BEST KEPT SECRET
Bonnie Sveen is ready to kiss and tell all about her next TV chapter
Change is as good as a holiday and Bonnie Sveen has had both recently.
At the start of 2016, the Logie-winning actor bid farewell to her popular Home and Away character Ricky after more than three years in the long-running soap.
And then she retreated to her home state of Tasmania to decompress and let her tough, surfy chick persona go.
“I watched the final episode when it went to air and there was a little tear,” Sveen, 27, admits.
“It was like a goodbye. I felt lighter and freer. It was lovely to take a break, have a bit of a holiday and go back home … I was able to see the three-and-ahalf years of it, to get it into perspective.”
Any actor who walks away from a well-paying and stable job in a notoriously fickle industry is taking a gamble.
But for Sveen, it was time to move on to new challenges.
“I’m constantly reassessing, asking where I want to go and looking at how I’m doing. These days, I feel more philosophical, energised and creative about where I’m heading.”
Where she’s going next is headfirst into The Secret Daughter, a meaty Australian drama boasting an all-star cast including Colin Friels, David Field, Matt Levett and Rachel Gordon.
It tells the story of Billie, a country pub singer — played by pop star and actor Jessica Mauboy — whose chance encounter with a wealthy city hotelier completely changes her life.
Sveen is Billie’s best friend Layla, who plays the keyboard in her band and goes along for the ride.
“It was pretty daunting to come into,” she says.
“In my mind I’m thinking, you’re just Ricky from Home and Away. I’m still learning, you know. I looked at the cast and my mind was blown and I wondered if I was a bit out of place.
“But it wasn’t the case at all. It was a really beautiful experience to meet these people and feel like they’re really, truly my peers.”
A beast of a production like Home and Away offers an incredible training ground for young actors.
It’s why the show has produced so many big-name Hollywood stars, from Chris Hemsworth to Melissa George.
“Everyone says it puts you in good stead and at the risk of repeating cliches, it really does,” Sveen says.
“All that time being on set and facing your nerves and external obstacles, whether it be cockatoos squawking overhead or the wind suddenly picking up or a tour bus rocking up, it creates an attitude of ‘just push forward’. You learn to be resilient and trust the cast and other actors who surround you, but it doesn’t offer a lot of time to digest your work.”
With a show like The Secret Daughter, produced by drama powerhouse Screentime and co-helmed by Leah Purcell, there’s a bit more of a luxury to be immersed in story. “I was on set one day daydreaming, leaning against this ornate
fireplace in the boardroom of this grand hotel that’d been constructed,” Sveen recalls.
“The wallpaper was so ornate with reflective bits in it, and when the light hits it in the right way it bounces off and dances around in the air, like little fairies almost.
“And for me, for some reason, it cemented the difference. It’s a different show and a very different character.”
Where Ricky was “just coping and keeping herself together” in the face of Summer Bay’s standard deaths, destruction and personal turbulence, Layla is a free spirit.
She’s closer to Sveen’s personality — easygoing, thoughtful and bit earthy.
“Layla is the girl who sees the glass as half-full, all the time. She’s always winning even when she’s not. If she’s losing, she’ll find a way to make it a positive. It’s lovely to go from Ricky to this provider of solutions.”
As the series makes its anticipated debut this week, Sveen again finds herself wondering what might be next.
But as she points out, it’s an exciting time in the industry with a mini-boom of scripted production. She might like to try a crime drama next.
“Maybe even something supernatural, with a bit of a cinematic feel. We’re making some great stuff here and it feels like a new era. I’m excited.”
But first, there’ll be a trip back home.
“Every six months or so, it’s time to go back to the family in Tasmania. You’ve got to take a breath and reflect. It’s good for the soul.”
“Layla is the girl who sees the glass as half-full, all the time”
BONNIE SVEEN ON HER CHARACTER
THE SECRET DAUGHTER, CHANNEL 7, MONDAY, 8.30PM
Bonnie Sveen hits the road in The Secret Daughter.