Actress Jennifer Beals has made her mark in film (Flashdance, Devil in a Blue Dress) and TV (The L Word, The Chicago Code, Lie to Me), and now she’s adding her acting chops to online programming.
WIGS is a new scripted channel on YouTube that offers edgy, provocative series, short films and documentaries featuring female leads, who have included Dakota Fanning, America Ferrera and Julia Stiles. It’s the brainchild of Jon Avnet (Black Swan, Fried Green Tomatoes) and Rodrigo Garcia (In Treatment, Albert Nobbs). Beals stars in Lauren, a three-episode series premiering today that delves into the issue of sexual assault in the military.
In Lauren, Beals plays Major Jo Stone, who must review a report from a staff sergeant, played by Troian Bellisario (Pretty Little Liars), alleging she was sexually assaulted by three fellow soldiers. The series is directed by Lesli Linka Glatter (True Blood, Pretty Little Liars, Mad Men).
We caught up with Beals last week during a conference call in which she talked about acting for an online audience, roles for older women and how she has been spending her summer (hint: Missy Franklin may want to take notes).
An edited version of the interview follows.
On the differences between online and traditional productions: “We don’t have the same kind of budget you might have for a network series, so you’re problem solving in a different way. You’re not throwing money at problems; you have to do something more creative … I feel like you’re able to tell stories you may not be able to tell on network TV or perhaps cable ... It feels very free because there are no rules attached to it, because no one really knows exactly what it is yet, and so it feels very exciting. Also, it’s easily accessible. It lives online for as long as the people who made it want it to live online—or even longer.”
On the future of scripted online entertainment: “I don’t think it will erase television. I don’t think it will erase films, certainly. But I think it gives filmmakers, storytellers, actors and artists another way to express themselves and tell stories and perhaps not have to wait so long to get permission to tell those stories. Because, by and large, with films and TV series, you have to wait until you get these relatively large budgets to make them. Online, you get a digital camera and you’re off and running. Our budgets were not very large at all for WIGS. It was just really people having a sense of playfulness and curiosity and dedication to go tell a story. Nobody was there to make a lot of money.”
On what she likes to watch online: “Movies. I love iTunes, I love Netflix. I love to watch films. The last one I watched [online] was Take This Waltz. And Tiny Furniture I watched online. And Orlando I watched online, which holds up surprisingly well on a little teeny-tiny screen. It’s a great film.”
On what attracts her to a script: “The story is always first and foremost. I’m most enticed by narrative, regardless of what the narrative is. And then it’s certainly a consideration of who you get to work with, who you get to go play with. If I have to pay the mortgage, that’s also a consideration.”
On roles for older women: “One thing, I think, that needs to be addressed is how roles for older women—which is basically anybody over 30—become desexualized, because that’s not the case. I would like to fix that … I don’t think love and sexuality die after 35.”