Born December 19, 1963, in Chicago, IL; daughter of Alfred (a supermarket owner) and Jeanne (an elementary school teacher) Beals; married Alexandre Rockwell (a film director), 1986 (divorced, 1996); married Kenneth Dixon (a writer and film technician), 1999. Education: Yale University, undergraduate degree with honors in American literature, 1987; studied stage acting at The Goodman School of Drama, DePaul University; studied acting at the Professional Workshop in New York City.
Addresses: Office—Season II Productions, Inc., 8275 Manitoba St., Vancouver, British Columbia V5X 4L8 Canada.
Actress in films including: My Bodyguard, 1980; Flashdance, 1983; The Bride, 1985; Vampire's Kiss, 1988; La Partita, 1988; Sons, 1989; Docteur M., 1989; Le Grande Pardon II, 1992; In the Soup, 1992; Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, 1994; Four Rooms, 1995; The Devil in a Blue Dress, 1995; The Hunt for One-Eyed Jimmy, 1996; The Last Days of Disco, 1998; The Anniversary Party, 2002; After the Storm, 2002; Roger Dodger, 2002; Runaway Jury, 2003. Television movies include: Terror Stalks the Class Reunion, syndicated, 1992; Night Owl, Lifetime, 1993; The Twilight of the Golds, Showtime, 1997; Let It Be Me, Starz!, 1998; Body and Soul, The Movie Channel, 1999; A House Divided, 2000. Television series include: Faerie Tale Theatre, Showtime, 1985; 2000 Malibu Road, CBS, 1992; Nothing Sacred, ABC, 1998; The L Word, Showtime, 2004—. Stage appearances include: Macbeth, 1991. Also worked as a model.
Awards: NAACP Award, for Flashdance; Golden Satellite Award for best actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, for Twilight of the Golds, 1997.
After beginning her career with the unexpected smash hit film Flashdance, actress Jennifer Beals avoided being a one-hit wonder and had an interesting career in film and television. Because of her biracial background and exotic looks, she was able to play roles of various ethnicities and nationalities. Beals did not just appear in Hollywood films, but spent time working in Europe and took roles in a number of independent films. By the 2000s, her unconventional career took her into series television and a starring role in the lesbian-oriented series The L Word.
Born December 19, 1963, in Chicago, Illinois, Beals is the daughter of Alfred and Jeanne Beals. Her father was an African-American owner of a supermarket, who died when Beals was nine years old. Her white mother worked as an elementary school teacher. Beals had two older brothers, including Gregory who later became a photographer for Newsweek. As a young girl, she received her education at Chicago's Francis Parker School.
Beals' professional career began when she was 16 years old, when she worked as a model. In 1980, she had her first acting role. Though she did not receive a credit, she had a bit role in My Bodyguard. Despite this early work, Beals' remained committed to getting a college education. She entered Yale University, where she majored in American literature. Beals also studied acting at the DePaul University's Goodman School of Drama and at the Professional Workshop in New York City.
While a student at Yale, Beals was cast in what was arguably the biggest picture of her career, 1983's Flashdance. In the hit Hollywood film, Beals played a woman who works as a welder in a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, factory by day, but dances at a bar at night. Flashdance unexpectedly became one of the biggest box office smashes of 1983 in the United States, and grossed $150 million worldwide by 1985. The film also started fashion trends such as torn sweatshirts and leg warmers, while clubs started having flashdance contests.
After the film was released, Beals revealed that she did not perform much of the dancing in Flashdance. Instead, a double, Marine Jahan, did the dancing in the film. Despite the deception, Beals remained proud of her work. She told the South China Morning Post in 2003, "I did it because I loved the character and the story. I never thought I was going to become famous. The culture is different now. People are so dedicated to fame. I never even looked at show business magazines when I was a girl."
After Flashdance, Beals returned to Yale to complete her studies. Though she declined to take a role in the follow-up to Flashdance (Flashdance II, which was never made), she continued to work on her modeling and acting careers. She signed a deal to promote clothing by Marithe and Francois Girbaud. Their line at the time was similar to what was worn in Flashdance.
In 1985, Beals appeared in her next film, The Bride, which co-starred rock star Sting. In the loose remake of the horror film The Bride of Frankenstein, she played Eva, a woman from the nineteenth century being brought back to life by a scientist, played by Sting. Beals was unhappy with the way the final film turned out as she believed that certain scenes that developed her character were cut in the final edit. During the shoot, Beals developed a reputation for being high maintenance as an actress. She took acting seriously, and needed time and space to get into her character.
While still a student, Beals also did a little television work. She appeared as Cinderella in an episode of Showtime's Faerie Tale Theatre. However, it was not until Beals graduated from Yale in 1987 that her career really took off. In 1988, she appeared in Vampire's Kiss, with co-star Nicolas Cage. The film focused on yuppies in the big city in the 1980s. Cage's character believes he is a vampire, though he is a literary agent in New York. Beals greatly enjoyed the way the film turned out.
In the late 1980s, Beals primarily worked in Europe with a number of leading directors. In 1988, she appeared in the film La Partita, directed by Carlo Vanzini. A year later, Beals had a role in the Claude Charbol-directed Docteur M. In 1992, she appeared in Le Grande Pardon II, which was directed by Alexandre Arcady.
Also in the late 1980s and through the mid-1990s, Beals appeared in films directed by her husband Alexandre Rockwell, whom she married in 1986. Her first film with him was Sons, in which she played a transvestite. A bigger success was his 1992 film In the Soup. The film was financed by Beals, her mother, and her husband, and won the Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize. Beals played a Dominican American in the coming-of-age comedy.
Beals' last film directed by Rockwell was his segment of the anthology picture Four Rooms. In "The Wrong Man," she played a woman tied to a chair and gagged by her abusive husband, who finally gets a moment to say her piece about the situation. The film was released in 1995, and a year later, Beals and Rockwell divorced.
In the 1990s, Beals worked in films—both mainstream and independent—and television. In 1994, she played Gertrude Benchley in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. The film focused on the famous literary circle of authors who met at the Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s. Beals' character was the disregarded wife of author Robert Benchley. Beals showed she really could dance in the film Let It Be Me as her character had to ballroom dance. The film was shot in 1994, but aired on Starz! in 1998. In 1996, Beals appeared in the independent film The Hunt for One-Eyed Jimmy.
A bigger film role for Beals came in 1995. She fought to read for the role of Daphne Monet, the femme fatale character in the stylized mystery The Devil in a Blue Dress, which starred Denzel Washington. The director, Carl Franklin, originally wanted to cast an unknown actress in the film, which was set in 1940s Los Angeles and based on a novel by Walter Mosely, but Beals won the role. Beals told Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle, "I love this character. I wanted to hold her hand and take her down this road. It was like she was a real person and I wanted to take care of her. That kind of gave me permission to be much more audacious than I would normally be." Though Beals was intrigued by her role and the film, The Devil in a Blue Dress received mixed reviews.
Beals was not afraid to show her range as an actress. In 1998, she had a co-starring role in The Last Days of Disco, a drama set at the end of the disco era. Four years later, in 2002, Beals appeared in the drama The Anniversary Party as a photographer, a hobby the actress pursues passionately in real life. The film focused on Hollywood types at the anniversary party of an actress and her husband, who is a screenwriter and director. That same year, she had a role in another independent film, Roger Dodger. Beals played one of two female friends who met up with the title character and his nephew, a self-conscious, forlorn teen. Hollywood still gave Beals roles in big films. In 2003, she appeared in the mysterious drama Runaway Jury, co-starring John Cusack.
Bigger and more varied roles came for Beals on television in the 1990s. In 1993, she had a role in the supernatural television movie Night Owl which aired on Lifetime. A bigger role came in the 1997 Showtime movie The Twilight of the Golds, based on the 1993 play by Jonathan Tolins. In the movie, Beals played a pregnant woman named Suzanne. Her husband is a genetics researcher and he discovers their baby has a gene that makes him homosexual. Over the course of the movie, her character thinks about ending her pregnancy once she learns this fact, but has to deal with the input of her family and their prejudices.
Beals faced complex issues related to race in another television movie, 2000's A House Divided. Based on a true story, the movie was set in the South before, during, and after the Civil War. Beals played a woman of mixed race, Amanda America Dickson, who learns as an adult that her slave owner father, David Dickson, had raped a slave in his household to create her. Amanda's father took her away from her mother after her birth to raise as a white child with the help of his mother. His money protected the child from any questions about her parentage. The slave continued to live in the household, and eventually helped run the plantation. David Dickson's only child, Amanda leaves after she discovers the truth of her heritage, but when her father dies, she inherits his estate. Beals greatly identified with the character and her dilemmas.
Beals also ventured into series television in the 1990s. In 1992, she played Perry Quinn, an attorney with an alcohol problem, on the show 2000 Malibu Road. The short-lived series was produced by television guru Aaron Spelling and film director Joel Schumacher. Its stories focused on four women, including Beals' character, who lived in a beach house together. Six years later, Beals filmed a recurring role as Justine, the head of religious education in the ABC series Nothing Sacred, but her scenes never aired.
As Beals' career continued to grow, especially on television, her personal life also changed. She married her second husband, Canadian Kenneth Dixon, in 1999. He also worked in the film industry as a technician and writer. Around that time, Beals faced some health challenges. Diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, Epstein-Barr virus, and thyroiditis, she used alternative medicines, including healthy diet changes, to cure herself.
In 2004, Beals was cast on the biggest television series of her career, The L Word. The Showtime program was one of the first shows to focus on lesbians. Beals played a lesbian named Bette Porter, a museum curator and art dealer in a serious relationship with another woman. The frank show focused on a circle of friends and was a comedy/drama with elements of a soap opera. It was generally critically acclaimed. The year the show debuted, Beals was named one of People's 50 most beautiful people.
Though Beals' career took a number of twists and turns, she was content with its path. In 1997, she told Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times, "I could have gone in a different direction and done a lot of commercial things. I just wasn't interested, even early on. Career, it's such a bizarre word. Trajectory is probably a better word to describe it, since a trajectory can go at different speeds. I just want mine to be long and steady, rather than one that takes off quickly but then flashes out."
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