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From climate change to feminism, why we love this down-to-earth Aussie actress

Phoebe Tonkin is like a breath of fresh air. With her porcelain skin and willowy frame she’s the epitome of natural beauty but there’s so much more to this Aussie actress that it’s hard to know where to start. We chatted with Phoebe during her recent visit to Australia, where she was refreshingly open and honest about issues she holds close. From human rights to feminism, her stance on climate change and US politics, it was certainly a departure from the run-of-the-mill celebrity interview.

But what really elevates LA-based Phoebe is the way she has been completely unafraid to use her influence to inspire action.

“If you live on this earth, I think it’s our responsibility to make sure it’s still here for future generations. I think it would be incredibly selfish to think, ‘it’s not going to affect me’ because by the time it does, global warming will truly devastate this world,’’ she says frankly, when we ask her what sustainability means to her.

There’s a lot that Phoebe feels strongly about, and during our chat a common topic we return to is how she sees it as her responsibility to voice her opinion so that others may be inspired to form one of their own.

“I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of lovely people who follow me on Instagram, and it’s nice to at least urge them to have an opinion in general; on everything from politics to equal rights, health and wellbeing of animals, feminism, or whatever it is,’’ she says.

Last year Phoebe used the social platform to urge her US followers to vote in the midterm elections, while back home in Australia she speaks freely about equality and pinpointing the current treatment of refugees as one of many issues she will stand up for. “I think the detainment of refugees is appalling and shocking. I think our time is up for Australia to abolish those sorts of prisons. These people have been there for years and years, and in such horrific conditions,’’ she says.

From appearing on Home and Away to the Vampire Diaries and more recently, Aussie drama, Bloom, somewhere along the way she has gone from teenage actress to global megastar. Along with her mates Margot Robbie and Teresa Palmer she’s part of Chanel’s inner circle, has appeared in fashion shoots for US Vogue and Elle and teamed up with Lara Worthington in Jenni Kayne’s #findyouruniform fashion campaign.

For the last eight years Phoebe has called the US home, the first five in Atlanta during the filming of Vampire Diaries and most recently Los Angeles, where she says her favourite things to do are have dinner parties, cook for friends and take road trips to one of her favourite places, Ojai. “I just kind of hang out,’’ she says.

The native Sydneysider lists fellow actress and aussie Teresa Palmer as one of her great LA mentors, further fueling our impressions of a super-talented posse of like-minded Australian actresses making waves across the Pacific.

“She’s (Teresa) another person that’s really passionate about the environment and making sure her family is aware of the food they eat and where it comes from,’’ she says of her friend who is also the co-founder of Your Zen Mama.


Phoebe Tonkin is the first. She is the absolute original Matteau Muse. She’s someone we’ve known forever and admired even longer, a woman who inspires us every time we see her. Even if she wasn’t a part of the family, she represents the kind of woman that we will always love.

Whether she’s filming in Melbourne, Montauk or LA, or front row at The Grand Palais as an ambassador of Chanel, Phoebe makes things come to life. She said 2018 completely changed her trajectory creatively. “Just emotionally things shifted for me. My work challenged and inspired me every day. It also made me realize the power in meaningful filmmaking, and appreciate the feeling of being a part of something collaborative.”

Despite the success, she is openly wrestling with what it means to be so visible and what she can do to contribute that visibility to the things that matter to her. “I don’t understand why it’s become such a fad to be a feminist, or an activist,” she said. “Shouldn’t we always have given a shit about the world and our place in it?”

See the rest of the feature here!

Matteau also shared some new outtakes of Phoebe.


Ryan Corr and Phoebe Tonkin are a little bit torn over what genre best describes Bloom.

“We’re not in Kansas anymore, which I really like about it. It’s risky material and I think it comes across well,” says Corr.

“I think of it as grounded supernatural,” Tonkin suggests.

“Fairytale, fantasy, sci-fi, drama, comedy!” adds Corr.

Eventually both settle on mystery drama. But they are agreed Stan’s new 6 part series is unlikely to have ever been produced on Free to Air television. When all 6 episodes drop on New Year’s Day viewers will discover why.

“ABC has done some good stuff, like Glitch,” Corr continues, “but I don’t think anything pushes the boundaries like this. I don’t think a network would do this because it doesn’t exist to sell commercial spots. It’s more an exploration of an idea and a philosophical question. Stan was great letting their creatives fly. It’s got a place on Streaming content. It’s not kitchen sink.”

Indeed it is not (but it would be remiss not to note Stan is owned by Nine). Bloom opens with a catastrophic flood in a rural town but it leaves behind a mysterious plant with a berry that offers eternal youth. Or does it?

Tonkin plays Gwen the younger version of Jacki Weaver’s character, married to Ray (Bryan Brown). Due to the nature of the bold plot, Tonkin (The Originals, The Vampire Diaries, Safe Harbour) shared no on-camera scenes with the veteran Weaver. But the two strived to replicate one another.

“I watched a lot of interviews of her when she was younger,” she explains.

“There were a couple of days where we crossed over, and a press day together. The first day she landed she came to set had lunch with me and watched my body language, listened to the way I talk, which is very flattering. But the nature of Television is that it’s very fast. It would have been nice to have a week of rehearsal with everyone but we weren’t afforded that luxury.”

“But you don’t really need to emulate them because when we meet Gwen she has Alzheimer’s.”

Corr (Holding the Man, Hoges, Love Child, Packed to the Rafters) plays Sam, a sexually-charged young man full of exuberance whose opening scenes required him to run through the streets of Clunes wearing nothing but a modesty sock.

“It sort of makes you look like a Ken Doll,” he laughs. “It involves your meat and 2 veg in a bag which is tied at the top and tape between your bottom. And then running.

“Playmaker have made me run naked in everything I’ve done with them!

“The moments of lightness are needed to break the tension, particularly with Sam. Or at least that’s how it starts off. There are some genuinely funny moments.”

But Bloom by writer Glen Dolman explores much deeper and darker themes.

“Without giving too much away, you see these characters are compelled by a great regret they have had in their lives,” Tonkin continues.

“Ray thinks he is bringing Gwen back as her younger self, but it starts to become like Dr. Frankenstein, that she is not exactly what he thought he was bringing back. There is something a little off-kilter and dangerous about her. So it makes him wonder was it the right thing to do?”

“It throws up philosophical questions which I think is one of the strengths of the show. It gets you talking about ideas: what parts of a person returning remains, what version is left?” Corr asks.

“It’s all pretty high stakes, and we are dealing in an area that isn’t well-trodden. So we were learning about the effects of the berry and how it manifests as we were shooting.

“It was like a jigsaw puzzle put together.”

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There are a legion of ways to describe new Stan series Bloom.

It’s both dreamlike and fierce, shockingly sad and then at times even downright funny.

However, after watching the first few episodes of the six-part series and then sitting down to talk about its themes with stars Phoebe Tonkin and Ryan Corr, I now believe that Bloom is best described as an iceberg.

All because you may think you see all there is to see at first, yet it’s not until you peak below the surface that it’s full magnitude, power and depth really comes into focus.

According to the stars of Bloom, the secret behind the series is that it’s about so much more than just the chase for eternal youth, as the trailers may have led you to believe.

It’s also about love, rediscovering sexuality, the harshness of living in the world while ageing (especially as a woman) and how living with regrets can change you into a completely different person.

The premiere episode of Bloom kicks off one year after a devastating flood killed five locals in an idyllic country town in Australia.

Now, a mysterious new plant has appeared with the power to restore youth. It’s a gift powerful beyond wildest imaginings and a miracle some will kill to keep a secret.

In Bloom Phoebe Tonkin as Young Gwen (with the older version of the character played by Jacki Weaver) and Ryan Corr stars as Sam, two people who have their lives changed forever and a chance to fix their greatest regrets thanks to the mysterious plant.

“With this berry and this power of rejuvenation comes the compulsion to really do something, to right something that you regret not doing in your life,” Phoebe told Mamamia while talking about the character of Gwen.

“Everyone has things that they wish they could have done differently, and this particular compulsion that she has, without giving anything away, was very relatable to me. The thing that she regrets not doing is something that I would aspire to do in my life eventually.”

The idea of whether or not they would want the chance to go back and change their pasts is one that the cast of Bloom grappled with throughout the show, although Ryan and Phoebe both ultimately agreed that that path was a dangerous one to walk down.

“It was brought up a lot during the filming of the show and we became quite philosophical about that,” Ryan told Mamamia. “But wherever you are in the present is a result of all the trials and tribulations that have come before you and I’m not a person who wants to live with regrets.

“There are things I would like to go back and tell my younger self, now as a 30-year-old, but I don’t think I would go back and change anything.”

“You are the sum of all the mistakes and the choices that you’ve made,” agreed Phoebe. “That’s what shapes who you are.”

“And there is beauty in that, and beauty in the series,” concluded Ryan.

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In the opening scene of Bloom, Stan’s newest original Australian drama, there’s a sequence that involves Ryan Corr doing a rambunctious nudie run through a country town as he tries to escape a cop.

It goes for a few minutes, and it sets the tone for Corr’s mysterious character in this series with a supernatural twist. It was also a scene that Corr watched the first time with a room full of about 100 strangers at the Sydney premiere of Bloom in late November.

“Well that was certainly something to watch, wasn’t it? Sorry, Mum,” Corr, 29, jokes during the press day the morning after, where he’s doing interviews alongside co-star Phoebe Tonkin.

“That’s me the whole time,” he says with a laugh during a chat with 9Honey Celebrity. Despite the awkwardness of running stark naked in front of cast and crew — save for “your stuff in a beige bag that ties at the top and tape between your bottom, so you look like a Ken doll” — Corr recalls shooting the scene as “a lot of fun.”

“It’s an unusual thing to do but I think everyone sort of embraces the funness of it,” he says. “It’s the same as doing sex scenes — they’re almost choreographed and there’s a lot of respect dealt around that. You can really feel the crew supporting you when you’re doing anything like that.”

But it wasn’t all nudie runs and sex scenes on the Bloom shoot for Corr, which took place across various locations in Victoria in 2018. For the most part, Corr plays the one of the local people in a small country town with a big secret: he’s not who people think he is, because he’s the younger version of someone and has been restored to his youth.

In Bloom, an Australian town is ravaged by a devastating flood that claims the lives of five locals.

A year later, a mysterious new plant is discovered and it has the ability to restore youth — a superpower that changes the lives of some of the town’s inhabitants, causing them to “re-evaluate everything that’s important.” Some will even kill to keep the plant’s powers secret from everyone else.

Corr and Tonkin, 29, play two of the inhabitants who experience the power of the plant.

“Sam is a criminal returned to his youth, and he’s doubling down on all the bad things that he’s done, because he realises once he’s got to there that he hasn’t been punished for them, he doesn’t believe there’s any sense of consequence,” Corr explains of his role. “He’s very irresponsible, he’s dealing with a lot of shame and guilt for abandoning his child, essentially, and I think he manifests that in violent ways. He’s like a sprung coil.”

Tonkin plays young Gwen Reed, a former Australian actress who’s married to Ray (Bryan Brown) suffers from Alzheimer’s in the present day (played by Jacki Weaver). Ray will do anything he can to help the wife he loves so dearly, so when he discovers the power of the plant he sneaks some to her at the care facility in the hope of bringing back her youth, vitality, and most importantly to him, her memory.

The young Gwen who returns is not exactly what Ray envisaged, Phoebe teases.

“Gwen is, or was, a very successful Australian actress, who had a wonderful life and a wonderful husband, but she never had a child, which was something that she always wanted to have,” Tonkin tells 9Honey Celebrity. “What was cool about these characters, which we haven’t really spoken about a lot, is even though they’re the younger versions, in my case with Gwen, she’s younger but something’s off-kilter about her.”

“It’s like Dr Frankenstein: Who did I bring back to life? Was it my wife when she was younger? Or is it some sort of other supernatural being that I don’t really understand or can control anymore? And that was really fun to play.”

Another aspect of sharing roles with other people meant workshopping how each actor would portray the character, but according to Corr there was “surprisingly little” collaboration because “the tail three episodes weren’t even written by the time we started shooting the first. Sometimes we’d even be shooting when some of the older characters were cast.”

Corr did get to spend a few hours at the start with Rod Mullinar, who plays the older version of his character, Sam. “Briefly Rod and I spoke about the things we could carry over, some physicality we could match, or some vocality,” he recalls. “And you’re hardly on set together because you’re playing the same person, but other than that it’s just conversation: ‘How did that scene go the other day?’”

For Tonkin, finding the time with Oscar nominee Weaver was trickier because she wasn’t on set for very long. “I was watching a lot of interviews with Jack, especially when she was younger, stuff that I could find on YouTube, just so I could see how she spoke,” Tonkin says. “But she kind of did the reverse. When she got to Melbourne she came on set and had lunch with me, and sort of watched how I talked. We weren’t necessarily trying to find something in the middle, because when we meet her she’s suffering from dementia, so she’s not a reflection of what she was when she was younger. She’s unwell, so it’s a different side of her than she would have been.”

One thing is clear when chatting to Corr and Tonkin about Bloom is how much they loved working on it and how excited they are for people to see it.

“We knew that it was a tone that was very specific that had to be hit, and we were hoping — like everyone that was a part of it — that it would land. And we felt like it did. We turned away and said, ‘I want to watch the second ep.’ And I think it’s really interesting,” Corr says of watching the premiere episode with a crowd.

The sentiment is echoed by Tonkin: “I’m super proud of this one.”

Bloom, a six-part drama series, drops on Stan on New Year’s Day.

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Shot in country Victoria with American film director John Curran (Tracks, Praise, Chappaquiddick) helming the first three episodes and veteran TV director Mat King in charge of the last three, Bloom is described by all the creatives I meet on the set on a cold, wintry day in early September as a “gothic fairytale”. Yes, they’re staying on message, but it also seems a fairly apt description.

For Bryan Brown, who plays Ray Reed, a former scientist whose main role in life is caring for his Alzheimer’s-afflicted wife Gwen (Jacki Weaver), the show offered a welcome chance to leap into unfamiliar territory.

“I liked the fact it was touching on the supernatural, which I have never done,” he says. “I’ve done very strong naturalistic pieces – often where I kill someone or get killed. Audiences are interested in the supernatural. They don’t like being bullshitted to, but they will go on a ride with you if they feel you’re giving that ride absolute honesty – they’ll grab onto your shirttails and go with you.”

That, perhaps, is where Bloom is at its most ambitious. It anchors its fantastical premise – a plant has suddenly appeared, the fruit of which can restore people who consume it to a younger version of themselves – in a world that feels utterly grounded in reality. The show it perhaps most evokes in that respect is the French series Les Revenants (The Returned), about the victims of a bus crash coming back to haunt the alpine town in which they died.

Bloom opens on the elderly Gwen pottering around her kitchen, while a video of a show in which she starred as a young actress plays on the television. A young boy has brought her home, having found her wandering around the town in a daze after escaping hospital; Ray comes home and takes over, tries unsuccessfully to convince the kid to stay until the storm has passed, then watches in horror as a wave of water comes crashing through the yard, sweeping the boy to his death.

It’s a brilliant and tragic opening, and one inspired by real life.

For Phoebe Tonkin, who plays the younger Gwen, there’s only one thing that really matters: conceiving the child she never had, even if it means turning her back on Ray.

“Supernatural shows are always a metaphor,” says Tonkin, who has done more than her share over the years, having visited the worlds of mermaids (H2O: Just Add Water), vampires (The Vampire Diaries), and witches and werewolves (The Originals).

With Bloom, she says, there are a few key elements being addressed. “If you could have a second go, even if you’ve tried to live your life without regrets, what would you do. And on top of that I think it’s a bit of a comment on our obsession with youth and beauty and chasing that eternal vitality. It poses some really interesting questions about that, and having the dynamic of relationships with older actors and younger actors, and love transcending that age gap even when you physically look different, that is another really big theme.”

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