It’s been quite a journey for actress Jodi Balfour. Since moving to Canada to perform on shows such as Sanctuary and Supernatural, the South African landed a role in the popular Canadian drama series Bomb Girls. Taking on the part of Gladys Witham, Balfour plays the only daughter of a wealthy family who chooses to defy convention to work in a munitions factory building bombs during World War II. Chatting over the phone with ANDPOP, the actress revealed what it’s like to play a headstrong 1940’s woman and how she feels empowered in her own life.
Here are five things about Jodi Balfour that puts her on our radar:
She met a real Bomb Girl and listened to her experiences: To prepare for her role as a munitions factory worker, Balfour met up with a family friend’s mother who used to build bombs in England before settling in Canada after the war. Having read that working in the 1940s gave women a feeling of liberation, a sense of purpose and camaraderie among one another, Balfour says she was interested to hear firsthand about the unglamorous and difficult aspects of being a Bomb Girl. “For her, it was kind of arduous and quite challenging for her body and her mind. She doesn’t necessarily look back on the time as her glory years by any stretch,” Balfour says. “She said when (the war) was over, she was quite happy to have a rest because it was quite taxing and grueling physical work!”
She relates a lot to her character, Gladys Witham: Balfour was drawn to Gladys for her sense of strength and her forward-thinking attitude. “I wouldn’t say that I’m nearly as brave or daring as Gladys is in my life but she definitely lives up the dream version of something we’d all like to have the guts to do. In that respect, I think I’m pretty stubborn and strong-willed. I like to get my own way and that’s definitely something I share with the character.”
She wishes we danced more in 2013: When asked what she would like to bring back from the 1940s, Balfour was quick to mention her love of Billie Holiday and how much she adored filming the dance scenes for Bomb Girls. “I wish men and women danced more together like they did in the ‘40s. It’s fun to foxtrot together and have a partner.” she says. “I (also) love the music. All of that stuff, I just think is so magic. I wish there were bars in North America that would just play that music.”
She’s a budding musician: Balfour enjoys spending her free time playing the ukulele and says it’s one of her favourite things to do with friends. “I just came back from South Africa and I have a best buddy back there and he plays the uke as well. At any dinner party we had during the holiday season, we’d always whip out our ukuleles and attempt to sing some kind of duet.” But claiming that she plays the stringed instrument at a “very, very novice level,” she laughs and modestly says, “I try to keep it in the closet a little bit because I’m not very good!”
She wants you to know that Bomb Girls is not just a show for girls: Packed with drama, romance and action, Balfour says Bomb Girls has something to offer for everyone. Noting how exciting it is to hear how people’s boyfriends are “TOTALLY addicted to the show,” the actress also mentions how the show’s characters give viewers a sense of empowerment, which she thinks is truly inspiring.
Pointing out how women in the ‘40s were often treated by men in a submissive way, Balfour is thankful that she can make her own choices. “There’s a certain amount of freedom we have in 2013 that we didn’t have in 1941 or 1942,” she says. “I really am able to make my own decisions in terms of where I want to be in the world and what I’d like to do. All of that stuff aligns itself to make it possible for me to really craft and design my own life, which I think is such a rarity and I know how lucky I am to be able to say that.”
Bomb Girls is currently in its second season. You can catch it Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on Global.