TORONTO - When actress Meg Tilly came out of retirement last year to helm Global's period drama "Bomb Girls" it was meant to be a short-term gig.
She signed on to the miniseries believing the project would wrap after six episodes and didn't anticipate what ended up happening: Canadians watched. Global noticed. The network ordered 12 more episodes.
Of course, it was great news for the cast and crew, says Tilly, but she admits to initially feeling more dread than joy when it became increasingly apparent she'd be spending more time in front of the camera.
"I'd come out of retirement — I mean, I hadn't acted for 18 years — I'd done a play and all of a sudden I'm doing this thing and you're supposed to memorize all this stuff and you're block shooting and I'm like, 'I'm a middle-aged woman, what the heck?'" the 52-year-old Tilly chuckled during a recent break from shooting.
"I was thinking: 'How am I going to do it? How am I going to memorize (everything)?' And then they're like, 'Well, yes, you know, six (more episodes), probably. Or eight. Sometimes they do 12.' And then somebody came in one day and said (lowering her voice to adopt an ominous tone): 'Some series go 18 shows.' And I said: 'I would kill myself.'"
Joking aside, Tilly did hope the show would continue, if only so she could reunite with the affable cast and crew who had put so much work into the Toronto-shot series, about a group of women who work at a Canadian munitions factory during the Second World War.
"And the scripts this year are kicking butt. They are beautiful," says Tilly, who was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her work in 1985's "Agnes of God."
"We should be getting the scripts for (episodes) 11 and 12 and it's like Christmas morning — you're waiting (to see) what you're going to unwrap."
When things left off at the end of the miniseries, Tilly's character Lorna had just found out she was pregnant after sleeping with her hunky co-worker Marco.
The action picks up three months later, with Lorna trying to convince herself the baby could be her husband's. But the chances are slim, says Tilly, who notes the once-confident Lorna is now full of anguish and doubt.
"Last year shifted something in everybody and obviously for Lorna as well and she's got some really important decisions to make and the options are limited. You aren't allowed to work in the bomb factory if you're pregnant and it's how she supports her family," Tilly says.
Meanwhile, Gladys is back in the factory after having been fired and her fiance has signed up with the U.S. troops and is headed off to war.
"She's still trying to establish herself as an independent human being that's not defined by her social circumstances and her family and those kind of constraints that she's grown up with," says actress Jodi Balfour, who plays the wealthy former socialite.
"And (she's grappling with) her relationship with James who's now at officer's training about to leave for war, and what that means and what part did she play in that and how responsible is she for sending him to the war."
The saga of Kate and Betty continues too, promises Ali Liebert, whose steely Betty was left heartbroken when Kate rejects her romantic advances and returns to her abusive father.
But just because Kate's back doesn't mean the story picks up smoothly where things left off, adds co-star Charlotte Hegele, who plays the insecure bomb girl with a stellar singing voice.
Regardless, Liebert says fans would be happy to know that her character never gave up on Kate.
"They have such an amazing friendship and bond," says Liebert. "Having Kate back is the best thing in the world for Betty."
"Bomb Girls" returns Wednesday to Global.
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