INTERVIEW: JODI BALFOUR TALKS ABOUT HER HIT TV SHOW “BOMB GIRLS” AND HOW TO GET THE 1940′S LOOK
Jodi Balfour talks about being on the hit TV show Bomb Girls, and how fun it is to go back in time to the 1940′s. Plus, get tips on how to get her gorgeous, ’40s look.
Do you ever wonder where the term “bombshell” comes from? Chances are it stemmed from the hardworking women who, while their husbands and lovers were off fighting in the war, were putting their own stamp on the war effort by working in munitions factories building bombs. Yes, you heard right: Bombs!
This is the premise for the hit Canadian TV show Bomb Girls. Set in the 1940′s, Bomb Girls follows a group of women who risked their lives building bombs for the Allied forces fighting on the European front during World War II. Of course, there’s love, backstabbing and a whole lot of touchy issues that make it a juicy gem of a show.
Initially set to be a six-episode mini-series, Bomb Girls got picked up for a full season due to its tremendous popularity and is now in its second season. This was exciting news for South African actress Jodi Balfour, who was excited to get the chance to expand her character, Gladys Whitham, further.
“It seemed to good to be true,” Balfour says of the show’s success. “We all celebrated when we found out it got picked up for a season.”
In the show, Balfour’s Gladys is from a wealthy family but decides to shake things up— and her parents—by taking an office job at the Victory Munitions factory. This, of course, infuriates them, but after seeing the other women getting down and dirty working on the factory floor, Gladys takes things a step further and decides to join them on the line. It was a daring move for a girl like her at the time, which is one of hte reason why this character had such great appeal to Balfour.
“Having a movie or a TV show where the focus is mostly on women is pretty unique,” Balfour says. “So that of course immediately caught my attention. On top of that to see such well-rounded, three-dimensional characters is incredibly rare. Gladys is a multifaceted character, you know, she wins, she loses..you really feel her triumphs and her losses. She’s a character written with flaws but also with amiable traits who enjoys life but has real tender moments as well. It’s a real gift to play someone with all these aspects to them.”
For the South African-born Balfour, these women who worked in the bomb factories was something she didn’t know much about and made it intriguing to explore.
“I knew very little about these women. Partly because I’m South African, but it seemed that a lot of people didn’t really know about the female role in all of this,” admits Balfour It blew my world open. I did a lot of research. There’s actually a lot of Canadian literature on this. I read as much as I could and there is also a lot of recorded interviews with these women that all helped me create this world culturally for Gladys.”
Of course, dressing in the period clothing helped Balfour to get a feel for the time and get into character. “Of course it helps so much in terms of getting into character when you’re dressed from head to toe in stuff that Gladys would have really worn,” Balfour admits. “The fashions are incredible. Everything from the fabrics they used to the colours—you don’t really see that anymore. The details were remarkable right down to the buttons and the fabrics of the stockings. It was a time where hats went with every outfit and a time where wearing silk burgundy said a lot about where you came from and your social status. Because it is so detailed, on our set, our costume designer sources a lot of original clothing rather than making it from scratch. The joke on our set is that no one in Toronto would be able to shoot a period drama because we had all the clothes.”
With the rise of period dramas on television—from Mad Men to Boardwalk Empire to Downton Abbey—Balfour admits the sentiment for the past is what also makes Bomb Girls so appealing.
“There’s a really interesting focus on how things use to be done so. So many people are going back to the basics and I think that’s what’s happening on television too,” Balfour says. “It’s also the sense of nostalgia because now things are changing so quickly and things seem so superficial that there’s something about the way people lived back then becomes fascinating. We’re interesting on the things we don’t know how to do anymore. There’s a kind of magic watching that on television.”
Now into its second season, fans can expect to dive deeper into the drama of the show, including a little scandal. “This season again we’re focusing on big events during the war and it begins to have a ripple effect on the women in the factory.” Balfour reveals. “And there are big consequences that being to happen and the girls are definitely coming closer together. We’re also exploring some major issues like the “patriotute” phenomenon where women entertained men before they went off to war. For Gladys, there’s a huge milestone that happens that really shatters her world. With Betty, she’s starting to claim her sexuality and not be afraid to explore it. When you get to come back for a second season you really get to slowly and thoroughly explore what they’re capable of and what makes them tick and that’s what you really get to see this season.”
HOW TO GET THAT BOMB GIRL ’40s LOOK
“I love the hair and makeup this season,” says Balfour, whose character’s upper crust upbringing lets her wear some pretty decked out fashion in the show. “I really love the dresses I get to wear. When I know there would be a scene where I have to dress up for a social event, I get so excited when I go into wardrobe. I also love the makeup.”
During the ’40s women generally wore their hair in curls in a more looser fashion than the finger “Marcel” waves from the ’30s. Andrea Claire Celebrity Hair & Makeup Artist (who doesn’t work on Bomb Girls) gives us her pro tips and recommendations on how to get this 1940′s beauty look. “The key to this look is to have sculpted defined brows, red lips and milky skin,” Claire says.
FACE – Start with a skin perfecting foundation like FACEatelier Ultra Foundation (1) for a smooth complexion that allows your skin to breathe and shine through. Apply with a flathead foundation brush for the best air-brushed quality.The cheek is fresh with a hint of a flush, which is reminiscent of the strong working woman of the time. NARS Cactus Flower Cream Blush (2) gives great colour with a lovely radiance. Blend along the cheek starting two finger widths away from the side of the nose to avoid the apples of the cheeks.
EYES – The ’40s eye look was simple. Start with a neutral base from lash line to brow bone. My fave is Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow in Birthday Suit (3). Contour your eye crease using a mid-shade for sculpting like MAC eyeshadow in Wedge (4) and for darker skin try Laura Mercier eye shadow in Coffee Ground. Line with Bobbi Brown Gel Liner in Black Ink (5). Apply going gradually thicker towards the outer corners.
BROWS – The brow is the defining moment for this eye. Try MAC Cosmetics Veluxe Brow Liner (6), applying in short feathery strokes. I like to start with shaping the arch first as this works as your guide. Pop on a few Ardell cluster lashes (7) in the outer corners. Apply mascara to the top and bottom with an extra coat on the top lashes.
LIPS – Lip liner is a must for this lip as the ’40s look is very much about definition. To steady your hand, anchor your pinkie on your chin as you line for a symmetrical application. Try Givenchy Rouge lip liner (8). Nothing beats Julie Hewett’s Noir Collection lipstick in Coco Noir (9) or Burberry lipstick in Red Ruby No. 18 from the Siren Runway Look collection (10). —Andrea Claire
Bomb Girls airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Global TV and also stars Meg Tilly, Charlotte Hegele, Ali Leibert, Antonio Cupo, Anastasia Phillips, Michael Seater, Peter Outerbridge, Jim Codrington and Richard Fitzpatrick.