Incognegro IV: Jennifer Beals

While some love Halle Berry, I’ve always found her to be … err … a bit wanting in the dramatic acting department. From “Losing Isaiah” to her Oscar-winning effort in “Monster’s Ball” color me unimpressed. I still remember watching the TV miniseries “Alex Haley’s Queen” and bursting out in laughter during the scene where Berry bursts into the church screaming “EYESSSS NEEEGRA!!!!”

I mean, come now. They pushed Jasmine Guy aside for this?

Why, Halle? Does Hollywood not realize that there is a platoons worth of mulattos trotting around town looking for work? What’s a not-black-black actress to do in the Halle Berry token blacktress era? They just do what other black and not-black-black actresses do. Get their hustle on.

An indie here. A drama there. Some TV on the side. But no not-black-black actress has worked her stealthy secret acting game without the fame like the gorgeous Jennifer Beals.

She could have just wound up being Jessica Alba of the 1980s after she burst on the scene in one of my favorite crappy films — “Flashdance.”

Oh what a feeling!

Of course a dance body double was working out all the sexy moves Jennifer couldn’t fake. And there was a little controversy over that. Oh, and the usual eyebrow raisings when word got out she was a not-black-black person. Jennifer, like many incognegros, doesn’t look black at all. But despite a hit film and giving millions of young women the inspiration to wear leg warmers and to try to take their bras off while not removing their shirts, Jennifer’s career hit the wall.

But she bounced right off and set to work on indie films, bargain basement films, things starring Nick Cage (see “Vampire’s Kiss“) and things starring Christopher Walken (see “The Prophecy II.”) If there was a crappy film between 1985 and 2000, Beals might have been in it or auditioned for it or turned it down because she wanted to finish her schooling at Yale. And if there was an obscure indie or a TV show no one watched, Beals was there, grabbing the cred for acclaimed parts (“Roger Doger“), and just ducking her head and taking the checks on stuff like “The Grudge 2.”

Personally, I’d forgotten the comely Ms. Beals still existed after I stopped rocking the leg warmers around age seven. I didn’t rediscover her until I rented the miniseries “Feast of All Saints,” a movie about “free people of color” living in Louisiana during the time of slavery. As I’m obsessed with anything having to do with black people, not-black-black people, “American history” and anything that tries to address the various issues and complexity of slavery, I was all over the film. Sure, I had to block out the fact that Robert Ri’chard, one: does NOT look like he could pass for white. And two: Suffers from Halle Berry’s EYESSS NEGRA disease.

That said, Jennifer Beals popped up out of nowhere, looking fresh and sumptuous, running a brothel and getting into some bodice ripping action with … sighDaniel Sunjata. Because of that film I rediscovered her and found that my love for Jennifer remains.

Nowadays Jennifer holds it down on Showtime’s “The L Word.” Playing for the third time in her fifty-six films/TV appearances … a biracial person. (She played a person of mixed race in, naturally, “Feast of All Saints” and the oft over-looked, brilliant Denzel Washington film, “Devil in A Blue Dress.” Her character was originally supposed to have blond hair, but with her olive skin tone Beals admitted that it looked so ridiculous they let her remain a brunette.)

In my dream world where I work as a powerful Hollywood film producer, I would create tons of vanity projects for her and all my other under-employed actresses of color. “Soul Food” style, homegirl films. Suspense. Crime Dramas. Romantic comedies. Tragic mulatto tales. Sci-fi. Historical fiction. Film noir. You know. Diversify the black film market. Does EVERYTHING have to be a tired, half-warmed over effort starring Martin Lawrence in a fat suit? Why can’t people make suspense filled, action packed, dramas for black folks? It doesn’t have to be high brow. I’d take a tawdry, well directed, sexual psycho thriller a la”Basic Instinct.” Black folks have an AMAZING level of drama. We can bring it. Spike Lee can’t do everything, people!

But I digress. Hopefully Jennifer will get to star in another major film. After all, she’s buddies with Quentin Tarantino (who I love-hate as one of my favorite directors). He crafted a film for the crafty, smart and sexy blaxploitation, Scream Blackula, Scream star Pam Grier. And I loved that movie no matter what anyone says. So hook a not-black-black sister up, Quentin.

4 thoughts on “Incognegro IV: Jennifer Beals

  1. I was unfortunate enough to have witnessed Halle Berry as “Queen”. I have NO words to describe that “performance”, If that’s what you call it. Her looks have served her well. As for Jennifer Beals, I’ve never thought much of her. I saw her in “Prophecy” which I enjoyed. I’m into all things theological/angel/God/heaven/hell oriented. “Flashdance” is iconic and her swan song for always.I saw the train wreck that was “The Feast of All Saints.” I’d read the book by Anne Rice and then saw the tv series. Big Mistake! Robert R’ichard needs to seriously leave the acting game alone.

  2. "I had to block out the fact that Robert Ri’chard, one: does NOT look like he could pass for white."Roberts character was not supposed to be able to pass based on the book, his character was supposed to be much more negro looking than his sister who could pass. Daniel Sunjata is FIRE, I really should start watching rescue me.

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