“Take your passion, and make it happen.”
Thirty-four years ago, Jennifer Beals danced to the sound of those iconic ‘80s lyrics in Flashdance. Thanks to her role as Alex Owens, a steel mill welder with a burlesque side gig and big dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer, the actress quickly skyrocketed to fame at just 19 years old. And she became a household name for good reason; the 1983 hit gave audiences everything they could possibly ask for: a will-they-or-won’t-they romance, amazing costumes, and, of course, the ultimate ‘80s soundtrack.
Since Flashdance, Beals has kept busy with film and TV roles, most notably portraying a lead character on The L Word until 2009. But this week, the 53-year-old actress is back in full force. She stars as national intelligence officer Christina Hart in NBC’s new series Taken (a prequel to the film trilogy), which premiered earlier this week. And on Friday, March 3, Beals is back on the big screen. In Before I Fall, she plays mom to Zoey Deutch’s character, who’s repeatedly reliving the last day of her life until she gets it just right.
To welcome Beals back accordingly, we caught up with the star to discuss her latest roles and reminisce about Flashdance. Scroll down for our full chat.
First up, you’re starring in the TV reboot of Taken. What initially drew you to your role in the series?
The writing, and the team behind it. Then when I read the script, I loved the character of Christina Hart and thought she was so—I don't know if powerful is the right word, but she’s certainly walking this incredible balance between commanding a department that’s there to protect national security and trying to have her own life, which is just about impossible.
It's an action thriller. Do we get to see you kicking any ass onscreen?
Christina is certainly the one giving orders. She's been in the field and she's worked her way up the ladder, and now she's in charge. She's the one sitting in the National Security Council meetings and calling a lot of the shots. She may not necessarily be wielding a gun every episode, but she's directing the action.
Did anything surprise you about playing a national intelligence officer while prepping for the role?
Oh my gosh, I learned so much. Let's be honest, I only scratched the surface with the amount of research I was able to do before we started shooting, but even that was just so interesting. I have such respect for the intelligence community and what they have to go through and the sacrifices they make, and it's very hard for me to hear when they’re disrespected. By no means is it a perfect department—no department is—and there are very tricky things that need to be negotiated both physically and morally, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for them.
The show is a prequel to the film series. In what ways is it similar or different from the movies?
We’re not so much rebooting the series—it's really looking into how [Liam Neeson’s] character in the film got to be that way. The Taken film is ten years old now, and so this is really an origin story that's set in modern day. We still have incredible action pieces, but all of that action is grounded in character.
Speaking of movies, Before I Fall also hits theaters this week. Can you tell us about your role in that?
I play the mom of Zoey Deutch's character, Sam. My part is small, but it's funny because the story is so beautiful that after hearing it, I just wanted to be a part of it. I just wanted to be inside that story, because at the heart of it, it’s really about how anyone can change their life at any moment through consciousness and following one good thing and seeing where that takes you.
In the movie, Zoey's character relives her last day over and over. Did that make you think about what you would do in that situation, or what might be on your bucket list?
Well, I'm a practicing Buddhist, so you meditate on death all the time. That wasn't new—it just resonated for me as part of my practice, I guess.
Next month marks the 34th anniversary of Flashdance. Do you have any favorite memories from filming?
Lying on the floor with my dog. I remember being in the loft and lying on the floor with the dog. I loved any moment that he was on set. It made me really happy.
The trend-setting off-the-shoulder gray sweatshirt you wore onscreen was unforgettable. Do you still have it?
Oh, yes. It’s in storage. I have that and the red band jacket. They’re in a trunk somewhere.
How do you think the movie holds up today?
I haven't seen it for a long time, but I do remember that it had such an amazing sense of style. Not just the clothes, but the production design and the way that [director] Adrian [Lyne] shot it. Everything was so sexualized, and it was incredible. It was just a very sensual visual experience.
Do you still dance at all?
Oh sure—in my living room, I dance all the time. I look with envy at [Sia’s] “Chandelier” video. I've watched that over and over again. It's so beautiful. That young girl Maddie [Zeigler] is incredible. She's obviously such a craft person, but she's also channeling something else that's going on. She's incredible.