Despite her fame, Jennifer Beals remains a hermit – as she often describes herself – whose striking charm and genuine personality shines through on and off screen.
Born in Chicago on December 19th 1963, as the daughter of an African-American father and a Caucasian mother, Beals’ wish, as a child, was to always “be a part of a story”.
She worked as a model in the late 70s and it took her a number of years until she landed her first role, as an uncredited extra in My Bodyguard (1980), a film about a boy who is harrassed by a bully at the new school he joined and uses the services of the school’s most-feared kid as a bodyguard.
Three years later, she becomes a pop-culture phenomenon in Adrian Lyne’s Flashdance, in a role in which she earned celebrity as well as a Golden Globe nomination. Lyne recalls almost 25 years later what made him choose Beals to portray Alexandra Owens, welder by day and dancer by night, working hard to be accepted at the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance and Repertory: “She was stunning and lovely, not conventionally beautiful, and had an unusual vulnerability.”
After Flashdance, she went back to Yale to complete her education although, during summer breaks, she managed to squeeze in a couple of more movies: The Bride (1985) where she starred alongside Sting and Split Decisions with Gene Hackman (1988). Unfortunately, neither of them helped to advance her career.
With an American Literature degree in her hand, Beals set her sights on establishing herself as an actress. She therefore went to study stage acting at The Goodman School of Drama, DePaul University, in Chicago.
In the 90s, Jennifer Beals worked on independent movies, which made her hardly visible to that segment of the public hungry for what commercial success entails. Despite that, she has grown into an actress who is particularly good at coming across to audiences as a superb and fascinating performer. Her impressive resume includes a number of more than 50 films.
Careful with her career choices, whether there are roles she’s being offered or she goes after, the most important thing for Beals is how engaging the story is. For instance, she made quite a lot of horror movies as she is fascinated beyond words by vampires and their mythology.
Beals landed parts in movies where she worked with reputable actors like In the Soup (1992) with Stanley Tucci and Steve Buscemi, Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) alongside Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle or Roger Dodger (2002) starring with Elizabeth Berkley and Jesse Eisenberg. The same Jesse who just earned an Oscar nomination for portraying Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network.
She reunited with Washington in the post-apocalyptic tale The Book of Eli (2010), where she played Claudia, the blind girlfriend of Carnegie, the villain (played by Gary Oldman).