Welcome to Phoebe Tonkin Web, your best and largest source for the incredibly talented Australian actress, model, writer, director, and producer, Phoebe Tonkin. Phoebe is best known for her work as Cleo Sertori on the children's fantasy series, H2O: Just Add Water and as Hayley Marshall on the CW's The Originals. Phoebe's latest television project, Boy Swallows Universe, premiered on Netflix to critical acclaim. Her work on BSU led to her eventual casting in the upcoming Aussie crime series The Dark Lake. Our site aims to bring you the latest news on Phoebe and her career along with providing a comprehensive gallery of her work and appearances. We hope you enjoy the site and come back soon! b

WWD: Phoebe Tonkin Explores Trauma and Tenderness in ‘Boy Swallows Universe’

The actress portrays a struggling mother in the Australian coming-of-age series, based on a bestselling book.

In an early episode of “Boy Swallows Universe,” a young mother, portrayed by Phoebe Tonkin, spots a flirty red dress in a boutique window. Dressed in a look that Tonkin describes as “iconically Australian” — a jean skirt and “thongs,” aka flip-flops — her character peers inside the display, standing hand-in-hand with her husband. Spotting the price — around 120 Australian dollars — her face falls, and she pulls her husband away.

“I think that’s probably the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen in her life. And she never in a million years thought she would ever be able to wear, let alone afford, something like that,” says Tonkin of the scene, a literal red herring for the seven-part series for Netflix.

The new show is adapted from a popular coming-of-age novel by Australian writer Trent Dalton. Partially based on Dalton’s own childhood, the series is set in ’80s Brisbane and told from the point of view of a young boy living in a chaotic environment within an impoverished neighborhood. The adults in his life, although dedicated to his well-being, are all involved in various illicit dealings. Tonkin stars as the boy’s devoted mother Frankie, who struggles with addiction.

“She came from a traumatic upbringing, and she’s just doing the best with what she has. She doesn’t always get it right, but she does love her children so much,” says Tonkin, who in preparation for the role dove into firsthand accounts of families dealing with addiction.

“The internet is such a great resource for that. I listened to a lot of podcasts about people in sobriety and recovery, and the strengths and the lessons that they’ve learned,” Tonkin adds. “Because a lot of where we see Frankie, she is sober, and I don’t think it should be discounted what she had to go through to get to that place.”

Dalton, an executive producer for the show, has been effusive in describing Tonkin’s portrayal of a character inspired by his own mother. Posting a recent feature that Tonkin had done in promotion of the series to his personal Instagram account, Dalton wrote, “Phoebe went right ahead and gave a performance across eight hours of television that is so raw and exposing and true and dark-as-night-sometimes and so filled with light and hope and heart and LOVE that it reminded me why I wanted to write ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ in the first place.”

“I don’t think any of us [on set] took it lightly that this was really meaningful for Trent, and this is a very vulnerable book. Obviously a lot of it is fictionalized, but a lot of it wasn’t, so there was a real compassion to him and his family and the things that they dealt with,” says Tonkin. “Ultimately I think the message of the book is that you can face adversity and go through really hard times, but it makes you the person that you are. So that really grounded everyone on set.”

The show was filmed on location in Brisbane, Queensland. Tonkin, who grew up in a suburb of Sydney, was born in the late ’80s on the cusp of the decade change — but the sartorial period of “Boy Swallows Universe” straddles the shift from the late ’70s.

“Even though it’s set in the ’80s, this is a family that doesn’t have a lot of money, that aren’t keeping up with the latest styles,” she says, adding that several distinct outfit moments were pulled from the book. “Frankie is in no way someone that I think wakes up and thinks about what she’s wearing.”

While her character isn’t fixated on fashion, off screen Tonkin has aligned herself with fashion brands including Chanel, Jimmy Choo and Tiffany & Co., and recently appeared in a campaign for Anthropologie.

“I’ve been really lucky to work with Chanel for a long time, and had some incredible opportunities with them,” says Tonkin, a brand ambassador for the house. “I’ve gotten to travel the world with Chanel, and I feel so lucky whenever I get the chance to wear Chanel.”

Having flown from New York to Australia for the series’ red carpet premiere in Brisbane earlier this week, the actress is looking forward to enjoying some downtime back home.

“Thankfully I can stay a little bit longer and see my family. And get away from this cold for a minute,” she says. “It’s going to be summer there, so I’m really excited.”

Published January 11, 2024
by Kristen Tauer