CELEBRITY Meet Australia’s most orig­i­nal ex­port: Phoebe Tonkin.

Aussie trans­plant Phoebe Tonkin con­tin­ues to defy def­i­ni­tion as she gears up for one of her big­gest years yet.

ELLE (Canada) - - News - By Justine Cullen

THE PIL­GRIM­AGE TO LOS AN­GE­LES IS A rite of pas­sage for an­tipodean ac­tors who fan­ta­size about be­ing the next Naomi Watts, Chris Hemsworth or Mar­got Rob­bie, but what ac­tu­ally hap­pens when the ge­net­i­cally blessed sell their cars, give up their apart­ments, say good­bye to their sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers and head across the ocean in search of the Amer­i­can dream?

For many, it’s a soul-crush­ing ex­er­cise called “pi­lot sea­son,” where thou­sands of tal­ented (and not so tal­ented) young things con­gre­gate in Hol­ly­wood for a pun­ish­ing ride of au­di­tion af­ter au­di­tion in the hope of land­ing a cov­eted role in a new TV show. Pi­lot sea­son lasts around three months—the length of time the Visa Waiver Pro­gram al­lows am­bi­tious Aussies to stay in the coun­try. Fail to pick up a gig and you’re on the next flight home.

I first met Phoebe Tonkin, who cut her teeth star­ring in the kids’ show H2O: Just Add Wa­ter, at a din­ner party in Australia. She had come straight from the set of the film To­mor­row When the War Be­gan. It was just be­fore she headed over to do her first pi­lot sea­son, and she told me she was wor­ried that cast­ing di­rec­tors needed to be able to cat­e­go­rize an actress—the wild girl, the sexy girl, the earthy girl, the quirky girl—and she wasn’t par­tic­u­larly any of those things. Tonkin re­calls the con­ver­sa­tion, nod­ding. “My big­gest fear was that I was too or­di­nary.”

As Tonkin neared the end of her L.A. stint, the pos­si­bil­ity that that could be true loomed large. “I’d been go­ing for th­ese shows where I was too young to play the doc­tor and too old to play some­one’s daugh­ter; I just wasn’t fit­ting into any­thing,” she says. Un­til her very h

last au­di­tion of the sea­son. “I was so sick of go­ing into all th­ese au­di­tions with my cleav­age out, tight skinny jeans and big blown-out hair, which is the sta­ple uni­form. I thought, ‘I’m just go­ing to go into this one look­ing like me, all in black and with a bow in my hair,’” she re­calls. The au­di­tion was with Kevin Wil­liamson, the one-man teen­dream fac­tory who cre­ated hit TV shows such as Daw­son’s Creek and The Fol­low­ing. “Kevin was the first per­son to show me that I didn’t have to fit into some­one’s idea of a par­tic­u­lar type of girl,” she says. “I could be my own per­son, and some­one would find that to be the right thing.” Just two days later, she was on a plane to Van­cou­ver to film the fan­tasy drama The Se­cret Cir­cle, and pi­lot sea­son, for her at least, had a happy end­ing.

Af­ter The Se­cret Cir­cle wrapped in 2012, Wil­liamson cast Tonkin once again, this time as the were­wolf/vam­pire hy­brid Hay­ley Mar­shall on the hit teen drama The Vam­pire Di­aries. While the part was mi­nor, it even­tu­ally led to a star­ring role in Wil­liamson’s popular su­per­nat­u­ral spinoff se­ries The Orig­i­nals. Sit­ting across from her now, five years af­ter that din­ner party, it’s hard to imag­ine that Tonkin could ever be thought of as “or­di­nary.” There are those huge anime-like eyes and cut-glass cheek­bones; the heart­throb boyfriend, her for­mer h

Vam­pire Di­aries co-star Paul Wes­ley (“He’s my best friend. It’s such a fun time in my life right now; it’s nice to have some­one to share all that with”); the new movie— Take Down, co-star­ring Gos­sip Girl’s Ed West­wick— com­ing out this year; the 1.1 mil­lion Instagram fol­low­ers; and the fact that, with that wil­lowy frame, she has in­ter­na­tional fash­ion houses like Chanel court­ing her to wear their clothes. Not to men­tion the fact that The Orig­i­nals was re­cently re­newed for a third sea­son, mak­ing her that rare crea­ture who is more fa­mous in the United States than at home in Australia. That can’t feel all that or­di­nary, I com­ment.

Tonkin dis­agrees. “TV is a lot like hav­ing an of­fice job: same crew, same peo­ple ev­ery day—it’s like a fam­ily,” she says. “I didn’t move here to be on a job for three months and then sit around read­ing scripts and drink­ing cof­fee in L.A. the rest of the time. The qual­ity of TV is so great now, and you get to do what you love ev­ery day. It’s the clos­est thing to hav­ing a nor­mal job.” In the nor­mal­ity stakes, it helps that The Orig­i­nals is filmed in At­lanta. “I re­ally love be­ing there. As beau­ti­ful as L.A. is, it’s so fix­ated on this in­dus­try. It’s nice to be in the south, where peo­ple have other jobs and you don’t feel like you’re just talk­ing about movies and di­rec­tors all the time.”

As it turns out, Tonkin is the ul­ti­mate mod­ern-day triple threat—actress/ fash­ion dar­ling/ blog­ger— shar­ing a well-be­ing web­site, Your Zen Life, with her best friend, Teresa Palmer. “Teresa and I were in L.A., and it felt like we were al­ways hear­ing girls have all th­ese con­ver­sa­tions about weight loss and how they looked, and it was so bor­ing. We re­ally started to get in­ter­ested in health and well­ness as a way to take the pres­sure away from all that,” she ex­plains. Could she be the next Gwyneth? “When we started it, we were both work­ing less; we now re­al­ize that it’s kind of a full-time job,” says Tonkin. “We do want to grow it, but I’m care­ful be­cause it’s easy for two ac­tresses living in L.A. to talk about how great it is to have fresh juice ev­ery day but maybe not if you’re in some small town.... And I’m con­scious of not talk­ing too much about bod­ies be­cause young girls are so mal­leable and they read things and take them out of con­text.”

Body im­age is a hot-but­ton is­sue for Tonkin, who was re­cently crit­i­cized in the press for be­ing too skinny. “It’s def­i­nitely the darker side [of fame],” she says. “I think it’s re­ally ir­re­spon­si­ble for those sites to fo­cus on any­one’s body shape. I don’t like that I feel I have to be de­fen­sive. I re­ally don’t even like be­ing part of that con­ver­sa­tion.”

When I ask whether it’s hard for some­one as peren­ni­ally nice as she is to shake off In­ter­net trolls and neg­a­tive press, Tonkin just shrugs. “I read an in­ter­view with Jen­nifer Lawrence where she said that when she’s get­ting her pe­riod, she’ll get a glass of wine and sit in front of the com­puter and type in ‘I hate Jen­nifer Lawrence’; I do that some­times too,” she ad­mits. “It’s like, ‘All right, come on, how many peo­ple are talk­ing shit about me, I can take it....’” It’s the sort of psy­cho­log­i­cal self-harm that is sur­pris­ing for some­one who seems to be so in­cred­i­bly well ad­justed. “It’s so self-de­struc­tive,” she agrees. “But I think we’re all re­al­iz­ing that women can be com­pli­cated and messy and they don’t have to be per­fect. It’s just about bal­ance.”

On so­cial me­dia, that bal­ance is clear: Tonkin’s re­fresh­ing nor­malcy in per­son is equally as dis­arm­ing on Instagram and Twit­ter. But how much so­cial-me­dia self-cen­sor­ing goes for celeb­ri­ties? “It can be hard,” she ad­mits. “Some­one puts a photo on Instagram and 20 min­utes later it’s on the Daily Mail and be­ing scru­ti­nized. But I think my Instagram is pretty true to who I am; I’m not hid­ing any­thing. I def­i­nitely try not to put too much about my per­sonal life, but the other side of that is that I’m 25, and some­times I’m happy and I want to share pho­tos in the same way that all my other friends who are at uni­ver­sity or work­ing in Syd­ney do.”

Her per­sis­tence in main­tain­ing a level head in a not-so-or­di­nary world comes through loud and clear on her Instagram pro­file, where Tonkin calls her­self “Pro­fes­sional Cin­derella,” a term from one of her favourite movies, Girl, In­ter­rupted. “Some­times this life feels like that,” she says. “You do all th­ese amaz­ing things and you work on th­ese in­cred­i­ble sets, you get to get all dressed up and you wear the crys­tal slip­pers, and then at mid­night it all dis­ap­pears. You go home and put your py­ja­mas on and it’s just...re­al­ity.” n

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