Back to the Articles Page


An Unmarried Woman

Homefront's Jessica Steen Finds Value in Playing a 1940's Spinster

By Irene S. Krause

ON HOMEFRONT, CANADIAN ACTRESS Jessica Steen portrays Linda, an unmarried file clerk in her mid-20s who resides with her family in the fictional city of River Run, Ohio. While Linda's marital status would hardly raise an eyebrow today, the series takes place in 1947, when a woman of her description would have been considered an old maid. It's a label Steen seems proud of.

"The show's idea of Linda, and mine, is that she's pretty independent and kind of likes doing her own thing and isn't particularly taken with the idea of settling down and being the wife at home," says Steen. 'I don't think many men were hip to that in that day and age. So she ends up probably being single for the most part. I think men will come and go but she's not going to look to be settled, which I like about her. Everyone on the show is involved in some love triangle ... it seems to be the general trend. And I think there are a lot of single women and men in the world, and they don't need to think that being in a couple is the only way to get through life. There's some strength in your career and yourself, and I think that's good."

Last season Linda found strength as a union organizer at the Sloan plant; this season, with the union issue pretty much settled, she takes on a second job at a newspaper after it publishes an editorial she wrote about the post-World War II housing sho rtage. (Linda witnessed the Sloans fire a worker who, having no place to live, was sleeping at the plant.) "After seeing the letter in the paper, she gets all fired up and starts thinking maybe they can start giving her assignments," she says. "So they take her on as a proofreader." Look for Linda's editor at the paper to be one of the men who come and go. "I think she has an affair," says Steen, who says she doesn't know if Linda is a virgin. "That was a question when Mike Sloan Jr. was killed how involved were they before he got involved with Gina (his Italian war bride, played by Giuliana Santini)? That was a personal choice of my own that nobody knows whether they did or didn't."

While Homefront employs a researcher "who has everything you've ever wanted to do or see or know about the era," Steen gets into Linda's psyche by talking to her grandmother ' and great-aunt, sisters who came of age post-World War H. "They did different things in life. My grandmother went to library school and got married. My great-aunt never really found someone she clicked with, and she really enjoyed working. So rather than just, marry somebody who was there and interested in her, she chose to go on with her life. "For me, she's a great role model for Linda," says Steen. "During hiatus I went home to Toronto and videotaped the three of them, my grandfather included, just chatting. We looked at the old pictures in the shoebox. It was great to go over all their me mories and things that were going on and, "Oh, remember this and that?" They love the show. I've said to them, "Do you see things that aren't right?" and they say no. They get right in with it and they enjoy going back to the time of the '40s."

If Steen's grandparents and great-aunt are her inspiration for Linda, then her parents are her nspiration as a performer. The daughter of an actress and a director, show business "has always been around. I started early but didn't really get into it for myself, because both my parents were reluctant to point me toward the entertainment business. So by the time I got off and running on my own I was probably in mid-high school. I caught the bug then, I guess."

In addition to such Canadian-produced films as Flying, Steen's American-based credits include the motion picture Sing and the soap Loving, which she appeared on in 1990, filling in for Noelle Beck (who was on maternity leave) as Trisha. "I had never done anything soapish," recalls Steen. As Trisha was expecting at the time, "I jumped in with a big pillow belly and went forth" into a fairly depressing storyline. "The first day we shot, Trisha's grandfather died, the second day her father was arreste d, her husband was acquitted and the next day she and her father got into a huge argument. Trisha goes into labor, the baby dies. Then there was this funeral, then she was arrested. I mean, on every page there was this monumental thing." (Last season Steen was pleasantly surprised to learn that co-star Alexandra Wilson, who played Homefront's ill-fated Sarah Metcalf, had previously been on Loving as April Hathaway.)

Although most publications (SOAP OPERA WEEKLY included) have classified Homefront as a prime-time soap, the series' producers are skittish about that description; according to the Homefront spokesman, the show wants to be known this season as a romant ic comedy." Steen is neutral on this matter, but says, "If you tuned in on a single basis, I think you would be captivated and interested and not so much in the dark that you wouldn't want to stick with it. Definitely it's an ongoing story; that's the wa y you keep viewers. And in that way, it is continuing stories, like one chapter after another of a book you can't put down. So I don't know. People have carried different ideas of what a soap is."

Steen, who is single and has a steady boyfriend, hopes Homefront will continue to feature reality based issues in addition to romantic triangles. "I'm proud to work on a show that makes people think about the way they see things and how they make decisions in their lives." She feels it's important to stress "the 'single' issue - single women feeling proud of themselves and not feeling like they're missing something if they're not in love. If Linda can in any way give people the strength to go forward and be bold and have confidence in what they're doing with their lives, then that's what I hope to say."

Back to the Articles Page

Last update: November 1, 2000 3:39 AM