Actress Bonnie Sveen is surrounded by make-up artists, photographers, stylists, lighting assistants… and cacti. The latter is not something she’s used to, given she grew up in rugged Tasmania and spent three years surrounded by sand and surf as she played the popular Ricky Sharpe on Home And Away.
The crew of make-up artists and photographers, on the other hand? She’s very much used to them, which has taken some time. “I found it all quite funny to begin with,” she tells Stellar. “But then I had to take it a bit more seriously.”
Rightly so – at 28, Sveen is on a career high. The Logie winner left Home And Away last year to concentrate full-time on her role as Layla, best friend to star Jessica Mauboy’s Billie, on the Seven Network’s The Secret Daughter. And she reveals that the camaraderie and chemistry viewers see onscreen is hardly a put-on.
“It’s not hard to enjoy yourself with Jess. She’s got a great attitude towards the work. She is positive and passionate and it shows on the screen and in her music. I feel like we are a radiant duo. It is a beautiful friendship that I’m happy to play onscreen.”
Sveen has a knack for this kind of thing, revealing she tries to meet up with her former Home And Away castmates, but often fails due to everybody’s hectic work schedules. But she is still wistful about the memories. “Being a part of that family was a time I’ll never be able to re-create or live again – in any other way,” she says. “It was such a unique experience.”
The set of Home And Away holds a particularly special meaning for Sveen, because it is also where she met her partner, assistant director Nathan Gooley. The couple recently moved in together to a new house in Sydney and, so far, there have been no fights over who handles the chores because “words don’t need to get said about that sort of thing. He looks after himself and wants to take care of me.”
Sveen was 12 when she made her debut in an amateur play, but it was in the playground, aged six, that she realised she wanted to do something creative with her life. “I was one of those kids who grew out of imaginary games and friends much older than the other kids,” she says. “My imagination [and] sense of creativity always came first – pursuing acting is a natural extension of that.”
Sveen is an outspoken advocate for diversity on our screens, particularly when it comes to women’s bodies and appearance. In her headline-making 2014 Logies speech, the Best New Talent winner stated it was important “that viewers have so warmly embraced such a natural and healthy young woman on their screens”.
Since then, Sveen has been turned into an unofficial spokeswoman for body confidence, which makes her slightly uncomfortable. “All I was able to do was share my own experience,” she says. “So I can’t necessarily speak for everybody, because not all cases are the same”. Still, she acknowledges, “It should be a given that we see all types of women playing all types of roles. We don’t need to have certain attributes of a Barbie to play successful or desirable women.”