Despite The L Word wrapping its six-season run on Showtime nearly a near ago, Jennifer Beals has spent almost every day with the cast of the ground-breaking lesbian drama -- on her computer. Paring down hundreds of photos for selection into her upcoming L Word book, Beals has been hands-on -- conducting interviews with her former cast members, transcribing them, editing photos, layouts and more - and she's is so excited that she might "dance on the table when the first book goes out."
In Part 1 of SheWired.com's exclusive interview with the actress who played our beloved Bette Porter, we get all the details on The L Word book, how she got into photography and why donating the proceeds from the book to charity is important.
SheWired caught up with the actress who played our beloved Bette Porter to get all the details on The L Word book, how she got into photography, what she thought of the way the show ended and if she’ll reunite with series creator Ilene Chaiken on her upcoming reality series The Real L Word: Los Angeles this summer.
SheWired: So how did The L Word book start?
Jennifer Beals: Usually if I do a film or a project that I really love and I’ve been photographing during the shooting, I will make the cast and crew a present out of the photo book. Partially it’s a selfish endeavor (laughs) because I want one. And I figure if I’m going to get one, I might as well give one to everybody else because they might appreciate it as well. I was going to do one for The L Word and I was in the midst of putting it together when I remembered this experience I had at an L Word convention a couple years ago. People seem to be really interested in the minutia of the show. I had a couple of prints that I brought to auction off for charity and they went very quickly, and I thought, “Maybe I should make this book available to the fans and the book can benefit charity.”
More on next page...
I just had no idea what it takes, really, to put a book together. We had a very lovely publisher who offered to publish the book and the royalty that they offered was so small that I thought, “Well, then the charities won’t see much money and that’s the purpose of the book.” As much as I would have loved to have a copy of the book, period, the real purpose of the book was to generate funds for charities that were hit in the recession — which I think would be every single charity. So I called a representative that I know at Kodak, and they had approached me years ago about doing a project, about doing something online. So I talked to them and they introduced me to a company called ColorCentric in New York. Both Kodak and ColorCentric have been incredibly helpful in putting the book together. So that’s how it became a project that’s going to be alive online. Kodak had also suggested, “Why don’t you offer people the opportunity to upload their own images.” And I said it would be perfect because it has really been this communal show — whether you like the show or don’t like the show, it’s galvanizing and people feel a sense of ownership of the show. And I thought it would be nice for people to feel like they were part of the continuum in some way.
More on next page...
What were your cast members’ reactions to your putting the book together?
They were all really excited, because everybody wanted one, too. And it was fun! Because originally I had just imagined it as a straight photo book, and invariably I went to the various cast members and showed them the pictures because I wanted everybody to be happy with how they were represented in the book and I let people edit themselves. Most people were really pretty easygoing about it. What I started to then was interview people as I showed them the photos because the photos from the first rehearsal ever brought up a discussion about how the show began and what our relationships were like when we first started and how we imagined things would be. And then you have a photograph of Mia Kirshner’s last day on the show and that elicits another conversation of how the show ended and how people felt about the way the show ended and what our relationships were like by that time. And certainly by that time we were like a family — functional and dysfunctional. Everybody had an opportunity talk about their journey. So I transcribed those interviews and put them in the book as well for us to have — for everybody to have.
As you were taking all the photos on the set, was there anyone specific in the cast that was really excited about it? Was anyone a ham or shy?
The thing was, I initially wasn’t taking photos to make a book. If I had been taking photographs to make a book, I would have had at least 10 times the amount of photographs that I have. I would have documented every single thing. There are cast members who aren’t in the book because I didn’t really have scenes with them; I wasn’t around them very much. There are some people who I really wish were in the book but aren’t, which really breaks my heart. But that’s just the nature of not knowing what you’re going to be doing in two years.
More on next page...
Kate French. There’s like one picture of Kate and I wish there were more. She’s really sweet and I just really got a kick out of her. But we just never really spent very much time together. We were always working on different scenes. And I didn’t bring my camera with me every single day because I didn’t know I was making a book. (Laughs). But all of the original cast are all very well represented.
Is there a favorite photo of yours that’s part of the book?
I don’t know that I have a favorite; there’s some that I really love. Like the picture of Leisha (Hailey) jumping through the clothes at the Vanity Fair shoot, and I love the picture of Laurel (Holloman) in my trailer very, very pregnant. And then there are certain pictures that I love because they invoke certain things for me, they’re not necessarily good pictures, they’re just a good remembrance for me.
More on next page...
So when will the book be available for purchase?
It will be up by Feb. 1. I just talked to the representative at ColorCentric today (Friday, Jan 8). But all the text is done, all the photographs are chosen, all the layouts are done. It’s just a matter of making sure that technically the site works well, so that when people upload their images, there’s not some error that happens where you’ll have to go back and reconfigure the whole thing.
But there will be a hardcopy of the book, right?
Oh yeah. It’s a hardcopy book. There will be three different things that you can order — or a combination thereof. There’ll be a static book where if you don’t feel like uploading pictures or making a dedication — you just want a regular straight book that you get at a store — there’ll be that version. And that version will probably be up first, that along with a static version where you’ll be able to make a dedication. Like say somebody wants to buy it as a Valentine’s Day present, they want to put a dedication in the front. They’ll be able to do that. And those two books will probably be available first. Then the third one will be where you can upload images. I think there’s a choice where you can add I think six pages of images at the back of the book where you’ll be able to upload your own pictures and/or make a dedication in the front so that the book is more alive.
So the book will only be available for sale on the dedicated Web site?
LWordBook.com, yeah. Right now that’s where we are. And PowerCentric takes care of all the things — they send out all the books and take the orders. They’ve been in business as long as one can be in that business in the 21st century, but they have a really good track record. I anonymously ordered some books through them to see how it went and it was great, it was really fun.
More on next page...
How many images are included ?
Well, the book is over 220 pages long. It’ll be fun. I can’t wait to have one. I just can not wait! (Laughs.)
Do you know a price on it?
Not yet because they haven’t given me their price point on it yet.
How did you decide which charities to donate proceeds from the book to?
I wanted to donate to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, because I worship Judy Shepard and I think it’s an amazing organization. And I wanted to donate to Mia’s organization (I Live Here Projects) because I so respect what she’s doing and what she’s trying to do and she’s been so immensely helpful in the creation of the book. And the other organization (The Pablove Foundation) is very dear to me because it’s also a friend who has created it and her son passed away recently from this harmful disease (Wilms’ Tumor) and I wanted to support her and her family and all the families that are encountering the same disease with their children.
If the book is a great success, maybe we’ll switch out and give some other organizations the opportunity to benefit. Because you know, quite frankly, I really hope the book does well — for many reasons. But one of them is, when I talk to various people about putting the book together or about organizations that help you put together foundations, people didn’t want to be involved with the book because they said, “Oh the lesbian community is too small and you won’t get many people to buy the book because it’s a lesbian community and it’s too small.” And it made me so angry. It was all I could do not to channel Bette Porter. It made me really angry. I was like, “You do not know the power or the scope of this community.” And it was just really insulting, actually, to me. So I would really love for the book to do really well so those people could eat crow.
That would be awesome.
(Laughing) That’s what I’m hoping!
So how did you get into photography?
I have to say, it was a boyfriend thing. I had a boyfriend in high school and he had a darkroom and he was a really good photographer, and I started taking pictures because it was a really great way to be in the darkroom with him and his mom couldn’t open the door. Then when I was in college, I wanted to take a photography class but was really unsure of myself because every week you’d have critiques of people’s work, and I didn’t know how comfortable I’d be doing that or how capable I was, and of course it’s a class, so you’re not supposed to be capable right off the bat, you’re supposed to learn something.
But I had a boyfriend who was taking the class, and I took this portrait of him and said, “Can you put this on the wall and say it’s your work and just tell me what the professor said?” So he came back and said the professor loved the photograph and told me some details of what he had said. Then at the end of the term, the professor picked two photographs from each student to put in the final show and the portrait that I had taken of my boyfriend was chosen to represent my boyfriend’s work, which I thought was hilarious. I was then emboldened to enroll in my own photography class and take my own picture to represent myself rather than somebody else.
Are there any photographers whose work you admire?
Oh so many to start to name. It’s absurd. My house is just stacks and stacks of photography books.
What other projects have you made photography books for your cast mates for?
Anniversary Party and a bunch of them. But the last one was Anniversary Party.
Look for Part 2 of our exclusive interview with Jennifer Beals on SheWired on Wednesday.