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Young Aussie actress Phoebe Tonkin makes an auspicious behind-the-camera debut with the short film Furlough, which will have its Aussie premiere at Flickerfest.

“I’m in Los Angeles right now, where the rate is terrible,” Phoebe Tonkin tells FilmInk. “One in five people are getting COVID. It’s insane. And then you add civil and political unrest to the mix…if work arises in Australia, I’d love to do it, but my life is here now, and my house is here. I don’t know if I’ll just go back, but it would be nice to escape everything right now. If there was a film or series offer, it would be tempting.”

The “born and raised” Sydney actress might be in the wrong part of the world now, but with roles on popular US TV series like The Secret Circle, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, The Affair and Westworld, her career currently demands that she reside in what is essentially the COVID hotspot of the world. First finding fame on Australian TV series like H2O: Just Add Water, Home And Away and Packed To The Rafters, and the popular big screen adaptation of John Marsden’s hugely successful YA novel Tomorrow, When The War Began, Tonkin has lately snuck back home for Aussie TV projects like Bloom and Safe Harbour, and also to make her directorial debut with the short film, Furlough. Shot in The Hunter Region two hours outside of Sydney (with post completed in New York City), the film follows a day in the life two teenage sisters (Markella Kavenagh and Milly Alcock) who embark on a wild adventure in search of freedom and new experiences. Produced under the high profile auspices of Dollhouse Pictures (the production company formed by Krew Boylan, Rose Byrne, Jessica Carrera, Shannon Murphy and Gracie Otto), Furlough will have its Australian premiere at Flickerfest.

Have you always wanted to direct?
“I started acting at fifteen and I’ve worked with all these incredibly inspiring directors, so I feel like I’ve been learning by osmosis. I’ve always liked to write. I’ve always been a storyteller. I’ve always liked the storytelling aspect of acting too. I’ve been tinkering on a few different ideas over the years, but a lot of those just felt a little out of my means and resources. The story that eventually became Furlough has been on my mind for a while, and it felt a little bit more achievable. It was just about taking that jump. I’m lucky to have known [producer] Jess Carrera for many years, so I just reached out to her on the off chance that she would want to produce it with me. Thankfully she said yes, so I couldn’t turn back.”

This is a film that really forefronts young women…
“I have always been fascinated with my experience as a teenager, and it’s such a pivotal time for young women. They’re really pushing boundaries. I also felt like I’ve seen a lot of stories about lost, rebellious boys. Sometimes we fall into the trope of trying to either represent women as either really strong or really feminine, but there are a lot of very complicated, flawed, messy young women. I wanted to see a representation of that. The first line in the script that I wrote includes the C word because I immediately wanted to not portray these girls any differently than how young boys are portrayed in these sorts of films. These are like the girls that I grew up with. That was the catalyst for writing this. I wanted to tell this story about these two troublemaking young girls who are really pushing the boundaries, but then you eventually understand the greater purpose for why they’re pushing these boundaries and trying to have really normal, if somewhat dangerous and naughty, experiences.”

Your young actresses are great…
“I just got so lucky that the two actresses that I wanted for this were as enthusiastic about being in it as well. Markella and Milly are the next generation of really strong, talented Australian actors. I feel very lucky to have worked with them early on in their careers, even though they were both established beforehand. I was very lucky that they were available when I needed them.”

Did you hand pick them or did they audition? How did the casting process happen?
“I had seen some of Markella Kavenagh’s work prior, and I was so intrigued by her. I’d seen her in the TV mini-series Romper Stomper, and I was so impressed by her performance. She was just so young and honest and raw. We followed each other on Instagram, and I just reached out and asked if she had time to jump on. I told her about the character and the story and my vision for it, and she jumped on immediately. I wasn’t as familiar with Milly, but I was presented with some of her work, and I was just so taken aback by the strength of her talent. So she was the only other person that I had in mind for that character. They didn’t know each other beforehand, but we all lived together over the duration of the film and they became so close. That was really beautiful. Their chemistry was really authentic because they got very close while we were filming.”

Which parts of the directing process came to you the most intuitively? And where was your biggest learning curve?
“Pre-production was the biggest learning curve. The logistics of putting together a short film are so tricky. With such a little budget, you’re really scratching for resources and favours and things like that. But I definitely knew what I wanted for this film, and the greatest advice that I received is to surround yourself with people that you really trust that share your vision. Our amazing DOP Giovanni C. Lorusso shared my vision, and I completely trusted him. We were like one mind throughout the process. It was a fun, collaborative project and experience. Being on set, however, was something that I knew so well, because I’m always on the other side of it. I know what works because I’ve been on so many sets for so many years. That element felt the most natural for me. I know how I like to work with directors. Everyone has their own opinions, but I felt the strongest when I was actually on set directing.”

Which part did you find the most difficult?
“The hardest part was post-production because that was completely foreign to me. That was the most learning that I had to do, because that really is about dealing with grading and exporting and all of those things. But again, I had this amazing editor called Max Bowens, who was so incredible. I trusted him wholeheartedly.”

So, the film is playing at Flickerfest obviously, but is it going to be playing anywhere else?
“This will be the Australian premiere. It’s screened at a couple of festivals here in the US, like HollyShorts and Raindance and The LA International. But obviously with COVID this year, they were all online. That was bittersweet, but I was so grateful to have people be able to view it at those festivals. Flickerfest is doing something in person though, which is great. In any other year, I would be there in a heartbeat, so it’s a bitter pill to swallow that I can’t be there.”

I imagine it wouldn’t have been as nerve wracking for you to have it play online as opposed to being there in the flesh and watching it in front of a live audience, right?
“Yes, but there’s also an energy that undeniably comes with watching a film and being able to invite all the collaborators and all the people that were part of it and being able to experience watching it together on a big screen. There’s obviously a vulnerable, scary feeling that comes with that, but I was so excited to share this film with all the people that were part of it in person, and honestly, to see it on a big screen… I’ve seen it on a big screen once, when I was grading, which was great. I’ll have to find someone with a big television so I can screen it as if it’s a premiere.”

Will your family in Australia be able to go to Flickerfest to see the film?
“I hope so! But up until recently, I assumed that Flickerfest would be an online festival. But it’s so good to know that they’re confident enough about the state of COVID in Australia that it will be happening in person. That just feels so foreign to me, because I’m in the worst part of the world right now. You can’t even go to a grocery store without being in a pretty risky situation. So the idea of a movie screening just feels very foreign right now.”

Do you plan on doing more directing? Do you have anything in the pipeline?
“I had planned to keep working towards something else, perhaps a feature. There are still things that I’ve been thinking about but, obviously this year, even as an actress, it’s been hard. It’s a really difficult climate right now, and there are a lot of risks when it comes to production. In an ordinary time, I’d be thinking about directing opportunities, but like everyone else right now, I’m just sitting at home and hoping that things start getting a little safer and opening up and that opportunities start arising again.”

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We’ve all had to adjust our routines since the pandemic — with many people pivoting professionally. Phoebe Tonkin is no different.

When Hollywood productions halted in March because of the novel coronavirus, the actress and environmental activist used the downtime to revisit an idea she’d previously put on the back burner.

Earlier this month, Tonkin teased the new project on her Instagram account alongside a photo with the word “LESJOUR!” in red. The mysterious post left Tonkin’s 6.1 million followers Googling what the word might mean.

The answer is officially out of the biodegradable bag. On Thursday, Tonkin launched Lesjour!, a sustainable loungewear collection. It consists of six pieces (four tops and two pants) in two colorways (black and red) with each piece sold separately for $198. The sets, fashioned from earth-friendly material, are exclusively available for preorder on lesjour.com in sizes XS to XXL.

Although Tonkin had long contemplated creating a sustainable fashion line, its aesthetic was ultimately inspired by her off-duty wardrobe and pandemic lifestyle.

“I felt like I was changing four times a day but in the same variation of pajamas,” Tonkin told The Times over Zoom in mid-October while clad in a red Lesjour! top, which she paired with gold hoop earrings by Oma the Label. “Then the pajamas would elevate to sweatpants to go to the grocery store and then I’d come back and put something else on.”


Phoebe Tonkin is getting into loungewear.

The actress has been working on her debut fashion line since June, when she realized she had been living in pajamas for three months during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I was changing four times a day, but everything was a weird version of pajamas,” Tonkin told WWD via Zoom. “I wanted something that felt as cozy and comfortable as sweatpants, but was more polished, tailored and refined.”

LesJour offers cozy and chic uniforms for the Work From Home set. The brand is launching direct-to-consumer with six styles — four tops and two bottoms — in three colorways, with sizes ranging from XS to XXL. Each piece, which retails for less than $200, is made of EcoVero, a renewable material comprised of wood and wood pulp, and comes in biodegradable packaging from Better Packaging Co. New styles and colors will drop every six weeks on LesJour’s web site.

“I’m passionate about the environment and sustainability,” Tonkin said. “If I’m putting something else into the world, I have to make sure it’s durable, sustainable, that we’re doing all of the homework for the consumer so they don’t have to worry about it. When I’m buying things, I want to be able to trust what I’m spending money on is doing that work.”

The brand is self-funded by Tonkin and based in Los Angeles, where she recently relocated from New York City. Due to COVID-19, she and the LesJour team were forced to work entirely via Zoom, which Tonkin called “a big game-changer.”

LesJour is Tonkin’s first fashion design venture. It will remain direct-to-consumer for the foreseeable future, since Tonkin shops primarily online and via Instagram. The designs, she said, are inspired by Chanel.

“I’ve been working with Chanel for the last few years and learning by osmosis,” Tonkin said. “Chanel is incredible in that everything is so beautifully tailored, so flattering. A lot of those pieces are staples. [LesJour] came out of what I felt is flattering on a bunch of different body shapes. I’ve probably worn the same style for 10 years — jeans, ballet flats and a sweater. I love that classic French style. This is one step further in terms of coziness and comfort.”

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The actress and Chanel ambassador debuts her own label that takes the guesswork out of what to wear on Zoom calls.

It was five minutes before I had to log on to a Zoom call, and all I could find was a lumpy, oversized gray cardigan to wear over my Minnie Mouse shirt. For the months I’ve spent conducting interviews from home, I have yet to fine-tune my wardrobe for our new normal (cue the collective sigh). Comfort is the only factor I consider when rummaging through my drawers in the morning, and I often forget that the array of Disney shirts I’ve collected over the years isn’t the best option for when I have to appear on-screen.

Phoebe Tonkin, however, was more than ready for our video conference. Dressed in a bright-red cardigan, she accessorized with bold gold jewelry. And I wasn’t at all surprised: The 31-year-old actress—best known for her roles in The Vampire Diaries and its spin-off series, The Originals—is a Chanel ambassador. She was also calling from her home in Los Angeles to discuss the launch of Lesjour!, her new fashion label that is perfectly suited for the era of biz-leisure.

Lesjour!, which is a play on the French phrase les jours (“the days”), began percolating in Tonkin’s mind nearly two years ago. Having immersed herself in Chanel’s atelier and wanting to start an endeavor outside of the precarious entertainment industry, she set out to create a line that reflected her chic, laid-back style. While in quarantine, she realized the pieces she was envisioning had started to become the standard for those working from home, so she “pulled the trigger.”

Along with Tonkin’s red cardigan, Lesjour! offers six sets of coordinating wide-leg knit pants and roomy tops, all made from EcoVero, a sustainable fabric made from wood pulp, and retail for $198 per piece. For Tonkin, the garments are meant to be hassle-free go-tos worn every day of the week—hence the name. Lesjour! takes the guesswork out of finding that one outfit that will work for a variety of situations: sending work emails from your couch, nipping out to the grocery store, or—if you’re like me—constantly hopping on a Zoom call.

Ahead, Tonkin tells BAZAAR.com how she founded Lesjour! and where she sees the brand going beyond the pandemic.


It was around the age of 11 that something clicked in Phoebe Tonkin, Australian actor, model and bona fide superstar in the eyes of anyone under 30. Shy and withdrawn, she nonetheless had her sights set on becoming a journalist when she grew up.

But, somewhat ironically, there was something about the stage that allured her. Already trained as a dancer, taking classes from the age of four, it was now the world of drama that drew her interest with courses at Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) in her Sydney hometown.

“I never wanted to be an actor,” Tonkin tells Stellar. “I just wanted to tell stories.” Even today, she says, “If there is any outlet where I can do that, then I will find any way to be creative.”

Take her Instagram account, where the actor and activist – she is a passionate feminist and staunch environmentalist – shares with her 5.4 million followers as many photographs of herself and her friends as she does news and updates about the causes that matter to her most.

“When you look at Instagram as a platform to reach people, it’s a little like having a newspaper,” she explains. “I use the opportunity to share information or direct people to some charity or organisation. It would feel very strange to have that level of responsibility and not use it for a good purpose.”

Tonkin’s acting career took off just a few years after she enrolled in those ATYP courses. When she was 15, she landed a lead role in Network 10’s mermaid fantasy series H20: Just Add Water and that ultimately proved to be a springboard for her move to the United States, where she starred in teenage TV drama The Vampire Diaries and its spin-off, The Originals.

Projects bring her home on a regular basis, and she was in Australia earlier this year – including for a fashion shoot with Stellar at a rural property outside of Adelaide.


The coronavirus pandemic has had a serious impact on many industries around the world, including the entertainment business as various films and TV shows have halted production to protect cast and crew.

But just before the outbreak, production wrapped on the highly anticipated second season of Stan Original series, Bloom.

This morning, I got on the horn to Australian national treasure, Phoebe Tonkin, to discuss the new season of the award-winning series.

Tonkin, who is currently in isolation in LA, shared that while the first season is “all about grief and mourning,” season two is “a bit more hopeful, there’s a lot more colour.”

There’ll be more Bloom-related tea from our chat to come closer to the release date so watch this space, but in the meantime I wanted to suss out how Phoebe is going with self-isolation.

“Yeah good, I’m just trying to stay inside and not go out in public,” she said.

“[Staying indoors is] pretty weird but I think everyone needs to adhere to what’s being said and take responsibility and be accountable and stay at home. There’s a lot of book reading and movie watching right now.”

Naturally I wanted needed to know what her isolation reading / viewing material consisted of:

“Right now I’m reading a book called Three Women (by Lisa Taddeo) and I’ve been watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is amazing,” she shared.

Some A+ recommendations there, Three Women is an acclaimed novel that debuted at number two on the The New York Times Best-Sellers List, and, of course, Larry David’s comedy is always a good idea.

And in terms of social distancing, Phoebe said that she’s “in a lot of group chats right now” and that she and her mates are even “planning on doing a pilates class on FaceTime so we can all work out together.”

A bloody genius idea as it combines two self-isolation essentials: staying in touch with your pals and keeping up with your fitness.

She acknowledges that although she’s “fortunate” enough to “have the means to be able to stay at home,” many folks “don’t have that luxury.”

So she urges people who do have the luxury to work from home to do so.

It’s hard to know how long we’ll need to remain in self-isolation, but if we’re still on lockdown by the Easter long weekend, at least we’ll have Bloom season 2 to binge-watch for a bit of escapism.

“That’s what I think is so great about the show, it’s grounded enough that it’s relatable but you still feel like you can escape into the show through the characters,” Phoebe said.

“It’s a show that’s made for bingeing, that’s how it’s filmed, so you can sit at home and watch all six episodes.”

The entire first season of the Stan Original series is now streaming so get check it out before the second season drops on April 9.

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