It’s no easy feat to maintain a Hollywood career for more than 30 years, but actress Jennifer Beals is not only maintaining—she’s thriving.
At age 53, the former ’80s “It girl” and “Flashdance” star has found herself featured in buzz-worthy projects debuting this week on both the big and small screens.
In the new NBC show “Taken” (Mondays at 10 p.m. ET), which is a prequel series following Liam Neeson’s “Taken” film character Bryan Mills, Beals plays Special Deputy Director of National Intelligence Christina Hart. When Mills joins the top secret agency, Hart takes him under her wing as he sharpens his very particular, very dangerous set of skills.
In theaters, Beals plays mom to actress Zoey Deutch in the new movie “Before I Fall.” Based on the 2010 young adult novel of the same time, the film follows a high school girl named Samantha (Deutch) as she’s forced to relive the same day—the day of her sudden and tragic death—over and over again, forcing her to examine the actions that lead her to that moment and try to do things differently.
I caught up with Jennifer earlier this week for more on both projects:
David Onda: For fans of the “Taken” movies, what is the common thread between that series and the new TV show?
Jennifer Beals: I think what’s really wonderful about the series is that it’s really an origin story for a character that they know and love. You get to see how he develops his skills to become that character that you’re familiar with in the films. For me, one of my favorite parts of “Spider-Man” is watching him learn how to use his web and go from building to building—so you’re watching him further develop the skills that he has.
Onda: So, to be clear, Bryan Mills is not searching for his daughter in every episode.
Beals: [laughs] No! No, no, no. It starts way before then and you get to see how he becomes that person. He’s got a full life before that. He’s a young man. It’s Bryan Mills as a young man.
Onda: One of the things I’ve always admired about the roles you take is that they are so often strong, independent, intelligent women. And this character in “Taken” is no different.
Beals: Thank you. She’s very strategic and definitely sees the big picture and she’s very dedicated to her job and lives in this sphere of moral ambiguity, some people may say.
Onda: There’s certainly no shortage of TV shows out there—especially those in the vein of a police procedural—why should people give “Taken” a chance?
Beals: One of the things I really love about the show is the action comes from character, so that you care when there’s a chase scene and you care when the car flips over and you care when somebody is running away from danger, because you’re so invested in the character.
Onda: You’re also in this new movie “Before I Fall.” When you first read the script, what was it about the movie that really sold you on the project?
Beals: I think one of the beautiful themes about the film is that it talks about how, at any given moment in your day, you can make the decision to change the rest of your life.
Onda: When you look back at your life and career, what was the moment that changed your life? What was the fork in the road that changed everything?
Beals: I don’t know that there was a fork in the road that changed everything, honestly, when I think of it that way. It just seems like an accumulation of purpose somehow.
Onda: You and Zoey’s mom, Lea Thompson, were two of the hottest actresses in Hollywood in 1983 and 1984. Did you two run in the same circles at all?
Beals: No! You know, I’ve never met her. I was saying to Zoey, “I have to have dinner with your mom. We need to meet. We need to talk.” I know that I would adore her because her daughter is so exquisite.
Onda: What was your impression of Zoey while working with her on this film?
Beals: I think she’s brilliant. I think she really, truly brilliant and is going to have an amazing career, not only as an actor, but quite potentially as a writer and a director as well.
Onda: In a film like this, in which the same events occur over and over again, I’d imagine maintaining continuity is no easy feat. Was that one of the more difficult aspects of this production?
Beals: Not for me. I think for Zoey it probably was, but for me it wasn’t because my character stays the same. I have one small change. I think it’s really Zoey that had to keep track of all the different changes in her character and the different times of the different days and what she was going through. For me, I’m really reacting off of her character and I have very, very few changes.
Onda: If you could relive the same day over and over and over again, do you have a day in mind?
Beals: In present life, it would probably be something with my family, but I think it would be interesting to relive the moment right before I was born. That would be interesting. To have my consciousness now doing that, I think that would be interesting.
Onda: You’ve been working for more than 30 years now and you’ve been very successful. What keeps you hungry, what are you still chasing and what’s the ultimate for you in this business?
Beals: I don’t know that I chase anything. There’s a desire for a deepening and an expansion. I think that makes me happy because it feels like freedom.
Catch Jennifer Beals in “Taken” every Monday night at 10 p.m. ET on NBC or with XFINITY On Demand, and check out “Before I Fall” in theaters everywhere beginning March 3.