By Lorna Soonhee Umphrey | August 15, 2017 | People
We rang Jennifer Beals ahead of the Amazon series premiere of The Last Tycoon to talk about the intricacies of her character, why a monologue written for her was the best gift ever, and whether there's any truth to the rumors that there's a sequal in the works for The L Word.
Throw in the glitz and glamour of a demanding Hollywood starlet and an F. Scott Fitzgerald storyline, and Amazon's The Last Tycoon is born. Jennifer Beals, in her latest role, plays Margo Taft—the show's in-demand actress known for her sophistication and class—who has an affinity for tactically getting her own way—every time.
The Last Tycoon is so beautiful and your character, Margo Taft, is such a strong, ballsy woman.
JENNIFER BEALS: She sure is and in an era of strong and ballsy women—that’s the thing.
What did you enjoy about playing this powerful character?
JB: Certainly, Billy Ray, and Chris Keyser gave me such wonderful, wonderful words and such a rich foundation for a character. I shall be forever grateful. The language and the complexity that is so, oh, it’s just delicious to play somebody who’s that complex. There are so many different layers and there’s so many different masks going on. Paradoxically, she’s putting on these masks so she can be free. It’s a really complicated notion.
Is there anything in her that you can relate to in this day and age?
JB: Well, it’s funny. I had this conversation once with Kenny Ortega [Executive Producer of the upcoming film, The Edge], where he was talking about when he was a young man, he used to miss the characters after he was playing them. And he realized then that when certain characters expand and become more, and you don’t always have to leave them behind completely. I feel like in playing Margo, I had an opportunity to expand into this incredibly powerful, self-assured person. And there’s only a few moments of uncertainty which makes it really interesting when someone who is so sure of themselves is knocked off the pedestal there for awhile. Which makes getting back on really interesting, like you do it in a different way. Maybe it’s no longer a pedestal then, maybe it’s something else. She’s so, so complicated living in a complicated time.
What did you dislike in her?
JB: She could let her ego get the better of her sometimes. The greatest flaw is that ego but it’s a service of something bigger. If she wallows too deep into ego, she loses sight of the goal. The goal isn’t just lording over people. It’s really, she’s got a really long-term plan and is in cahoots. One of the things that [I find] most interesting to me is that she’s an amazing strategist. I read somewhere in a press release or somebody had written that she’s a manipulator, but I don’t see her that way. I think if she were a man, no one would refer to her as a manipulator. They would refer to him as a great negotiator. She was a master negotiator and a master strategist.
What was it like to work with Kelsey Grammer and Matt Bomer?
JB: I mean, it’s heaven. It’s truly heaven. You know, when you come in as a guest star, it can be tricky. They were so welcoming and so thoughtful. It was a pleasure to be across from them with all of these amazing things they were creating every single second. And the woman who played Lucille is phenomenal, Scottie Caldwell. I had some tough scenes. Like I had some stuff that took a good diving into the wells, for sure, and I felt very safe. Not only with them but the crew. The crew was terrific.
Plus, the fact that it’s an F. Scott Fitzgerald story is pretty epic...
JB: So, Margo’s not in The Last Tycoon. She’s not a character that I think Fitzgerald could ever conceive, frankly. And I say that as a huge Fitzgerald fan, I’ve written so many essays on Fitzgerald’s work and I love him deeply but I don’t think he could have conceived of that character. That was sprung directly from Billy Ray’s direction.
Oh, okay, well, I’m glad he did.
JB: Yea, me, too! (laughs) Yea, I loved it so much that when I left, I missed saying those words. I had so much fun with that accent and I called Billy and I said, You know, you wouldn’t happen to have, like I know this is weird, but you wouldn’t happen to have a monologue that you wrote for Margo that you never used, would you. And he said, I don’t but I’ll write you one. And so, he wrote me one and he sent it to me. It was really one of the finest things that anybody’s ever done for me.
What are your thoughts on how the industry has changed in terms of roles for women these days?
JB: I think the way we tell stories is very different. And I think there’s a desire to be more inclusive. And time will tell if that really plays out or if it’s a momentary blip because you know, if you had told Monroe Stahr a film like Moonlight would get an Oscar, he would think you’d certainly be drinking too much, right? So, it’s interesting how far we’ve come in that regard. Certainly, we have a much longer way to go, but I think in many ways, television has taken over that sort of golden place of a certain type of film.
One last question, The L Word sequel. Is it happening for sure?
JB: Showtime seems very committed. Yea, it’s going to be really exciting. I’m very excited.
Photography courtesy Giuliano Bekor