Back to the Articles Page

The Kitchener-Waterloo Record -- Final
Thursday, December 3, 1992

All's well on the Homefront for Jessica Steen
By Jamie Portman

BEVERLY HILLS - A few years back, Canadian actress
Jessica Steen was involved in the most expensive children's
TV series ever produced.

And she didn't feel good about it.

The series was Mattel's hi-tech Captain Power science fiction
series, shot in Steen's home town of Toronto. "Sure, there were
things about my character I really enjoyed," admits Steen, who
played a pert female mechanic named Pilot. But she had mixed
feelings about the show's revolutionary "interactive television"
process whereby kids watching the series could zap the robot
villains dead, provided they'd purchased a Mattel-manufactured
"gun" at their local toy store.

"Essentially I was dressed in lycra, doing the science fiction
scene and running around in every episode with a weapon. And
finally it became very trying for me to be involved in a project
like this one ... I didn't believe it conveyed constructive and
positive images to children. That bothered me a lot."

Steen has problems with film and TV violence. She talks a lot
about the need to be constructive and to honor certain basic
principles. For her, these concerns influence her career choices,
which is why she's so proud to be associated with the
acclaimed ABC drama, Homefront, which recently began its
second season (9 p.m. Thursdays, on 7,8,10,11, Cable
6,18,9,10). She plays Linda Metcalf, whose independent spirit
makes her one of the most interesting characters on this
ongoing drama about a small Ohio community in the years
following the Second World War.

"Linda represents a type of woman that genuinely existed during
that time period. They were a minority in those days - but they
did exist. They had held productive jobs during the war. They
were not keen to go back to the kitchen. They were not keen
to give up their independence and the sense of pride they had
earned throughout the war."

When the series was launched a year ago, some TV critics
objected to characters like Linda. "There was a lot of stuff
about her belonging to a different era - that she represented a
1990s sensibility in a 1940s garb."

Steen suggests such journalists should do a little homework,
that they would benefit from watching the recent PBS
documentary, Rosie The Riveter, about women in the wartime

"These people did exist," she says fiercely. Her own great aunt
back in Canada, for example, "lived a life very similar to Linda.
She's always worked."

Even before Homefront went on the air, the cast and producers
sensed they were involved in something special. Steen
remembers the excitement she felt reading her first script.

"In this job, you're constantly opening scripts in search of roles.
And you expect most of them to be very predictable. You
know - on what page does she take her clothes off, or is it
going to be another of those "friend of a friend' parts?

"It can be very disheartening. And then you open a Homefront
script where the women are very strong. It doesn't read like
your normal one-hour drama which is preoccupied with who's
with who and who's got the money."

Homefront replaced the much-admired Thirtysomething on the
network schedule. "That's as quality a show to be replacing as
you're going to get. And I think we've come through."

Steen came to the series after a wealth of film and TV
experience both in Canada and the U.S. In addition to Captain
Power, she appeared in Sing, another Canadian-produced
series, and also in the ABC drama, Loving. On the film front,
she had a role in Gordon Pinsent's John And The Missus and
recently played a feisty game warden in the made-for-TV
movie, High Country, shot in Jasper National Park.

And for one nine-month period, she abandoned acting and
enrolled in an Outward Bound wilderness survival program.
"That experience really recharged me."

So what will happen to her character, Linda, this winter? At this
point, only the scriptwriters know. But Steen likes Linda's own
unique brand of independence, stressing that she really differs
from most TV characters because she shatters stereotypes.

"She's the only character not in a relationship, and she's not
eager to seek one out. That makes her interesting. I've always
loved the fact that Linda was about being "your own person' -
about being strong and independent. Yet, particularly as a
woman during THAT era, she would be challenged for being
just that.

"But it's also wonderful to be part of a good show, to be proud
of the things that it says, to be comforted by the fact that time
and money are being spent on a show that doesn't provoke ill
feeling or emphasize guns or drugs or sex."

Back to the Articles Page

Last update: November 1, 2000 3:30 AM