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March 22, 1993

Two thumbs back up for Jessica Steen

Bob Sokolsky, The Press-Enterprise

Jessica Steen  says she is fine now and even working on a new
television movie in her native Canada.  But it took her a while to
get back to work because she was carrying a little extra baggage -
as in two casts, one for each thumb.

"I broke them skiing," she says.  In a way, ABC was
responsible for that.  It kept moving the "Homefront" series all
over its weekly roster, scheduling the show, rescheduling it,
pre-empting it and finally sending it on a lengthy hiatus that
lasted until March 9 when it returned in a 10-11 p.m. time slot.

Steen, who portrays would-be journalist Linda Metcalf  on the
series, used part of this enforced vacation to participate in a
charity ski event.  That was when she took the tumble that snapped
her thumbs.  "But we raised a bunch of money," she says.

She also found time to land a role in "Small Gifts," a
movie-of-the-week that is being filmed for the Canadian
Broadcasting Corp. "It's a Christmas story set in New Brunswick,"
Steen says.  "I'm playing a sort of hyper quirky little person. "

For about the next seven weeks, however, she will continue to
be seen in this country as Linda, whom she describes as "a real
quality character.  I find her moralistic, progressive, outspoken,
sensitive and concerned. " Steen says the series' setting, a small
1948 Ohio town, is giving her an exciting challenge to develop all
of this in the role.  "The time period presents a different way of
getting at it," she explains.  "Actually pursuing a career in that
decade is a bold and brave step for a woman. "

The script writers aren't making it easy, sending an attack of
polio upon her mother, Anne (Wendy Phillips), and giving her
brother, Jeff (Kyle Chandler), an injury that is ending his
baseball career.

Still, Steen could emerge from these soap opera-like woes with
some of her best episodes.  For example: within the next several
weeks she will begin to pursue her ambition to become a full-time
reporter.  A romantic relationship will develop with a supervisor
and a colleague will be murdered.

Steen is optimistic about these plot twists but admits to
concern over network strategy and wonders what, if anything, ABC
will do next to the series.

"It's almost impossible to understand what the network bases
its decisions on," she says.  "They moved us around several
different nights - like NBC did to 'Seinfeld. ' But 'Seinfeld' was
publicized tremendously.  We got very little publicity.  Then,
putting us up against 'Cheers' for a while was a real nasty move.

"The sad thing is I think we could have an audience if they
let us build one.  I know our demographics are great.  But in terms
of ratings, I think it takes a show that is not a sitcom or a cop
show some warming up.  It takes some time to build.  It requires one
not to get panicked. "

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