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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.”


Being the mother of an eight-year-old daughter means actress Jacqueline McKenzie (Romper Stomper, Pine Gap) has, by her own estimate, seen every episode of children’s series H²O: Just Add Water “about three times”.

So when Jacqueline, 51, learned that she and H²O star, Australian actress Phoebe Tonkin, would both be in SBS drama Safe Harbour, “I had a bit of a fan-girl moment when I met her,” she confesses to TV WEEK.

“Her work ethic is almost second to none. She’s doing amazingly now too.”

For Phoebe, 2018 has been a breakthrough year. After five seasons in The Vampire Diaries spin-off The Originals playing werewolf-hybrid Hayley Marshall, the Los Angeles-based actress returned home to good notices for Safe Harbour.

She plays Olivia Gallagher, a woman haunted by an unexpected encounter while on a boat.

Then, in the winter, she transformed into the magically revitalised version of Jacki Weaver’s ageing actress Gwen Reed in Bloom, which will premiere on streaming service Stan on January 1.

“I think people in Australia will get to see me in a different light,” Phoebe, 29, tells TV WEEK on the set of the new series in Clunes in country Victoria.

“I think everyone pigeonholed me as a sort of kid actor. But I’ve finally been able to do things, sign onto things I believe in, that challenge me and that have brought me to places I want to go.”

Although she says starring in The Originals has been a blessing, she concedes that the gruelling schedule had inhibited her from expanding the career she began in 2006 as teenage mermaid Cleo Sertori in H²O: Just Add Water.

“I’d been on the show for about five years, and I was really feeling an urge to do some more work,” Phoebe explains.

Plus, she was feeling the pull of her homeland.

“I would always read scripts in Australia and think some of the work was more interesting than most things I’d read,” she says.

But she wasn’t going to leave The Originals without a plan.

“I was strong in my convictions about what I would do next,” she says.

“I wasn’t going to sign onto something just because it felt nice to get a job immediately.”

So she’s looked for complex parts in limited series or films, which led her to play Cole’s (Joshua Jackson) fleeting lover Delphine in an episode of The Affair.

“I’ve been hesitant to sign another long-term TV contract,” Phoebe reveals. “Just because I’m at an age now, without sounding like I’m jaded, where I want to choose my life a little over things as well.”

Next up was Safe Harbour.

“I’d always wanted to work with [director] Glendyn Ivin,” the actress says.

“I’ve seen everything he’s done, whether it was a short film or The Beautiful Lie or Seven Types Of Ambiguity. So that was a really incredible experience for me.”

She then found its equal in Bloom.

“I think Australians take a lot of risks,” Phoebe says with refreshing candour.

“After Safe Harbour, I wanted to find something that matched that. It’s not a surprise that Bloom was also in Australia.”

It has the bonus of being something her supportive parents can watch.

“I think they get extra-proud when it’s something in Australia, because they can see a billboard or a bus or something and say, ‘Look, that’s me!'” she says with a laugh.

But Phoebe has brought her local efforts back to Los Angeles – and beyond.

“Safe Harbour was just bought by [US streaming service] Hulu and has just been airing overseas,” Phoebe explains.

“I have a lot of international fans who have supported me from H²O, and then The Originals and Vampire Diaries.”

“For them to be able to see something such as Safe Harbour – such different, important subject matter – I felt it was a nice responsibility that I had.”

“What I try to do on social media is to guide younger fans in different directions and not just to superficial stuff. It’s nice.”


She’s played a witch, a mermaid, a werewolf and various other characters throughout her career and now Phoebe Tonkin has taken on perhaps her most dynamic role yet with Stan Original Series Bloom.

A few months back, I was lucky enough to fly to Clunes, a stunning small town in outback Victoria, to visit the set of the highly anticipated drama series.

During my visit, I sat down with Tonkin to discuss the show and her character, Gwen.

“There are three versions of Gwen: there’s Gwen in the past, then there’s Gwen who Jacki Weaver‘s playing which is Gwen when she’s suffering from alzheimer’s and the Gwen that I play is a sort of rejuvenated version of her who’s compelled and possessed by this great regret that she had in her life which is that she never had a baby,” she said.

“And that’s been really fun to play with. She is still herself but she has this drive in her that’s making her make these choices that probably weren’t the choices she would have made back in the day.”

I then asked her if there were aspects of her character’s personality that she related to and she admitted that she poetically shares Gwen’s same regret.

“I mean, I want a baby one day. That’s one similarity,” she says with a laugh.

“Obviously she’s an actress and was a successful actress when she was younger and made a lot of sacrifices including that she never had a child for her career and as an actress myself I can relate to making sacrifices for my career which I’ve definitely done in the last few years of working so that’s probably the biggest thing that I relate to.”

Phoebe Tonkin and Ryan Corr are two of Australia’s most recognisable young stars. Both getting their start on children’s television, the pair certainly made an impact once they moved on to adult roles, with Tonkin appearing in The Vampire Diaries’ spin-off The Originals, and Corr capturing our hearts in movies like Holding the Man. As familiar as they have become, we can promise you Stan’s upcoming Bloom will showcase the actors like you have never seen either of them before.

Bloom centres around a country town that sees the arrival of a mysterious and extraordinary plant that, when ingested, allows someone the power to restore their youth. Cue Tonkin and Corr, who both portray the transformed younger versions of people who have become despondent in their current form. In Tonkin’s character’s case, Gwen is a woman suffering from the effects of Alzheimer’s in her older age, while Corr’s Sam attempts to use his restored youth to try to outrun his troubled past.

As far-fetched as the show may sound, Tonkin explains how genuine it truly is.

“It’s a really unique idea, but at the same time it’s really simple, and it poses a lot of interesting philosophical questions as well. These shows are always more interesting when they’re a metaphor for something, as opposed to just being literal sci-fi. It’s much more grounded sci-fi,” she told POPSUGAR Australia.

Corr concurs, saying it was clear from the get-go the show wasn’t “another kitchen sink drama.” This notion is exemplified in Corr’s Sam, whose hedonistic lifestyle involves outrageously running from the law at almost every turn. Corr told POPSUGAR Australia that although Sam might not be a character he’d immediately relate to, all characters must “come from you somewhere.”

“Playing any character involves both dialing up and dialing down different elements of yourself and your own life experience,” he said. “I knew Sam had to be wired, and that there had to be something untrustworthy and edgy about him. It was a pretty broad field to be playing within, but I think what made him so fun to play was that there were no rules.”

As different as their characters may be in personality, both Corr and Tonkin had to channel their maturity into portraying people who are mentally over forty years older than them. Corr explained it was just as much up to Jacki Weaver and Rod Mulliner, who play older Gwen and Sam respectively, to match their mannerisms as it was him and Tonkin to match their’s.

“The nature of TV sometimes means there’s not a huge rehearsal process, but Rod and I were able to sit down for an hour and agree on where we could meet vocally and what mannerisms we could both carry though,” he said, “in Phoebe’s case as well, you’ll notice Jacki actually matched where Phoebe’s voice sits, and production matched her appearance to Phoebe’s…it’s all very cool.”

This dedication to detail is one of several things the pair say Australia’s entertainment industry matches America’s on, having both worked in the US. “There really isn’t a huge difference [between the two industries], Ryan and I have both been fortunate to work on really high-end Australian projects,” says Tonkin, “there was still the same amount of energy, time and talent…the only difference is the food on set!” she laughs. “In Australia we got cordial, in America you get more food than you’ve ever seen in your entire life!”

Despite the difference in catering, Corr says American actors seek opportunities in Australia due to the heightened work ethic. “[Americans] notice there’s something about Australians where we’re really used to getting it done fast. We don’t have these stupid budgets, we’ve got it get it done, and we’ve got to get it done quick, but we’ve still got it get it done to quality. That creates a work ethic and a drive that’s palpable among everyone.” “Yeah” Tonkin agrees, “the crew are so present and hardworking, and it’s all very Australian. It’s like ‘get dirty, get into it!'”

When asked the number one thing audiences should know before the show starts airing on January 1, Tonkin said it is that they will need to be “open-minded.”

“Be open to how wild it gets, in a great way! I think we really pushed the envelope on this show, and it alternates between being really quite funny, and really quite dark. It’s a roller coaster of a show.”


Australian actress Phoebe Tonkin has garnered an unrivaled international fan-following by playing everything from a mermaid, to a werewolf and even an ELLE Australia cover girl.

But Tonkin is wrapping up 2018 with possibly her most fascinating role yet, as Gwen Reed on Stan’s original series, Bloom.

Described as a gothic fairy tale, the six-part series ventures into questions surrounding the pursuit of eternal youth and the fragility of life.

Bloom first introduces Gwen as an ailing, frail elder played by Australian screen legend Jackie Weaver, before she is bestowed with a “miracle” fruit, that reinstates her youthful self, played by Tonkin.

Ahead of the show’s premiere on January 1st, we sat down with the Chanel face and got her to address some of the most-Googled terms surrounding her name.

That’s the number one search? Can I say no comment?

No…diet’s an ugly word.

We’ve known each other for a long time. She’s a power house. She is so inspiring; not just her work ethic and how she’s obviously so talented, but through the years has truly been a real champion for getting [actors and actresses] together. She loves having barbeques and stuff, she’s just so cool.

I remember hearing that Heath Ledger, as he started getting more successful, he was really inclusive and made sure that everyone felt part of the community and I would say she’s taken that baton a little bit. She really surrounds herself with really great, inspiring, creative people from all facets of life with all different careers and puts them all together. I think that’s really admirable.

Yeah I would love that! I think my dream for the next few years is just to work with people who I look up to, whether that’s actors, directors to writers and that sort of started for the last few years. I was just trying to find projects that really spoke to me and that I kind of really wanted to sink my teeth into.

I was only on that for a few episodes, because obviously then I went and did The Originals for five years. I mean yeah, it was great. That was sort of my home and family for six years of my life and I lived in Atlanta… I loved Atlanta. I love the south, I love Southern American states. I just loved living there. But yeah it was great, it was an amazing experience. I made amazing friends and I learnt a lot, but I was excited to explore other opportunities after that.