Phoebe Tonkin Talks Activism, Acting—And Loving ‘Fleabag’
Interviewed by those who know her best, including friends.
Phoebe Tonkin is a woman with a conscience—and a good friend.
“I’m really lucky that I have some beautiful, wonderful friends and we support each other, and I can’t imagine a world in which we wouldn’t,” Tonkin says. “My friends are a really strong, feisty, supportive, goal-oriented and balanced group of women. They all collectively inspire me in different ways.”
Environmental activism is one of those ways, and it isn’t always easy. Tonkin had to learn pages and pages of dry facts and figures when campaigning with her friend and fellow actor Carson Meyer to encourage the Californian congress to ban an agricultural pesticide that can make children sick. But her efforts paid off, and the chemical was banned.
Tonkin has also worked with the Climate Council, and uses her 5.4 million-strong following on Instagram to spread crucial information on climate change and green activism.
“We are in a climate crisis right now, and there isn’t enough being done,” she says. “It’s too late for small changes—we need to look at bigger ways to make a difference, like pressuring banks to stop investing in coal mines.”
Tonkin’s interest in exploring weighty issues also brought her a part in SBS drama Safe Harbour, which dealt with the topic of asylum seekers and was a sharp left turn from her roles in The Vampire Diaries (which saw her dating co-star Paul Wesley for four years) and its spin-off, The Originals. Once The Originals’ five-year run ended, Tonkin took a turn behind the camera, writing and directing a short film, Furlough, which she’s currently putting the finishing touches to.
Tonkin will be back on screens soon, though, in Season 2 of the Stan series Bloom, in which she plays a younger version of Jacki Weaver—but with all the wisdom and experience of her older self. That’s an acting challenge the Chanel ambassador can really get her teeth into.
As for her future ambitions? Let’s leave it to some of her many friends to ask.
Carson Meyer: “What is your dream role?”
Phoebe Tonkin: “I’m dying to do something set in a different era, probably the Victorian era. If I could go to London and do a BBC series for the rest of my life, I’d be very happy.”
Bella Heathcote: “Did directing your short film make you want to direct more?”
Phoebe Tonkin: “Definitely. I loved the experience of doing a true independent film. When you’re on television you get caught up in the machine, and making a film on no money—literally no money—is such a beautiful experience.”
Abby Tonkin (Phoebe’s sister): “If you could play a character from any movie or show from the last three decades, who would it be?”
Phoebe Tonkin: “I wouldn’t even dare touch it, because no one could ever improve on this performance, but Fleabag. She’s the greatest character written in a very long time. Watching the first season was the first time I had seen this super-messy, super-complicated, super-badly behaved heroine. Sometimes women aren’t perfect, sometimes they’re complicated and flawed. Fleabag was the first character like that I’d seen in a really long time. It’s super relatable.”
To read the full article and see our cover shoot, pick up the March 2020 issue of ELLE Australia, on sale from February 17, 2020.