What a feeling! I’ve still got it at 47: Jennifer Beals first became a sex symbol in Flashdance and now she’s setting TV screens alight almost three decades later.
Jennifer Beals was the star of Flashdance, one of the biggest movies of the 1980s – with one of the most memorable soundtracks – and although it’s hard to believe the film is nearly 30 years old, her place in men’s hearts is unassailed.
As Alex Owens – the legendary welder-by-day/dancer-by-night – Jennifer walked the tough-yet-feminine line with singular aplomb, and it’s a feat she manages once again in her new series The Chicago Code.
It is a crime drama (created by Shawn Ryan, the man behind The Shield) that focuses on the frictions behind the city’s police force. Beals is again thrust into a male-dominated world as Teresa Colvin, Chicago’s first female police chief and the woman in charge of a 10,000-strong force.
Colvin fights corruption, moving her way round the convoluted politics of the city and kicking industrial amounts of backside. But, says Jennifer,
‘She and I are very different. She has a strong moral compass, but she just isn’t too good at balancing family and friends with her job.’
After a career spanning 30 years, with roles in films such as The Book Of Eli with Denzel Washington, The Chicago Code is Jennifer’s third regular TV role – her first was on The L Word, which ended two years ago. It was a critical and commercial success, and focused on the love lives of a glamorous group of LA lesbians, not dissimilar to the straight ladies of Sex And The City.
Her role as Bette Porter included a smattering of lesbian love scenes, and although Jennifer had a no-nudity clause in her contract (‘I was offered Playboy and told them I’d do it when there was peace in the Middle East’), she still engaged in some risqué moments on screen.
‘As you get older, any kind of sex scene becomes a concern,’ she laughs. ‘As for kissing women, at first I thought, “What do I do?” But then I decided, this scene is about me loving this person, so I just related it to that. I’m heterosexual and have not questioned my sexuality so the love scenes weren’t a problem.’
That the show revved up Jennifer’s sex symbol status is unquestionable, ‘and at my age, I’m just grateful if anyone still thinks I’m sexy.’ She is, of course, talking nonsense. At 47 and devoid of make-up, she is still immensely pretty, and in khaki capris, gingham shirt and flip flops, retains her svelte Flashdance figure. She hasn’t resorted to Botox or surgery: ‘I have no intention of doing so because I’d be the one they’d screw it up on and I’d end up looking like a Picasso.’
Jennifer has long had a reputation for guarding her private life (‘there are about three people who have my home phone number and they are all related to me’), and for tensing slightly at any mention of the ‘F’ word. It is noticeable how her chattiness dissolves when I speak of Flashdance. One can understand her wariness at having to discuss a film she made so long ago, but it was a huge success, making more than £60m in the States alone and turning 19-year-old Jennifer into a star.
‘I’ve done a lot since then, but it seems that people just love talking about it. I don’t think it makes me feel proud, because I didn’t write or direct it. But it’s nice that people remember the film fondly. I was offered lots of money to make Flashdance 2, but I just wasn’t interested.