It’s a question that has been pondered for as long as humans have been aware they have a finite time on this planet. What happens after we die?
It’s a topic that has been discussed in pulpits and lecture halls. Now, it is the subject of a new cable series, “Proof,” starring Jennifer Beals. She plays Dr. Carolyn Tyler, a woman who has suffered the recent loss of her teenage son, the breakup of her marriage and a growing estrangement from her daughter.
She tries to put all of that aside when Ivan Turing (Matthew Modine), a cancer-stricken tech inventor and billionaire, asks her to investigate cases of reincarnation, near-death experiences, hauntings and other phenomena. He wants to know what happens after we die.
Assisting Russo on her task are Dr. Zedan Badawi (Edi Gathegi), a young intern from Africa. They cross paths with Peter Van Owen (Callum Blue), a bestselling author who claims to be psychic.
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Beals has heard all the Judeo-Christian ideas, plus all the arguments from the scientific community. Despite all the implications of finding out the truth, she doesn’t look at this search as a heavy question.
“I think it is a really important and freeing question,” Beals says. “I have thought about this so much even to the point I was obsessed with it when I was a kid. I have embraced the fact that we will not be in this form forever.”
Death is a part of everyone’s lives. Dealing with death came early for Beals. Her father died when she was 10. The Chicago native has no clear explanation for why — even before her father died — she was fascinated with life and death.
Beals wanted to attend Temple School despite not being Jewish. She read the Bible nightly because she knew that somewhere in those pages she would find answers to what happens when we die and the true nature of God. Her research included books on the occult and a set of Tarot cards (that disturbed her mother). She also found an advertisement in the back of a “Silver Surfer” comic about taking Cataclysm classes through the mail.
This background helps Beals connect closer to “Proof” than other roles in the films like “Flashdance,” “Four Rooms,” and ‘The Grudge 2” or the TV shows “2000 Malibu Road,” “Nothing Sacred” and “The L Word.”
Beals has played a variety of characters, but not because she’s searched out certain types of jobs. It all comes down to a project that interests her and has her playing a character who has flaws. She easily relates to Dr. Tyler’s curiosity.
“Her mindset is one of a scientist but no one who wants to believe more than her that there is more. If only to be able to see her son for one more moment,” Beals says. “That means she’s at odds with the two sides.”
Beals comes to the series with a long history of hearing the faith-based side of the discussion. She’s recently become more fascinated with the scientific arguments. She feels like a “late bloomer” to the scientific side. To catch up, she has been reading physics books. She laughs and says that so far she’s only understanding about 2% of what she’s reading but it’s all intriguing to her.
The one thing Beals has garnered from both sides is that you can’t give into the notion that you have all the time in the world. It’s important to make love a paramount part of your life and decide what you really want to do.
That’s what happened when her agent called her about “Proof.” Even if she hadn’t landed the lead role, Beals was exited about being the audition with executive producer Kyra Sedgwick and director Alex Graves.
“The audition was a fantastic afternoon. Just to get to read with Kyra Sedgwick,” Beals says. She pulls up short of saying it was an experience to die for.
- 10 p.m. Tuesday, June 16, TNT