Phoebe Tonkin is one of Australia’s most successful young acting exports. Beginning her career on the Aussie teen series H20: Just Add Water, she gained international fame (and a casual 4.8 million followers on Instagram) from her starring role on The Vampire Diaries and its-spin off, The Originals. Now, with her career in its peak, she has returned to Australia to take on the lead role of young Gwen (with her older self to be played by Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver) on Stan’s new original series, Bloom, premiering on January 1. Below, Phoebe chats all about Bloom, and what it means to be an actor in 2018.
POPSUGAR Australia: Tell us about the premise of Bloom.
Phoebe: The premise is if you have the opportunity to have your youth, energy and vitality back, with the knowledge of being in your sixties or seventies, what would you do differently? Are there any wrongs you would right, any big regrets you had in your life that you would try to make up for, if you had the chance?
PS: You play a character called Gwen – tell us about her!
Phoebe: When we meet Gwen we find out she’s been struggling with dementia for the past few years and so a lot of her memory has gone. But you realise there’s a man she loved once when she was much, much younger, as well as the man she’s still living with now, Ray. She went through some stuff when she was younger and was quite torn between two men she loved very much. You realise as we explore in the series that sometimes our memory is a little foggy and you can romanticise relationships. So, we’ll learn more about the relationship she had with Max and her husband Ray.
PS: What drew you to the character and the show?
Phoebe: I love working in Australia. I think Stan is doing a great job of being a strong competitor to big American cable shows. I thought the premise was really interesting and unique, and I thought the creatives involved – [director] John Curran is someone I’ve wanted to work with for a long time – and all the Australian actors are people I’ve always looked up to. But yeah, the premise was just really different, and I think it’s very bold for Australian drama.
PS: You’ve done a lot of supernatural shows . . .
Phoebe: [Laughs] I hope this is the least supernatural show. It’s more grounded sci-fi!
PS: What draws you to the genre?
Phoebe: I don’t think I’m drawn to the genre, it’s always project-specific. I wasn’t drawn to doing supernatural vampire stuff, I just happened to fall into that world. The same with this, it was just a project I really liked. It was more the creatives and the premise I was drawn to.
PS: How did you get involved in the show?
Phoebe: I got sent the script and read the first one and sent an email to my agent and was like, “I would do this in 10 seconds, get me that job!” Even in the first few pages of reading it, I realised it was very unique for Australia and will make a big impression that Australia is a big competitor to the rest of the world.
PS: What is it like shooting a local Aussie show versus something like The Vampire Diaries?
Phoebe: This show seems really big for an Australian project. There’s really no difference doing this and the show I’ve been doing in Atlanta. And it’s cool, it’s cool to see Australians being a competitor.
PS: The tagline for the show is you’re only young twice. If you could go back and re-do something, what would it be?
Phoebe: I try not to have any regrets, but I could definitely go back and relive some of my late teenage years and get into a little less trouble!
PS: What do you want to be known for as an actress?
Phoebe: I just want to keep doing interesting projects and work with interesting directors and actors I look up to. That’s always what’s driven me for each project.
PS: You’ve got a huge social following. How do you approach it? Do you see it as a huge responsibility?
Phoebe: It’s a creative outlet and it’s a platform. I try to balance it with promoting things that I care about and bringing awareness to certain charities and certain things I think aren’t getting the eyes on it that it deserves. It’s like a little diary and I love taking photographs, so it’s nice to showcase that as well.
PS: Would you say social media is important for up and coming actors?
Phoebe: I don’t think so. I think I was caught in being in the zeitgeist of a show that was very big in a specific demographic, and therefore social media just came with it. I don’t think you need it to be successful. Most of the actors I look up to actually don’t have social media, but they’re also not reaching young girls, and my show was. And so I think I have a bit of a responsibility in that when you’re dealing with impressionable young girls who look up to you, you have a responsibility to be authentic.
PS: It’s been a big year in entertainment with #MeToo. In your opinion, what else needs to change? What could we be doing better in the industry?
Phoebe: I think everything that’s happened in the last year has been really important. The pendulum has to swing one way for it to balance out, and I think that’s what’s happening. I think it’s good that people are bringing awareness to how much casual sexism not just on sets, but in any occupation. It’s making people who didn’t necessarily think they had a right to stand up for themselves feel like they do, no matter how big or small the way they were affected was. Being able to speak up, to find closure or some sort of safe option is really important.
PS: What do you find the easiest and hardest part about being an actor?
Phoebe: Having to remove yourself from your life for long stretches of time. This is a really nice project because we’re here for three months, which is like summer camp. I mean, the show I did was 10 months out of the year, every year. That was like, you’ve moved your life somewhere. With this, I’m just here for three months.
The easiest? The free food! [Laughs]