Phoebe Tonkin is one of those rare Australians who is better known abroad than at home. She has risen to prominence in the United States as a supernatural teen queen on the CW network, first playing a sexy witch in the short lived but compellingly camp The Secret Circle before moving on to the role of orphaned werewolf Hayley in The Vampire Diaries.
The Vampire Diaries is notorious for its obsessive fanbase, and for killing off guest stars, but Tonkin seems to have resonated with the audience, since she’s just picked up a spin-off pilot, The Originals.
In addition to her acting chops, Tonkin has the sort of social media presence that is for many a career in itself. Tonkin has 90,000 Instagram followers, and 100,000 more than that on Twitter, and she runs a popular blog YourZenLife with friend and fellow Australian actress Theresa Palmer.
An ebullient guide to health and wellbeing YourZenLife is yoga and organics sans condescension, and it strikes a chord with Tonkin’s teenage fans. The blog espouses the virtues of vegetables and positive thinking, with an appealing earnestness.
We caught up with Tonkin at the launch of Adidas’ Energy Boost yesterday in New York to find out about life on the intersection of new and old media.
Can you tell us about what it’s like to combine acting with your social media presence?
Sure thing. It’s interesting because the show that I’m on has a very young demographic, so knowing that I have a chance to have a voice with them is quite exciting. In my personal life I’m very passionate about health and wellness and the chance to give a bit of advice, especially to young girls, is great. It’s not so much giving them someone to ‘look up to’ because I don’t really think of myself in that way, but I do think it’s important to try and be positive. I want them to see other people doing good, by themselves and for their bodies, so they don’t feel like they have to do anything silly to achieve their goals.
Do you have much direct contact with your fans?
That’s what Twitter is really good for. You can literally directly reply to people. Gone are the days of writing, or writing back to, fan mail. Now Twitter is the easiest way to contact someone.
What’s one particular thing you’ve heard from a fan that’s really stood out for you?
I mean, it’s always nice when Theresa and I get emails on our OurZenLife email account. Even if they’re not necessarily fans of our work. I’ll get people who contact us to tell us they’re in high school, and that all their friends have seen us. Just people being able to explain “This is what I do and care about, and see, other people do it too.” That we’re allowing people to not feel like the odd ones out because they’re not eating fast food and drinking. Theresa and I were saying that we’d like to make it cool to have a green juice in school.
How did you and Theresa come to realise you should work on this together?
Well she’s the sweetest thing in the world, and we got to know each other through mutual friends and we realised that we were both passionate about living this particular way and finding that balance in life. We were always on other people’s blogs, and always sharing information and we wanted an outlet to share our own information, and take other people’s ideas and tips that we really liked and give them a platform too.
Can you tell me about a time when something on-set has leaked into the blog?
Especially beauty tips and stuff will often come from set. Make up artists are always giving me natural beauty tips. Like once I went away without bringing makeup remover, and my makeup artist told me to call room service and order a salad with olive oil on the side, then use the olive oil on a pad or tissue to take my makeup off. Which worked! So things like that we like to pass along.
Do you ever write about things that are work related that people will then pick up on. A sort of ‘I know where that came from’ moment?
Not necessarily because we’re so health and wellness focused that it’s best not to be too specific. Our situations are so different to someone else reading the blog for instance, who is in college or uni or is a working mum. We want to make it more of a community of like-minded people.
Does your blog have followers who aren’t aware of your lives as actresses?
I hope so! That’s our aim, we don’t want to be known just as actresses, we want to be known as people who are very involved and passionate about this world.
As an actress do you feel like there’s an expectation to have a side project?
No not necessarily, but it does help you keep your sanity. So you’re not focused just on meetings and auditions and things. It’s nice to have something else that is so different from that to put your energy into.
Speaking of acting, what can you tell us about what you’re doing at the moment?
I’m doing a spin-off of The Vampire Diaries called The Originals and I go to film it next week in New Orleans and Atlanta. I can’t tell you exactly what it’s about yet because it’s super top secret!
What’s your style like when you’re down there on set?
I like Bassike, and I wear a lot of beautiful t-shirts and things that are in really nice materials with great cuts. I like Helmut Lang and Alexander Wang, things that look kind of like they’re comfortable and are beautiful as well.
When you attend an event like this, do you approach it as something that could be content for your blog, or do you see yourself more as an actress on these occasions?
It’s definitely content! I’m a fitness freak, so this event is a big deal for me. It’s nice to be meeting other people in the same field in terms of health and wellness too.
Published February 15, 2013
by Alyx Gorman