Actress Tessa James is right on track in the acting field.
Actress Tessa James is back in the acting field.
There was plenty of darkness while Tessa James was undergoing invasive treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but there was also the odd moment of levity. A particular favourite was the day James implored her husband, Nate Myles, to go horse riding with her.
The actress has had a lifelong affinity for horses, a result of her upbringing in semirural Victoria where she regularly attended pony club. When she was diagnosed in 2013, she found herself drawn to horses once more, discovering they brought her some peace. One of her goals during treatment was to go riding with Myles, only to have him refuse point blank, the result of a nasty childhood encounter.
“When I wasn’t well I had a list of fun things to do, as I’d go for treatment every two weeks and for five days I’d feel awful. I said I wanted to go and ride horses, as they’re known for being therapeutic and healing. But he said he wouldn’t do it. I made him come with me, but he wouldn’t even go up to the horse and pat it!”
James did manage to help Myles overcome his fear of horses, but the sight of the muscular professional rugby league player sitting rigid with fear while being led slowly on a rope still makes her giggle.
Her love of horses had another upside: earlier this year she was invited to help launch luxury watchmaker Longines’s new equestrian collection and was flown to the Royal Ascot races in England and Chantilly in France for the Prix de Diane, as a guest of Longines.
Life has only improved for the screen actor, who became a household name after joining the cast of Home and Away when she was only 16. She has made her longed-for move into film, initially with a small cameo on the local bachelors and spinsters farce, Spin Out, starring Xavier Samuel and co-directed by comedian Tim Ferguson; and recently spent two weeks in her other home, LA, shooting her first American film, You’re Gonna Miss Me, a comedy starring Morgan Fairchild.
“It was surreal, because I’d never worked there before so to be on my way to a set, after everything I’d been through, was an emotional, exciting experience. It probably wasn’t as glamorous as I’d imagined, but that’s fine … one day,” she says.
James and Myles, a prop with the Manly Sea Eagles, are used to spending time apart since purchasing an apartment in LA, where James is based three or four months of the year. “People find it strange but it’s just something we’ve always done,” the 25-year-old says. “We know we’re young and at that point in our lives when it’s important to do what we love.”
A dedicated, disciplined actor, James undertakes regular training. She’s recently taken workshops with legendary US acting coach Larry Moss and The Actor’s Studio method coach Elizabeth Kemp. Her dream is to do theatre, but also admits to an obsession with fashion.
“If I wasn’t an actress I’d love to be a fashion editor. I’ve bought magazines ever since I could. I love Vogue. I love the touch and feel of magazines,” she says, citing Michael Lo Sordo, Christopher Esber, Ellery and Dion Lee as favourite local designers. “As an actress, you get dressed by certain people and I never felt I came across as the person I was inside. So I’ve made a conscious effort to find designers who do express that for me.”
Tessa James wears a Gucci dress, $2,965, and shoes, $2,235. Nerida Winter hat, $165, from a selection at Myer. Longines watch, $2,075, worn throughout.
Burberry dress, $4,350. Nerida Winter turban, $250, from a selection at Myer.