Jennifer Beals was a college student when she landed the landmark role of steelworker Alex Owens in 'Flashdance.' That steamy water chair dance became an iconic '80s image that launched her career, and Beals has worked steadily since then (despite turning down the role of Apollonia in 'Purple Rain' and another in 'Pretty in Pink' to continue her studies). The 46-year-old recently starred in the critically-acclaimed 'The L-Word' for five seasons, and worked with Tim Roth on 'Lie To Me.'

She's currently on the set of the new Fox series 'Ride Along' as a no-nonsense Chicago police officer. But her latest film, Terry Miles' 'A Night for Dying Tigers,' will premiere at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. Beals plays a woman who gathers family and friends together for a farewell dinner for her husband, who is heading off to prison for five years. Moviefone spoke with Beals about familial love and why her character has a metaphorical dagger up her skirt.
Jennifer Beals was a college student when she landed the landmark role of steelworker Alex Owens in 'Flashdance.' That steamy water chair dance became an iconic '80s image that launched her career, and Beals has worked steadily since then (despite turning down the role of Apollonia in 'Purple Rain' and another in 'Pretty in Pink' to continue her studies). The 46-year-old recently starred in the critically-acclaimed 'The L-Word' for five seasons, and worked with Tim Roth on 'Lie To Me.'

She's currently on the set of the new Fox series 'Ride Along' as a no-nonsense Chicago police officer. But her latest film, Terry Miles' 'A Night for Dying Tigers,' will premiere at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. Beals plays a woman who gathers family and friends together for a farewell dinner for her husband, who is heading off to prison for five years. Moviefone spoke with Beals about familial love and why her character has a metaphorical dagger up her skirt.

It's interesting that the premise is so relatable, that it's about the loaded interactions of a family in crisis. Things get ugly and you can't look away.

This family takes things to new heights; the germ is in all us. What's also true is how we bear things, certain dysfunctions because we love people. With family, we also love our biology. You bear certain things because of biology and that is certainly true of Melanie.

That forbearance sometimes holds families and people and society together.
I found that to be exciting but I didn't feel it when I read the script. I saw the love between the brother and sister. This could be incredibly unsavory but when I watched the film, believing they should be together, it was a cultural boundary they cross. It was a very weird thing, and I'm unfamiliar with the phenomenon, but to see it play out in the film successfully to me was radical. How does society continue? Why doesn't it fall apart? Family takes all forms.



Your character is conflicted. She's so positive when she's not really feeling it. She plays the warm host even though she's ready to kill.
Definitely... Because you're in denial and that can only hold up so long. Things have to break apart and have new meaning. The character was in denial about her relationship with her husband and in denial and how it sustained itself. She had to come to a new meaning and understanding and know her place in the world. I think sometimes you can see something in a different experience and you learn something else, and it may resonate with you in different ways. Hopefully as her husband is going off to jail, another farewell may be happening. Their relationship is transforming and what they think they had at one time is now destroying them. That needs to change. There is no external force; you have to change it yourself.

And the last scene where Melanie is in the hospital sitting next to Jules [played by Kathleen Robertson]... There were takes where I couldn't put the wedding ring on. I couldn't do it. Forbearance for the whole family is okay for a little while, but if other people are not stepping up and trying to transform things for the betterment of the family or themselves, then it's no longer tenable. You see things coming -- you don't want to because they're so painful. It's not always enlightenment; it's often pain.

The film is going to frighten some people. Melanie is really falling apart.
Yes, but she is hiding a dagger in the folds of her skirt. Nobody knows the strength of will beneath her; she will eviscerate the enemy.

How does it affect you to work in an intense closed environment on such a tough project?
Well, first, the cast was amazing. They blow my mind. My goodness! They were so courageous as they went higher and higher. No, I felt great, we laughed a lot. But I would literally feel sick to my stomach and almost physically turn my car around in the mornings on the way to the set. If it were not for the other vibrating excitement that I had in the center of this dysfunction which was very exciting, I wouldn't have gone. It was like being on a boat in the middle of the ocean in a huge storm and being asked to dive down. You're told everything is going to be fine. It's exciting, the way a storm is exciting. And I felt very safe with this supportive group. We laughed while we went deep sea diving.

You go in a different direction in the new Fox police procedural this fall called 'Ride Along.' What is your character Theresa like?
For me, it's really an exploration of being female within a male context, and where you find a female strength within that police world. 'The L-Word' prepared me to do it in a world with my own sex. Without 'The L-Word' I doubt I would have felt as comfortable as I do. Theresa is much tougher, incredibly focused, driven and singular. I met policewomen and went on ride-alongs and that was eye-opening. I wouldn't last 30 seconds; I wouldn't be able to stand it, the stress, day in and day out. My nervous system wouldn't take it. My last ride-along was to a shooting. I was with the detective when he found the shell. It was interesting. But to think that Theresa was a police officer, a woman who made her way up through the ranks quickly and was driven enough at such a young age was just extraordinary. And she's in a discipline where others would love to see her fail. There are endless storylines about that and about cleaning up the corruption in Chicago.

You played Tim Roth's estranged wife on 'Lie to Me'; that must have been entertaining!

We've known each other for a long time and that makes it much easier. He's very dedicated to the show and very smart and he's a fine director. They're lucky to have him. He's really smart.

You published the Eastman Kodak and Color Centric photographic journal of 'The L Word' with 250 photographs, call sheets, production notes, and cast interviews. Wow.
The idea was for charity. It seems incredibly glamorous but it was really made for the cast and crew, and it became something more. So much of our experience of 'The L-Word' was as a catalyst for fundraisers for various organizations, and this was a way to continue that with proceeds going to charitiy.

You have always worked, which is amazing for an actor – what's the key?
I don't know. I have no idea! But I am incredibly grateful.

'A Night for Dying Tigers' opens on September 10, and is screening at the Toronto Film Festival.