Jennifer Beals has appeared in more than 50 films over the years. She is beginning a new television-related endeavor on Fox, where she returns to her roots in The Chicago Code.
Windy City Times: Hello, Jennifer. I didn't realize you grew up on the South Side of Chicago.
Jennifer Beals: I did. I also lived on the North Sideeverywhere but the West Side.
WCT: You don't currently live in Illinois now, do you?
Jennifer Beals: No I split my time between L.A. and Vancouver. My new show is a mid-season replacement so we will see if it is picked up for another 22 episodes and I will be in Chicago more.
WCT: It was great watching the new show The Chicago Code and seeing all the sights.
Jennifer Beals: Well, Chicago is really a character in the show, hence the title change.
WCT: What was it originally called?
Jennifer Beals: Ride-Along, the ride with the cops on their beat kind of thing.
WCT: I like the name Chicago Code much better.
Jennifer Beals: I do, too. I think it is more evocative of what the show is about. You are dealing with the power within the city and the code for the different levels and areas of the city.
WCT: You play the first female police chief named Teresa.
Jennifer Beals: She is a superintendent, as its called in Chicago.
WCT: Are you similar in ways to this character?
Jennifer Beals: Oh gosh, no. I am not nearly as driven or organized. I have to talk out loud a lot in order to get myself out the door, to remember where things are and get them together. I would aspire in many ways to be more like her but no I am very different. For example, I don't know how to use a gun. [Both laugh.] Nor can I be seen backhanding people in the street for various reasons.
WCT: Did you have a little training for this show then?
Jennifer Beals: There was some because it was so foreign to me. There were ride-alongs with Detective Folino, who was our technical advisor. He was terrific. We had meetings with various administrators. We realized there was a physicality that I needed so I started boxing a bit and doing more aggressive sports such as swimming and running.
WCT: That must be how you stay looking so young!
Jennifer Beals: I don't understand that. I don't feel like I look young. That is not how I experience myself; if someone experiences me like that then God bless them!
WCT: You have the hottest sidekick, Antonio, on the first episode.
Jennifer Beals: Isn't he so cute? He is a lovely actor. His name is Manny Montana and he was really wonderful to work with. There was no end to the amount of teasing that went on around the set. We just had a really great time with each other. I have the old-lady taste and he tried to help me be a little more hip with my music taste.
WCT: I just watched you in the [Denzel Washington movie] Book of Eli the other day.
Jennifer Beals: Oh, that was a really great experience.
WCT: Was that filmed out in the desert somewhere?
Jennifer Beals: New Mexico. I love the Hughes brothers. I would do anything for them. They are so smart and very creative, incredibly supportive of the people around them. I loved the character.
WCT: It was an interesting part to play.
Jennifer Beals: Working with Gary Oldman was so much fun. He made me laugh every day. He is dedicated to what he does. He gets in there and doesn't give up until he gets it. Frankly, Jason Clarke, from the Code, is very similar in that way. He's like a dog with a bone, you know?
WCT: I can imagine.
Jennifer Beals: He doesn't drop it until he's got it.
WCT: I interviewed and met your L Word sister, Pam Grier, last year.
Jennifer Beals: Oh you did? It was so exciting that she did that book. I am really proud of her.
WCT: It was hard for her to bring some of that up.
Jennifer Beals: It must have been. She has had such an amazing life. We had dinner one night years ago with my brother. He is a writer and told her that she had to do a book. We encouraged her to get on it.
WCT: Speaking of books, Judy Shepard told me you donated proceeds from your book to her foundation.
Jennifer Beals: Yes, I did. I really love the Mathew Shepard Foundation and the work that they do. I think she is such an extraordinary woman, leader and mother. I had their banner put on my float for the Thanksgiving Day parade in Chicago.
WCT: I saw you speak at the Human Rights event years ago. Your dedication to LGBT rights has been amazing over the years. Why do you feel so connected to us?
Jennifer Beals: I think after playing Bette Porter on The L Word for six years I felt like an honorary member of the community. They are not just gay issues. They affect everybody because they affect the fabric of our community. I am in a position to be helpful.
WCT: Well, it means a lot to us on our side.
Jennifer Beals: It just seems like a no-brainer. I don't understand ["Don't Ask, Don't Tell"]. I do understand that people are indoctrinated and they have their point of view but hopefully slowly but surely we can help change the paradigm. That's what I hope for and it's happening little by little. It's not easy.
WCT: What is the difference between The L Word set and the Chicago Code set?
Jennifer Beals: On The L Word set we were very aware of what was going on in the news and various issues. There was a time when I was on the Chicago Code set and in the van with teamsters and other cast members. There was an amazing milestone that happened for gay marriage over the summer and I was cheering in the car. I announced to everyone and they looked at me like I was crazy, like what do I care kind of thing? I was trying to explain how it affects everyone and then thought, "I am in another world now." I have a whole other battle here. We are not in Kansas anymore!
WCT: Definitely not in Dorothy's world anymore. [Both laugh.]
Jennifer Beals: No we are not. That was funny.
WCT: Did you ever think the movie Flashdance would have such a fan base so many years later?
Jennifer Beals: I don't think of my career in that way. I try to do one project at a time. I try to focus on the thing before me and not make it into a grand plan.
WCT: My friend wanted me to mention that he loved the short-lived television series 2000 Malibu Road [with Drew Barrymore].
Jennifer Beals: That's hilarious, thank you. You know what is fascinating? The guy that filmed the credits for 2000 Malibu Road was the director for the third episode of Chicago Code: Guy Ferland. It is a fantastic episode and actually my favorite. It is the payoff so see it.
WCT: I will. So you have different directors throughout the season?
Jennifer Beals: Yes and they each bring their own style. Guy has a very strong visual sense and a great script. It's a really interesting show because you are dealing with power and corruption, not just in the street, but in the halls of politics. You are making the connection between the two. That is something that's compelling. It's not just for the people Chicago, but I think Chicago does it best.
The Chicago Code rides into your televisions on Fox Monday, Feb. 7. Check local listings at http://www.fox.com/chicagocode.