Jennifer Beals talks making a web series with Troian Bellisario: “Major Stone could kick Bette Porter’s ass”

When the WIGS channel launched on YouTube earlier this summer, it had our attention immediately. Not only did it commit to telling complex female-centric stories; it also promised a three-episode web series co-starring Jennifer Beals and Troian Bellisario (Pretty Little Liars). The series, which hits the internet today, is called Lauren, and it examines the very real fallout female soldiers face when they are brave enough to report sexual assaults committed against them by members of their own platoons. Bellisario plays Lauren, a young solider who has been raped by three of her fellow soldiers. Beals plays Major Jo Stone, Lauren’s commanding officer. The story is intense and heartbreaking, and beautifully acted.

I had a chance to sit in on a conference call with Jennifer Beals to discuss Lauren. She told me what attracted her to Lauren, why she’s drawn to the internet to tell stories, and how she thinks her lesbian fans will react to the series.

Photo courtesy of WIGSCO, LLC

Beals on what her lesbian fans will like best about Lauren:

Gosh, I don’t know what the lesbian fans will like best about the series, maybe my uniform? And I say that lovingly because I have to say, my lesbian fans are the most loyal that I have ever encountered and I’m very grateful to all of them.

This character is very different from Bette Porter [from The L Word]. She does not have the same kind of vulnerability that Bette has. She is almost — she’s probably two years short of being completely ossified in a way, having to survive and succeed within the parameters of that institution, within the military.

I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to keep their tenderness intact having spent that many years in the military. I think that’s really a challenge to be a tender hearted warrior and I think for her it’s been particularly difficult because she comes from a generation who felt that if they were to be the victim of any kind of sexual assault that it would behoove them to silence themselves so that they wouldn’t experience the second trauma of being belittled or punished further for using their voice.

So I think she’s had to silence herself a lot. She’s had to take on the role, a much more masculine role probably than her mother or her father would have ever wanted for her. And, well, she could kick Bette’s ass in about two seconds.

Photo courtesy of WIGSCO, LLC

Beals on working with Troian Bellisario:

I loved working with Troian. I think she is so focused and so disciplined. We really had a great time and really supported one another through what was emotionally very difficult material and very exciting material, for an actor. I think we, as actors, like the pain. There’s something kind of wonderful when you’re able to go down into that darkness and experience that darkness for the stories sake, for the character sake and for anybody’s benefit who might be watching it and might need to see that story.

So in that way it was exciting and that pain is gratifying. I just was excited to come to work every day and I was sad that it ended so quickly because each episode that we shot was only a day.

Beals on what attracted her to the series:

I was really interested in the way that Jay [Rodan, the writer] had taken the subject on in that he has a woman who [are from] from two different generations, really, who are in the military. He has the one who is my character, Major Stone, who kind of thinks within the parameters of the institution and all the kind of acculturated patriarchy that that implies. And then he has this other character, the younger character, the Staff Sergeant played by Troian who just really thinks in terms of justice and plain and simple, and I thought it was interesting to play that kind of complexity.

Photo courtesy of WIGSCO, LLC

Beals on why she’s excited to create stories for an internet audience:

One of the things that really attracted me to the project was the notion of doing it for the internet, because there’s a certain playfulness and a certain feeling that there are no real parameters yet in this platform. It hasn’t been around long enough, so it doesn’t feel like there’s any dogma attached to it yet so that was really exciting.

I don’t think it will erase television. I don’t think it will erase film. But I think it gives filmmakes and storytellers and actors and artists another way to express themselves and tell stories and perhaps not to have to wait so long to get permission to tell those stories, because with large films and TV series, you have to wait until you get these relatively large budgets to make them. Online you just get a digital camera and you’re off and running. Certainly our budgets, don’t believe, are 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.

You can watch the first episode of Lauren at the official WIGS YouTube channel. Afterward, weigh in and let us know what you think in the comments!