.]
OK, are you ready for some personal questions?
Yes, I'm having fun.
What is your current relationship status?
I'm married to a man.
What's the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for Jennifer Beals?
My husband does so many romantic things for me, it's absurd. But I remember one day I was on my way home and I had called him on his cell phone and he knew that I had not had a great day. And when I got home, he had a gazillion rose petals in the doorway that spelled out "I love you." Yeah, and he made the entire doorway this mandala to love, you know, before I had gotten into the house.
Well that's pretty impressive. How about you? What's the most romantic thing you've ever done for someone?
Hmmm -- I don't know. I guess you'd have to ask them!
When was the last time you had a crush on someone?
A couple years ago I had a big crush on Eddie Vedder. I told my husband, "Do not let me be in the same room with Eddie Vedder." He said, "Don't worry, I won't." [Laughs.]
Is there one particular characteristic that you have consistently been attracted to in a person?
A sense of humor
What is your least favorite physical feature on your body?
[Laughs.] I'm not going to tell you. Only my costumer knows for sure!
You've played a wide variety of characters throughout your career. Which are your favorites?
Daphne Monet from "Devil in a Blue Dress" -- she's way, way up there. And I like Bette a lot. She's hard sometimes, so I like that.
What are the favorite films you've done?
That's really hard, because they're all so different. I like "Devil in a Blue Dress." I love "Twilight of the Golds." I like "A House Divided" a lot. "Vampire's Kiss" I think is really good -- it's hard.
Getting back to "Twilight of the Golds," if you were to become pregnant and you found out your child was going to be gay, what would your main concerns be? What thoughts would be going through your head?
Making sure that when my child went to school people were enlightened enough not to torture them, you know? And I wouldn't want them to feel lonely or outcast ever in any way. And no matter where they were in the world, I'd want them to always feel incredibly confident about who they were and proud.
That's a great answer. Thanks, Jennifer.
Thank you!


The Beginning: I started out six years ago with the idea that I needed more flexibility, and it just grew from there - there's so much more to it.

The Routine:: I practice all different kinds of yoga. Now I'm really starting to enjoy Iyengar yoga, in which you hold each pose for a longer period. Yoga is highly addictive. I have probably four yoga studio schedules in my car and, wherever I am in town and if I have a break in the day, I'll go to whichever one is closest.

The Payoff:: Once you've completed a wonderful class, you get a sense of the deepest, purest part of yourself. You feel like you are connected to everybody else in the world.


Jennifer Beals interviews Gwyneth Platrow
Gwyneth Paltrow's arrival as a smirking grifter In Flesh and Bone stole that 1993 rural noir from her co-stars, James Caan, Meg Ryan, and Dennis Quaid. It was a performance of such casual grace and dirty promise, of such insolence, that it made you wonder where Paltrow came from and what damage she might do next. The daughter of actress Blythe Danner and writer-producer Bruce Paltrow, she turned up again as a strung out coed In Malice and was then ripe and languid as the Algonquin Round Table groupie who beds Charles MacArthur, causing Dorothy Parker to slit her wrists, in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.
Is Paltrow in a rush? She hasn't stopped working, as if she knows that, a decade from now, the bloom may be off the rose. She was Thomas Jefferson's pinched, fussy daughter, resentful of his liaison with their black maid, In Jefferson in Paris, which came out earlier this year. This month she appears as another student, truculent and convincingly virginal, in Moonlight and Valentino, and as the wife of a New York cop - played by her boyfriend, Brad Pitt - in Seven. She's completed two more pictures, Sydney and The Pallbearers, and has the prestigious lead of the self-deluding heroine in an upcoming film of Jane Austen's Emma. I can't wait to see her being soigne and English.
It seems she can he anything - from pretty to plain, from amoral to puritanical - except vapid, In an era of vapid starlets. "Gwyneth is like a cross between a swan and a golden Lab - Grace Kelly one minute and Giulietta Masina the next," says Jennifer Beals, a Mend of Paltrow's since they worked together in Mrs. Parker. Beals caught up with her recently in New York and taped the following conversation.

JENNIFER BEALS: Gwyneth, after finishing Jefferson in Paris, you went straight into a production of The Sea Gull In Williamstown [Massachusetts], acting with your mom. What's it like working with her?
GWYNETH PALTROW: In a way, it's the most wonderful thing that I could ever think of. Because it's my mommy, you know, and she's also this wonderful actress, and I learn so much from her. But sometimes it's tense.

JB: Do you feel judged at all?
GP: Judged by her, or judged by people for being her daughter?

JB: Either.
GP: Well, she gets so panicked about me doing well that I don't feel judged by her, unless I'm doing something she thinks I could do better. I don't feel judged by other people for being her daughter, although I definitely used to.

JB: What do you feel you learned from her while you were doing The Sea Gull together?
GP: It's the fourth time I've worked with her, and this one was sort of rough because she had played Nina in The Sea Gull at Williamstown twenty years before, and now I was playing that role. I think Nina and Blanche DuBois [in A Streetcar Named Desire] are the two most personal roles for my mom.

JB: Was she proprietary about the role of Nina?
GP: A little, but in a very sweet way. I was a bit nervous about doing it, but she really helped me. When I was bad, she told me I was bad. And when I was good, she told me I was good. If she wasn't my mother, I would still respect her so much as an actress.

JB: I saw her as Blanche. She was wonderful.
GP: I know. She's amazing.

JB: I haven't seen you for a long time. You've Just been working nonstop.
GP: I know. I finished Jefferson in Paris, came home, had one weekend off, did The Sea Gull for five weeks. That ended on a Sunday. The next day I went to Toronto to do Moonlight and Valentino. It was written by Ellen Simon. She was married to an astrophysicist who went jogging one morning and got hit by a car and was killed. She wrote this piece as a kind of cathartic experience. Elizabeth Perkins plays the woman who's widowed, and I play her sister, who's very like me. She's more neurotic than I am, if that's possible. [laughs]

JB: That's very strange, because I've never thought of you as neurotic.
GP: You haven't?

JB: No. But I do see a childlike quality In you. You're so sensitive, and you follow your emotions wherever they lead you. One of the things I love about you so much, and I'm really jealous of it, is that you have an audacity, in the best sense of that word. You're very bold and unapologetic about who you are and what you feel. Are you aware of that or not?
GP: Sometimes. At other moments I just feel retarded and incapable. Someone once asked me if I felt I was predictable in terms of the answers that I give to questions, or in how I react in certain situations. I think I'm predictable in that everyone knows I'll react at one extreme or another. But no one could ever say about me, "Oh, she'll say that."

JB: That's why everybody working on Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle was so excited to see your dailies. It was "Oh, Gwyn's dailies are up tonight. Let's go and see what happened," because you were improvising so much - everyone was. Are you aware of having any kind of process?
GP: Not at all. I'd feel much more secure if I could say, "This is how I do it." You read that Anthony Hopkins wakes up in the morning and reads a script one hundred and thirty times. So far, I've approached each thing so differently.

JB: Has any one experience been more rewarding than another?.
GP: Oh God, I really haven't thought about it in those terms. I've just learned different things from each movie that I've done. That's what I've walked away with each time, as opposed to feeling, That was artistically satisfying - although there are definitely days when I feel that. Sometimes you feel the rhythm is perfect and that you could act all day. But then there's the nightmare of waiting between takes. I have such a battle with the fact that I never feel I'm controlling my own destiny when I'm working. I feel trapped when someone is telling me when to get up and what to put on and which city I'll be in from week to week. I didn't used to think about it. Now, it's starting to drive me crazy.

JB: Do you think that's because you've lest your privacy to some degree?
GP: I know this sounds ridiculous, but I feel more whole as a person these days. I'm beginning to understand more who I am and what I want and what my goals are. Consequently, I resent being channeled into something or pushed around. Once I'm doing the work, then it all congeals, but I hate being told, "It's going to be two hours before we need you, because we have to light the scene." Lately I've felt like saying, "O.K., what if I'm not ready in two hours?" It's very bad.

JB: You mentioned your goals. What are they?
GP: To have babies.

JB: To have babies?
GP: Yeah, and to learn a lot, and to be really good at my job. And to never have it be a chore, which I think happens to people. It's a shame, because I think what we do is pretty extraordinary.

JB: One of the extraordinary parts is the publicity you have to do, and all of the upkeep that enables you to carry on doing what you love doing - the acting.
GP: Year, I know. It's terrible.

JB: But in a way it's part of the work.
GP: I guess I feel it's terrible now, because no one's ever picked on me for my work. And now they're picking on me because I go out with a big cheesy movie star!

JB: So now that you're acquainted with fame and the media, has that changed your idea of yourself or informed your choices at all?
GP: I don't spread myself out as much as I used to. This past year is probably a bad example because I've been working so much, I haven't had time to step back and get perspective. It's been this nonstop tornado, culminating in this weird press thing. It's made me recede, because there are few people I feel I can hang out with.

JB: When you choose the film you're going to do next, do you think about your career or just about the role?
GP: I don't really understand that concept of having a career, or what agents mean when they say they're building one for you. I just do things I think will be interesting and that have integrity. I hate those tacky, pointless, big, fluffy, unimportant movies.

JB: Are you aware of your talent?
GP: No. Sometimes, but rarely. Are you?

JB: There are times when things work and that feels wonderful, and there are times when they don't and I get very frustrated. I tend to remember the bad times more than the good times.
GP: I think it's a gift to be aware of your talent sometimes, but where's that going to get you?

JB: Well, you can delight in it and not be arrogant about It.
GP: I don't know - I think if you're insecure about it, you can really open more doors.

JB: Because you work harder?
GP: Yeah. If you know you're good, I think you can limit yourself, because you put walls up ahead of you. Whereas, if you're scared, you can do anything. You don't know what you're capable of.

JB: So it's a constant discovery?
GP: Exactly.

JB: Have you considered developing projects for yourself?
GP: I just feel I'm too young for that right now. It's so grown-up to start developing material, don't you think?

JB: No.
GP: [laughs] Yes, it is.

JB: I think it's about controlling your destiny and molding your life.
GP: I feel I need to do what's handed to me for a while, or seek out things that are already there. I have a lot to learn at this point. It would be scary to me to take responsibility for a movie getting made.

JB: But isn't it kind of exciting, too, if it's something you are really passionate about? You said you want to have babies, and that's not exactly devoid of responsibility.
GP: I know. But people aren't going to write in the papers, "Gwyneth had a baby, and it's ugly and stupid."

JB: [laughs] Nowadays, though, you never know.
GP: I know. The press is ruthless.

JB: How do you feel when people say that having your privacy invaded, or being misquoted by the press, is the price you pay for fame?
GP: I resent it right now, because most of it is happening because of who I go out with. I hope that my work will speak for itself and that people won't judge me based on things that go on in my personal life, whether it's to do with my parents or friends or whoever. Obviously you want people to like you and say nice things about you.

JB: How do you imagine your life will be in ten years' time?
GP: Ten years - I'll be roughly your age?

JB: "Your age." [GP laughs] You had to get that in, didn't you, girlie?
GP: Hopefully I'll be married, with three or four children. Just at peace, you know. I am so up and down at the moment. In the past couple of months I've had this real resurgence of adolescence, that spiky behavior. Do you remember when you were sixteen and you would be a bitch to your more, and you'd be in a great mood followed by a horrible mood? That's me now. Since I started working on this movie [The Pallbearers], I've been sixteen again.

JB: Rebelling against authority?
GP: I don't know what it is. I'd reached a good place and then it all started going haywire again. I guess that's what life's all about, really - reaching different plateaus, understanding why you're there, and then having it all fall apart. You have to reconstruct the way you perceive things, and then you grow up a bit. Right now, I'm in one of the chaos-between-plateaus periods. [laughs]

JB: Do you ever work through this chaos when you're acting, or channel it into your roles?
GP: No. It affects my personality, never my work. Sometimes it's really hard not to let it, because events in your life get inside your head. But I hate that, and it's lazy to let it get to you. I never want to compromise what I do. I get very focused about work, which is something that makes me feel good, because I always thought of myself as lazy and irresponsible. It's nice not to feel like a sloth.

JB: When you interviewed Jon Bon Jovi for Interview recently, you asked him about the last time he was really happy. When was the last time you were really happy?
GP: [pause] I was with Brad at a little coffee shop. We woke up late, and we were having a lazy morning, and we went around the corner and got these big bowls of latte and sat there all sleepy. I was so content, just loving where I was in time and space right then. Just a quiet little coffee and cigarette with the man I love.

JB: It sounds like one of those moments when it becomes clear that life is good.
GP: I know. It's hard to remember that every day.

JB: Well, you keep your eye on the prize.
GP: Aye, aye. [laughs]


Jennifer Beals' Thrown a Curve By 'L Word' Final Season

Jennifer Beals reveals she was "completely" surprised to find out that the final season of her "The L Word" series has been transformed into flashbacks. She admits to this column that she's been thrown "a little off-balance by it. It seemed very different from what we had done prior, but you kind of roll with the flow. We'll see what happens."

Asked whether she likes the way her Bette Porter character's storyline has been handled, she says, "I don't know how the show has been edited. It's completely different from the way we shot it, in a way, since it's all being shown as flashbacks."

The Showtime series, returning Jan. 18, completed its production in October, and "they just recently put the trailers together," she notes. She did not learn of the change from the producers. "Somebody else told me — Rachel," she says, referring to cast mate Rachel Shelley.

It might seem strange, to say the least, that the lead actress of the six-year-old lesbian drama series would be kept in the dark about such a wholesale change in the structure of the entire last season, but the Yale-educated Beals is circumspect about that.

"They didn't have to tell all of us, or any of us," she says. "The only thing is, it would help me with doing press. I really have no attachment. To me, after it's done, I rarely watch it. All those people in the studio that were there when we wrapped — all the crew members, the production team, everybody — they're all responsible for what we accomplished. Ilene Chaiken," she says of the show's creator-exec producer. "It's not me, it's a collective. That's the beauty of film and television."

As for what is next, Beals, who has a 3-year-old daughter with husband Ken Dixon, says she's "taking a little time to relax. I'll find another project, and I hope it will be as satisfying as 'The L Word,' and we'll see. I'm not in a huge hurry. I've been reading scripts with women characters who are not drawn very thoroughly. To be on a woman-centric show and then read scripts where a woman is an ancillary character is a rude awakening."