Jennifer Beals interview

This is an interview Jennifer gave to about the Wigs series “Lauren” now available on Hulu and huluPlus

On getting involved with the project:

JB: It started a few summers ago now, I was spending some time with Jon when he was telling me about this idea he had for this channel [WIGS], Jay was there, too. All of us started to get curious about this notion of a returning veteran and I told Jon that I have been working on something similar – [the story] is about a returning female soldier and what that transition is like. I started working with my producing partner, Lauren Donner, Oren Moverman, Tony Swofford developing a project for HBO. It’s on a similar subject but not exactly.
I just have never seen a story like this and I’ve never been able to play a character quite so conflicted and I thought the writing was terrific and the opportunity to work with Jon at that time was really exciting. For me, it always starts with the writing and Jay has written these really wonderful scripts. Also there was the whole medium that was very exciting. If technology is done right and when you’re able to disseminate the story to such a wide and varied audience, it’s very exciting to me.

On her research findings:

JB: There were a couple of statistics that really struck me: one in three women in the military has been sexually assaulted in some way, and what was also something that I didn’t think about at all was how many men have been raped within the military and that’s really the biggest secret…. And what people don’t think of is they think about rape in terms of this civilian brawl where there are, as imperfect as they are, channels of justice that you can appeal to in order to rectify the situation. Not that it ever will be rectified but in order to pursue some kind of justice, there are these channels like the court and investigation. Within the military often times if your commander is the perpetrator then that person can block the information from going anywhere and you have no recourse.

And so there is this effort now being made to take it out of chain of command and have some kind of justice be served. Think about it taking it to the next level – it really means then in order for it to succeed, in order for the behavior to change, you really have to start changing the paradigm: women can’t be put so far down on the totem pole in terms of power, in a way people view them. In order for it to be a real change, you need to change the cultural paradigm and I think in that way the series of “Lauren” is really helpful in bringing up the discussion to make some kind of cultural paradigmatic shift.

The majority of the things that I’ve found are on the show. The information is put on the show in a non-didactic way, but you do get a lot of information during the show.

On memorable scenes from the first season:

JB: Any time Troian and I are working together is memorable. The dynamic between the two characters is very intense because Major Stone, one part of her really wants to just school this girl and have her just suck it up and move forward because she jeopardizes the unit; on the other hand, she understands who she is and where she’s coming from and wants to change everything for her and, ultimately, for herself. So, it’s all like walking on a tight rope and every scene was really, really interesting, for me any way. Working with Troian is always a pleasure.

On what helped connect with Troian on screen so fast

JB: I think we both trusted each other right away and we both had respect for one another right away. She was cast really at the last moment and she really had to carry it, having to not only memorize things very, very quickly, and it’s not like a regular TV show where the scenes are one or 2-3 pages long, sometimes we were doing 8-10 pages per scene but, more than that, having to create a character, with which she is completely unfamiliar and I wanted to be as supportive as possible during that process because it requires such faith, such bravery to dive in in a way she dove in. And it was just really, really fun, she just throws herself into it. She was incredibly dedicated.

On off-screen support of military rape victims

JB: I’ve been involved with the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) and helped raise a little bit of money and did some charity work for them. I was in Washington in April with the Safer Chemicals Healthy Family Coalition when SWAN asked me if I would come and give a speech to 150 predominantly women who have suffered sexual trauma and who were going to the Hill to tell their stories in order to get to change the system [link to the video on Hulu]. I had been on the Hill for the last couple of days in a similar position but talking about toxic chemical reform, and understood how important what they were doing was and how difficult it could be and how potentially difficult it would be to tell their stories over again and again. I spoke to them in the morning and it was really a life changing moment for me in that it was one of the biggest honors I’ve ever been given to be asked to speak to them before they made this endeavor. It was a room with incredibly powerful people and it was just one of those moments when you realize that story telling is the only thing that really ever truly changed the world other than maybe a bomb, and even that has its own narrative. And having people tell their stories over and over and over and over again until more and more people would listen until they understand, hopefully – it was incredibly exciting to be there. I think in some way it strengthens my resolve and dedication to the story telling process.

On feedback to the show from people who have gone through similar experience

JB: I think the people that I spoken with recognized the dynamic and recognized the situation and for some people it was really painful to watch because they’ve experienced something similar and there were other people who were not a part of the community who were just appalled.

On a take away message for viewers:

JB: For me, it’s you take away what you take away – how the story moves you is how it moves you. I don’t endeavor to do things to be didactic in any way. I don’t know what message I’d like people to take away other than to be fully engaged in their own minds and see the change that needs to be made and hopefully they will screw their courage to the sticking place and create that change and make the world the way it ought to be.

On working with new media:

JB: The onus is on the series: I just really loved doing it, it’s really intense and really fun and Troian and Jon and Rodrigo [Garcia], Jay are all just so much fun to go play with. And it’s a pleasure to work in this new area, it’s interesting to see how it’s [series] fueled by social media and how these communities are created about this subject matter and storytelling and how people are telling one another that they saw this thing and thought it was interesting and for people to be able to see it whenever they want to see it. I think especially for this subject matter it’s really great because some people might not feel comfortable to watch in a group of other people, it could be a very personal thing and in that way to be able to watch from a mobile device or IPad or something like that is really liberating.

On things on a bucket list:

JB: Keep being alive would be a good thing. I don’t really have a bucket list. In some way it would be great to have a bucket list because you can identify the things that you’d like to do but then on the other hand all of a sudden you’re on a ticking clock for the whole thing. I gotta do this thing before such and such time and then the enjoyment of doing that thing is taken away and you just try to end to check it off your list rather than enjoy doing that thing. Does that make sense? If someone has something that takes preparation than obviously they need to prepare but I would like to be able to prepare and do something because I really want to do it period. The more I can get away from clock, the better. When I run, I don’t wear a watch normally. I’ve started every now and again and it’s a very weird way to run, in some ways it makes me faster but it doesn’t necessarily makes me freer like, I just feel in a hurry all of a sudden. I don’t know what it is, I just don’t like when anybody makes me hurry, I guess.

On choice of superpower:

JB: I would like the ability to create peace at will or to create love at will. That, I think, would be an amazing superpower. Can you imagine?

On what Jennifer loves at the very moment:

JB: Water. Always the water