Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bomb Girls: Facing The Enemy


Global - March 27

The Final Chapter

Those Feisty "Bomb Girls" Wrap Up 
Their Saga With A TV Movie

By Eric Kohanik

The setting is a mostly empty, 114-year-old building that once housed a fabric mill known as the Imperial Cotton Company in the industrial north end of Hamilton, Ont. On one of the upper floors, part of the vast space has been transformed into a grimy old gymnasium, where a boxing ring is ensconced in plumes of smoke. Inside the ring, two women are duking things out as throngs of beer-swilling, fedora-wearing men cheer them on.

If it all looks like a moment plucked from some bygone era, that's because it is.

Welcome to Bomb Girls – The Movie, a two-hour production that continues – and wraps up – the storyline of the once-popular Canadian TV series.

Originally designed as a six-episode drama in 2012, Bomb Girls ended up growing to 18 episodes that continued into a second season. The series revolved around a core group of four women – played by Meg Tilly, Jodi Balfour, Ali Liebert and Charlotte Hegele – who worked in a Canadian munitions factory during the Second World War.

The series attracted a dedicated following of fans who cried foul when Global cancelled the show last year. Protests eventually led the network to greenlight a TV-movie to wrap up the saga.

This particular day of filming finds the tomboyish Betty McRae (Liebert) as one of the two females in the boxing ring. When the stylish Gladys Witham (Balfour) makes an appearance in the crowd and spots Betty, it causes a bit of a distraction, in more ways than one.

For Balfour, the chance to revive the role of Gladys was one she eagerly awaited.

“It feels great,” she says during a break. “We're obviously dealing with a bunch of new subject matter, but it still feels like coming back to familiar territory. There's an element of comfort in coming 'home' and there's a sense of community to the show, which is part of what I love so much about it.”

Born and raised in South Africa, Balfour graduated from the University of Cape Town in 2009 before she and her family moved to B.C. Her list of credits includes various TV projects, including a role this season in CBC's political comedy-drama, The Best Laid Plans. Nevertheless, Balfour is still best known for her work as Gladys.

“She's kind of the role of a lifetime, particularly in the way they keep writing her and developing her,” Balfour says. “Every year, I get to tackle a real sense of growth in her. She has so many colours I get to play with – like vulnerability and fear and sensitivity and insecurity. And then I also get to play with a sense of courage. It's a really cool range of things that I get to play, so I count myself lucky.”

Written by Donald Martin and directed by Jerry Ciccoritti, Bomb Girls: Facing The Enemy picks up the storyline six months after the events at the conclusion of the series. There have been changes in all of the women's lives. In some cases, the changes are significant.

“It's bit of a tricky time for Gladys,” Balfour explains. “She is longing to see her best friend. And, you know, the central theme of Gladys' life is this inescapable loneliness that she deals with a lot of the time.”

While the primary purpose of Bomb Girls: Facing The Enemy is to tie up loose ends from the series, it also takes the show's plot a bit further. And that thrilled Balfour and her castmates.

“We were obviously all really sad when the show was cancelled but very aware of how lucky we are to get to do this,” Balfour points out. “I think many shows see themselves being cancelled and don't get this opportunity.

“It not only serves us an opportunity to tell the story some more, but also serves us an opportunity to get a little bit of closure, for us as well as for the audience. It's a nice opportunity to get to see everyone one more time.”

Bomb Girls: Facing The Enemy – Global – March 27

(A portion of this story was published in Channel Guide Magazine - April 2014.)