Sep 22, 1991
in the baby boom; Homefront mines nostalgia of post-Second World War
Homefront * * *
Starring: Jessica Steen, Mimi Kennedy, Kyle Chandler, Sammi Davis-Voss,
Giuliana Santini, David Newsom, Wendy Phillips
When: 7 p.m. tonight, CITV
Running time: 90 minutes
In the large ensemble cast of Homefront, which has no less than 14 main
characters, it is easy to spot Jessica Steen.
She's the one with the welder's mask and the acetylene torch.
In this new U.S. series, set in an unnamed city in the American Midwest
at the close of the Second World War, the Canadian actress plays Linda
Metcalf, a working woman in a factory who is expected to give up her job
to make room for returning G.I.s.
Metcalf, however, isn't willing to go without a fight. She tells her boss
she's as good a welder as any man, thank you, and she's not ready to return
to the drudgery of domestic life.
Homefront is one of the better new dramas this fall. Like the new CBS
Brooklyn Bridge, it harkens back to an era when values were clearly defined
and the future was bright. After the darkness of war, the world was on
the verge of a time when it was felt that "anything was possible."
baby boom was about to begin.
Yet, according to producer David Jacobs, fond memories of the post-war
era stem mostly from people choosing to remember the good things and forget
the bad. Homefront, he says, will not be all romantic nostalgia.
"There's almost no historical evidence to suggest that it was a glowing
and happy time," says Jacobs. "The war to save civilization
had been won.
We had an exhausted army coming home, and the first thing that happened
was a series of labor strikes that were unprecedented in history. And
the Cold War started. It was the birth of now, but it was not an easy
Homefront is rich in emotions and issues, including the early feminist
leanings of Steen's character.
With Metcalf, however, some observers say the producers are imposing '90s
feminist views on a 1940s character - that women at the close of the Second
World War were more than happy to turn over heavy industrial jobs to returning
Steen, however, says the producers make allowances for Metcalf's views.
In the pilot episode, her own mother refers to her as "a radical."
she doesn't buy the argument that all women were eager to give up their
jobs when Johnny came marching home.
"I'm sure there were many women who couldn't wait to give up their
dirty factory jobs and go back to being homemakers," says Steen,
were also women who, for the first time in their lives, found affirmation
in the work place. There are two sides to every story."
The Toronto-born actress says Metcalf is a dream part.
"It's not a typical female role, to be a welder fighting to keep
in a factory," says Steen, who recently took up residence in Los
to work on Homefront. The 25-year-old staunch Canadian has been a familiar
supporting character on Canadian TV series, including Captain Power, The
Campbells, Street Legal and, yes, even The Littlest Hobo. "I've done
She also had a part in Gordon Pinsent's John and the Missus and kissed
Ken Wahl on Wiseguy.
As the sole Canadian in Homefront, the producers had her work to eliminate
the four Canuck "no-no's" - out, about, house and eh.
"I say `eh' a lot," says Steen, who worked last summer in Jasper
a one-hour drama about poaching made by Edmonton's Great North Productions
and scheduled for this season on CBC.
Steen's welder character is typical of the tone of Homefront, which has
a large female production staff and is written from a female perspective.
Also starring in the promising, period-piece drama are Sammi Davis-Voss
as a British war bride who comes to the U.S. and runs into conflicts with
her husband's ex-girlfriend, and Guliana Santini as an Italian war bride
whose in-laws don't take kindly to a daughter-in-law who is one of the
The series also deals with racial prejudice encountered by returning black
G.I.s who were cut out of the American dream and given menial jobs despite
a war hero status.
The 90-minute pilot episode makes its U.S. debut Tuesday night on ABC,
which hopes the series will appeal to both baby boomers and their parents.
It could also capitalize on some of the leftover American euphoria from
the Gulf War.
To research her role as Metcalf, Steen interviewed all of her War-era
including her grandmother, who spent four years in a PoW camp in Southeast
Asia and was on the verge of death several times.
"They dug her grave four times, but she kept making it."
For the working-woman angle, Steen found a natural resource in her great
"She is a single woman who worked for many, many years and never
She has a very good idea of what it was like to work during that period.
The research is vast. There's just reams of information in books and magazines.
It was very helpful."