Jennifer Beals
Beals at the 2008 L5 convention in Blackpool
Born (1963-12-19) December 19, 1963 (age 60)
EducationYale University
Years active1980–present
Known forAlexandra Owens: Flashdance
Bette Porter: The L Word
(m. 1986; div. 1996)
Ken Dixon
(m. 1998)
ChildrenElla Dixon

Jennifer Beals (born December 19, 1963)[1] is an American actress. She made her film debut in My Bodyguard (1980), before receiving critical acclaim for her performance as Alexandra Owens in Flashdance (1983), for which she won NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical.

Beals has appeared in several films including Vampire's Kiss (1988), Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), The Last Days of Disco (1998), Roger Dodger (2002), The Book of Eli (2010), Before I Fall (2017), and Luckiest Girl Alive (2022). On television, she starred in shows such as The Chicago Code (2011), Proof (2015), Taken (2017), and The Book of Boba Fett (2021). Her portrayal of Bette Porter on the Showtime drama series The L Word (2004–2009) earned her a nomination for the Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama. She reprised her role as Bette Porter and served as an executive producer on the sequel series The L Word: Generation Q (2019–2023).

Early life

Beals was born and raised in the South Side of Chicago, Illinois,[2] the daughter of Jeanne (née Anderson), an elementary school teacher, and Alfred Beals, who owned grocery stores.[3] Beals's father was African-American, and her mother is Irish-American.[4] She has two brothers, Bobby and Gregory.[5] Her father died when Beals was nine,[6] after which she spent a summer at Cheley Colorado Camps in Estes Park, Colorado.[7] Her mother married Edward Cohen[5] in 1981.[8] Beals says that her biracial heritage affected her. Of her youth, she says that she "always lived sort of on the outside", with a feeling "of being the other in society".[4] Beals's first job was at age 13 at an ice cream store, using her height at the time (later 5 ft 8 in [1.73 m]) to convince her boss she was 16 years old.[6]

Two key moments inspired Beals to pursue a career in acting—working on her high school's production of Fiddler on the Roof, and seeing Balm in Gilead (with Joan Allen) while volunteer-ushering at the Steppenwolf Theatre.[9]

Beals graduated from Francis W. Parker School in Chicago,[10] then participated in Goodman Theatre Young People's Drama Workshop.[11] She graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in American Literature in 1987.[12] While at Yale, Beals was a resident of Morse College.[12] She deferred a term so she could perform in the feature film Flashdance.[10]



Beals in Sweden during promotion for Flashdance, July 1983.

Beals had a minor role in the 1980 film My Bodyguard,[13] then came to fame with her starring part in Flashdance. The third-highest grossing U.S. film of 1983, Flashdance is the story of 18-year-old Alex, a welder by day and sensual dancer by night, whose dream is to be accepted someday at an illustrious school of dance. Beals was cast for this key role while still a student at Yale. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and the film received an Academy Award for Best Song. Many of Beals's elaborate dance moves were actually performed by dance double Marine Jahan.[14] Gymnast Sharon Shapiro performed the flips as a body double for actress Beals.[15][16][17]

After she filmed Flashdance, Beals resumed her studies, making only one film during that time: playing the title role in The Bride with singer-actor Sting, a gothic horror film loosely based on the 1935 classic Bride of Frankenstein,[18] shot during her summer break.[19] She also appeared as Cinderella in an episode of Faerie Tale Theatre, opposite Matthew Broderick.[13] Beals was asked by Joel Schumacher to do St. Elmo's Fire but turned it down, preferring to stay at Yale.[20]

After graduating from Yale in 1987, Beals resumed her acting career, playing the love interest in the boxing film Split Decisions opposite Craig Sheffer.[10] Starring opposite Nicolas Cage, she portrayed a lusty and thirsty vampire in 1989's Vampire's Kiss.

In 1995, Beals and Denzel Washington co-starred in Devil in a Blue Dress, a period film based on a Walter Mosley novel featuring L.A. private detective, Easy Rawlins. Beals plays a biracial woman passing for white. That same year she appeared with Tim Roth in two segments of the four-story anthology Four Rooms, one of which was directed by her then-husband, Alexandre Rockwell.

Rockwell had previously directed her in the 1992 independent film In the Soup, which was a Grand Prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival.[21] In 2003, she played one of the sequestered jury members in the film adaptation of Runaway Jury.

She had a leading role in 2006's The Grudge 2, sequel to the hit horror film of two years earlier. In 2010, Beals reunited with Denzel Washington in the post-apocalyptic action drama The Book of Eli, where she played a blind woman who is the mother of Mila Kunis' character and a consort of a local despot played by Gary Oldman.[22]

Beals portrayed UCLA Bruins gymnastics head coach Valorie Kondos Field, in the film Full Out, about Ariana Berlin.[23]

In 2017, Beals played the role of Samantha Kingston's mother, in the film version of Before I Fall.

In 2019, she played the role of Karen in the romantic film After.


Beals during a panel discussion of In the Soup at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

In 1992, she appeared in 2000 Malibu Road as attorney Perry Quinn. It was her first television series; she said she had been leery as she previously had not "found a character I wanted to live with for several years".[11]

In 2004, Beals made a brief cameo in the final episode of Frasier. In 2007, she appeared in the small TV drama My Name Is Sarah, in which she plays Sarah Winston, a sober woman who inadvertently walks in on an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and is mistaken for an alcoholic, but finds herself falling in love with a recovering alcoholic and—as a result—having to deal with her original deception in joining the group.[24]

Beals starred in Showtime's The L Word, wherein she played Bette Porter, a lesbian, Ivy League-educated, art museum director. At Beals's request, Bette was made biracial, enabling Pam Grier's Kit Porter character to become Bette's half-sister.[25] Beals's initial research for the part focused more on the woman's profession as an art museum director than on her life as a lesbian;[26] "I was much more obsessed by the work that Bette did, because she was so obsessed by the work that she did."[27] The series ran for six seasons and ended in March 2009.

She also appears alongside Tim Roth in Lie to Me, as Cal Lightman's ex-wife, Zoe Landau.

Beals was the female lead in Fox's TV drama The Chicago Code. Her character Teresa Colvin is Chicago's first female police superintendent.[28] The series was canceled after its first season.[29]

Beals turned down an offer to appear on Dancing with the Stars, saying: "I am not a dancer. They asked me and I said 'no.' You could back up a truck to my door filled with cash and I wouldn't do it."[30]

In 2013, Beals signed on for the main role of the ABC drama pilot Westside produced by McG and developed by Ilene Chaiken.[31]

On March 10, 2014, it was announced that Beals would star as Dr. Kathryn Russo in Proof, a TNT supernatural medical drama about a hard-nosed surgeon, struggling with the loss of her teenage son, who begins to investigate that there may be life after death. The series ran from June 16 through August 18, 2015, and was produced by Kyra Sedgwick.[32]

On February 27, 2017, Beals played the leader of a small group of specially trained government operatives for the new series Taken, which serves as a prequel to the Taken film series.

In September 2018, Beals was cast in the role of Sheriff Lucilia Cable for the Swamp Thing series.[33]

In December 2019, Beals reprised her role as Bette Porter in The L Word: Generation Q, the sequel series to The L Word, and also executive-produces the show. She stars alongside fellow The L Word cast members, Katherine Moennig and Leisha Hailey.[34]

In December 2021, Beals appeared in the series premiere of The Book of Boba Fett, a Disney+ series in the Star Wars franchise, where she portrays the Twi'lek Garsa Fwip.[35][36]

In 2022, Beals appeared as art gallery owner Cassandra Webb in the NBC series Law & Order: Organized Crime for five episodes.

Web series

Beals is also well known for her support of women's rights. In August 2012, she appeared alongside Troian Bellisario in the web series Lauren on the YouTube channel WIGS.[37] Its first season is a three-episode arc featuring the stories of women in the army being abused, predominantly by more powerful superiors. The stories focused on frequently unreported cases of sexual abuse and how and why most of the cases went unreported or unsettled. Beals has also appeared in two interviews, discussing her views in relation to Lauren.[38][39]

In January 2013, Troian Bellisario confirmed on her Twitter and Instagram that she and Beals were filming more Lauren web episodes.[40][41] Lauren returned on May 3, 2013, with a second season of 12 episodes.[42][43]

Personal life

While attending Yale, Beals dated future film executive Robert Simonds.[44] She married Alexandre Rockwell in 1986, before divorcing in 1996.[4] In 1998, she married Ken Dixon, a Canadian entrepreneur. On October 18, 2005, Beals gave birth to their daughter. Dixon also has two children from a previous marriage.[45]

Beals has described herself as a spiritual person. She has expressed interest in the Bible and Catholicism, as well as Judaism, to which she once considered converting, and is a practicing Buddhist.[46][47][48]

She has been a vocal advocate for gay rights, saying, "I think after playing Bette Porter on The L Word for six years I felt like an honorary member of the community."[49] Beals was a Celebrity Grand Marshal at the 2006 San Francisco Pride Parade.[50] In October 2012, she received the Human Rights Campaign's Ally For Equality Award, in recognition of her outstanding support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.[51]

Beals is a practitioner of kung-fu, sanshou, and kickboxing, and is a triathlete.[52][53]

Beals is a photographer[5] and has had shows featuring her work under her married name, Dixon.[54] In 1989, she spent some time in Haiti photographing the elections.[55] She published a book about her time on The L Word featuring her own photographs.[56]

In 2010, Beals served as the Grand Marshal of the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago,[57] during which she spoke of the two charities important to her: the Matthew Shepard Foundation and Pablove Foundation.[58]



Year Title Role Notes
1980 My Bodyguard Clifford's Friend
1983 Flashdance Alexandra Owens
1985 The Bride Eva
1988 The Gamble Lady Olivia Candioni
Split Decisions Barbara Uribe
Vampire's Kiss Rachel
1989 Sons Transgender
1990 Dr. M Sonja Vogler
The Madonna and the Dragon Patty Meredith Television film
1991 Blood and Concrete Mona
1992 In the Soup Angelica Pena
Terror Stalks the Class Reunion [fr] Virginia Television film
Indecency Ellie Shaw Television film
Day of Atonement Joyce Ferranti
1993 Night Owl Julia Television film
The Thief and the Cobbler Princess Yum-Yum Voice
Caro diario Herself
1994 Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle Gertrude Benchley
Dead on Sight Rebecca Darcy
The Search for One-eye Jimmy Ellen
1995 Four Rooms Angela
Devil in a Blue Dress Daphne Monet
Let It Be Me Emily Taylor
1997 The Twilight of the Golds Suzanne Stein Television film
Wishful Thinking Elizabeth
1998 The Prophecy II Valerie Rosales Video
The Spree Xinia Kelly Television film
The Last Days of Disco Nina Moritz
1999 Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying Jessica
Something More Lisa
Body and Soul Gina Television film
2000 A House Divided Amanda Dickson Television film
Militia Julie Sanders
2001 The Big House Lorraine Brewster Television film
The Anniversary Party Gina Taylor
After the Storm Mrs. Gavotte Television film
Out of Line Parole Officer Jenny Capitanas
The Feast of All Saints Dolly Rose Television film
2002 13 Moons Suzi
Roger Dodger Sophie
They Shoot Divas, Don't They? Sloan McBride Television film
2003 Without Malice Samantha Wilkes Television film
Runaway Jury Vanessa Lembeck
2004 Catch That Kid Molly Phillips
2005 Break a Leg Juliet
Desolation Sound Elizabeth Storey
2006 The Grudge 2 Patricia "Trish" Kimble
Troubled Waters Special Agent Jennifer Beck
2007 My Name Is Sarah Sarah Winston Television film
2009 Queen to Play L'Américaine
2010 The Book of Eli Claudia
A Night for Dying Tigers Melanie
The Night Before the Night Before Christmas Angela Fox Television film
2012 Widow Detective Lainey Television film
2013 Cinemanovels Clementine
2014 A Wife's Nightmare Liz Michaels Television film
2015 Full Out Coach Valorie Kondos-Field
The Laws of the Universe Part 0 Inkar Voice[59][60]
2016 Manhattan Night Lisa Wren
2017 Before I Fall Mrs. Kingston
2018 The White Orchid Vivian
2019 After Karen Scott
2020 Ali's Realm Principal Dawson Short
2022 Luckiest Girl Alive Lolo Vincent


Year Title Role Notes
1985 Faerie Tale Theatre Cinderella Episode: "Cinderella"
1992 2000 Malibu Road Perry Quinn Main cast
1997 The Outer Limits Robin Dysart Episode: "Bodies of Evidence"
1997-98 Nothing Sacred Justine Madsen Judd Recurring role
1999 The Hunger Jane Episode: "And She Laughed"
2000 E! True Hollywood Story Herself Episode: "Flashdance"
Where Are They Now? Herself Episode: "Music Movie Stars"
2004 Frasier Dr. Anne Ranberg Episode: "Goodnight, Seattle: Part 1 & 2"
2004-09 The L Word Bette Porter Main cast
2007 The Directors Herself Episode: "The Films of Adrian Lyne"
Law & Order Sofia Archer Episode: "Charity Case"
2009-10 Lie to Me Zoe Landau Recurring cast (seasons 1 and 2)
2011 The Chicago Code Teresa Colvin Main cast
2012 Castle CIA Agent Sophia Turner 2 episodes
2012-13 The Mob Doctor Celeste LaPree Recurring cast
Lauren Major Jo Stone Main cast
2014 Motive Sophia Balfour Episode: "They Made Me a Criminal"
2015 Proof Dr. Carolyn "Cat" Tyler Main cast
2016-17 The Night Shift Dr. Sydney "Syd" Jennings Recurring cast (season 3), guest (season 4)
2017 The Last Tycoon Margo Taft Recurring cast
2017-18 Taken Christina Hart Main cast
2019 Swamp Thing Lucilia Cable Main cast
2019-23 The L Word: Generation Q Bette Porter Main cast
2021-22 The Book of Boba Fett Madam Garsa Fwip Guest cast (3 episodes); Silent cameo (1 episode)
2022 Law & Order: Organized Crime Cassandra Webb Recurring cast (season 2)

As producer

Year Title Role Notes
2019 The L Word: Generation Q Co-executive producer

Awards and nominations

Year Awards Category Recipient Outcome
1984 NAACP Image Awards NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Flashdance Won
Golden Globe Awards Golden Globe Award for Best Actress Nominated
1986 Razzie Awards Razzie Award for Worst Actress The Bride Nominated
1996 NAACP Image Awards NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Devil in a Blue Dress Nominated
1998 Satellite Awards Satellite Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film The Twilight of the Golds Won
2001 Satellite Awards Satellite Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film A House Divided Nominated
2005 Satellite Awards Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama The L Word Nominated
2007 NAACP Image Awards NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Nominated
2008 NAACP Image Awards NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Nominated


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