The actor, who broke through in 1983 playing a welder who dreamed of being a dancer, reflects on a life of activism, why gen Z give her hope and joining the Star Wars universe

Jennifer Beals is talking to me by Zoom from … “Do I have to say?” she asks. Not really, I tell her. “I can tell you there’s a blizzard outside and it’s really beautiful.” Her reticence, which lasts about 30 seconds, is because she is in New York, filming a yet to be announced new season of Law & Order. You could imagine her taking a friend’s secret to the grave; she is very cagey about where she lives, tending to call herself “nomadic” and describing her home as “the middle of nowhere” (in reality, somewhere near Los Angeles). Commercial discretion, though? Not so much.

It is creepy to go on about how young actors still look, as though that were a goal in itself, but Beals, 58, is so unchanged – since she first played Bette in The L Word in 2004; since Devil in a Blue Dress in 1995 – that my brain thinks it is making a mistake. She definitely, positively starred in Flashdance in 1983, her breakthrough role after a tiny part in My Bodyguard three years earlier, yet that can’t be right – it was 40 years ago! It is like walking past someone you think you knew at school, then realising that it can’t be them because this person is 21.

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