History may not end up remembering The Secret Circle—The CW’s sorta cash-in on its #1 hit The Vampire Diaries—as anything other than a footnote. But those of us who stuck with the witchy teen drama until its (crazy) end will remember it as being much more than that. It was a simmering cauldron of superbly weird TV elements, some of which were quickly tossed while others approached greatness. One of its best elements was present from the beginning: Phoebe Tonkin’s Faye Chamberlain, the dark-haired, (secretly not very) mean girl who alternated between snarky one-liners and naked vulnerability to a whiplash-inducing extent. Say what you will about The Secret Circle’s place in TV history, it did at least one undisputedly important thing: It introduced America to Tonkin and, in my opinion, Hollywood now owes Australia a THANK-YOU NOTE. (Well, after the Hemsworth one.)
Plus teen monster fans can now rejoice! This week worlds will collide in a truly awesome way when Tonkin joins The Vampire Diaries as Hayley, a wayward orphan werewolf who may come between Tyler and Caroline. While it’s up in the air just how long Hayley will stick around Mystic Falls (TVD guest-stars don’t have the highest survival rates), Tonkin spoke to me last week from Atlanta (which, hey, good sign that she’s still there!) about her new character, the main differences between The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle, and also why she keeps getting cast as tough girls when she claims to be anything but.
Where are you right now?
You know what, I am in a car park outside a dance studio. I’m taking a ballet class in an hour, but I’m wearing pants and I am literally sweating in the sun right now. [Laughs] Was that specific enough?
Yes, I’m in Atlanta.
[I do a silent fist-pump.] Last time I interviewed you it was for The Secret Circle and you joked that your co-stars Britt Robertson and Shelley Hennig’s real-life Southern accents were starting to rub off on you. Now that you’re playing an actual Southern character on The Vampire Diaries, are you planning to go full-Southern with your accent?
You know what, I guess Hayley does live in the South. But Hayley is like this world traveler who has been around the block, so I think she has a little bit of everything in her. And she’s an orphan, so we don’t really know where she came from, what accent she has. I’m just kind of going straight-up American so far.
This week we’ll finally get to see the unveiling of what a Phoebe Tonkin character looks like on The Vampire Diaries. What’s Hayley like so far? Is she nice, is she not nice? Is she sassy, is she shy?
She’s a tomboy. She lost her parents when she was younger, so she sort of grew up running around with these packs of werewolves. She’s a free spirit, she’s kind of ballsy, she stands up to people a lot, I think just because she’s had to take care of herself for so long. Yeah, so, she’s strong. But in the sense that she’s a good person. I think she has priorities of her own, but I don’t think she’s going to be manipulative like Faye—Faye would’ve done whatever it took to get what she wanted. But Hayley definitely has some secrets and some information that she’s looking for, which is kind of more or less what brings her to Mystic Falls. She’s trying to find something out.
Will we actually get to see you transform into a werewolf? Will you be rolling around screaming on the basement floor at any point?
Not on the show, no. [laughs] No, because she’s already an experienced werewolf, so the transformation isn’t a big deal. Unless she becomes a hybrid!
When you first signed on to play this part were you aware that guest-stars on The Vampire Diaries don’t have a great survival rate? Were you concerned about being killed off right away?
Yeah, I have heard that. I’m hoping to defy those odds. I’m hoping! But the best thing about this show is that even when you die, you don’t really die. You can always get brought back to life. So that’s something I’m kind of holding onto just in case. But we’ll see!
You have a pretty close real-life bestie who’s already on the show (Claire Holt a.k.a. Rebekah). Is it like transferring high schools and your best friend already goes there?
I mean that is literally, exactly how it felt. Like on my first day Claire introduced me to everyone and showed me where I’d eat lunch, showed me where the bathrooms were, told me where to get snacks. I felt like I knew the coolest girl at high school and so it was a little bit easier of a transition. It’s really scary when you start on a set and you don’t know anyone, especially on this show because it’s been going for four years, so I was really lucky to have an “in.” I was really excited.
What are some of the main differences between The Secret Circle and The Vampire Diaries, with regard to working on it, but also what you get to do on camera?
On The Secret Circle, Faye had very particular objectives—to get her own magic back and to take over and be the best witch. Whereas on this show Hayley is a little bit more confused as to what she’s looking for and where she came from and she’s got a lot more questions that she wants to ask and have answered. In terms of just working on it, it’s just a bigger cast. There are so many cast members and so many storylines to intertwine whereas on The Secret Circle, it was the six of us all together all the time and all our storylines more or less overlapped.
You’re jumping from one very passionate fanbase to another that’s passionate times a hundred. Are you nervous about your reception with TVD’s fanbase, particularly if they didn’t think much of The Secret Circle? It’s a whole new group of superfans.
Of course. I really, really hope that the fans—I mean, they’re such loyal fans on The Vampire Diaries—I really do hope that they like Hayley and they want to root for her to find out what she’s looking for and aren’t too threatened by her coming in and causing a few problems between Caroline and Tyler. There’s obviously huge fans of that relationship—what’s their name? Clyler? What’s their shipping name? I’m not sure. But there are big fans of that relationship and obviously Hayley coming in could threaten that relationship. But yeah, I hope the fans like Hayley.
The impression I get from you, from reading interviews and speaking to you, is that you seem very girly and shy and nice, but you keep getting cast in these parts that are either badass, or bitchy, or you’re firing an uzi at a big rig, or you’re yelling at sharks. How do you explain Phoebe Tonkin ending up in all these tough-girl roles?
I don’t know, I’m literally the most awkward, socially strange person. And I always end up like, as you say, a badass? I think it’s because I have dark hair and dark eyes. And kind of pointy, evil-looking eyebrows. Because I always get sent stuff like that. It’s always the witch or the bitch. When really I just wear weird glasses and pajamas all the time.
Published October 25, 2012
by Price Peterson