BLOOM OF YOUTH
Taking a break from filming new supernatural drama series Bloom, PHOEBE TONKIN talks outgrowing fantasy roles, the positive power of social media and becoming a professional Cinderella. By GEORGINA SAFE
Phoebe Tonkin spreads her wings.
PHOEBE TONKIN is sipping a ghee coffee and nibbling a banana muffin at The Roadhouse, a rustic coffee shop in Byron Bay, when BAZAAR calls. “My dad lives here and I’m visiting,” the Los Angeles-based Australian actor says.“i’ve been in Melbourne the past couple of weeks and it’s not the greatest weather over there right now, so I wanted to come here to go swimming, enjoy some sun and just hang out.”
The relaxed, sunny vibe of Byron Bay’s hipster wholefoods scene is about as far away as you can get from the project Tonkin has been working on in Melbourne: a dark supernatural drama series called Bloom.the 29-year-old stars alongside two-time Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver, Bryan Brown and Ryan Corr (Holding the Man, Hacksaw Ridge) in the six-part Stan original.the story is set in a country town, one year after a devastating flood has killed five locals. Survivors have discovered five mysterious plants growing where their neighbours drowned, each producing berries that have the power to restore youth. But there’s a catch. The renewed vitality is fleeting, so the town must protect their supply at all costs.tonkin is calling it “a grounded, dark fairytale”.“even though there is an element that is not of this world, everything from the retionships to the characters feels very real and relatable,” she explains.“it’s still very Australian, but I think it’s something that will also do very well internationally.” Helmed by acclaimed American director John Curran (Tracks, Chappaquiddick, Praise), Bloom taps into the global sci-fi zeitgeist — think series such as Stranger Things, Black
Mirror, Incorporated, Dark and Altered Carbon — making it one of the most buzzed-about debuts of the year. “It poses really interesting questions about our desires and vitality: what are the costs?what would you sacrifice?”tonkin continues.“it asks things we need to ask ourselves every day about the way we consume, the way we use social media, the people we look up to and whether it’s a very superficial world.”
Tonkin and Weaver share a character in Gwen, with Tonkin playing her after her youth has been restored. Tonkin is just four days into filming when she speaks with
BAZAAR. “I haven’t worked with [Weaver] yet, but I have obviously watched a lot of her work,” she says. “I come in when Gwen has been rejuvenated after she eats this magical type of berry.there are elements in her that are [Weaver’s] character and other elements that are supernatural. [The plant] has affected both Gwen’s body and mind, so she’s not entirely the same person she was when she was young in the real world.”
Tonkin is no stranger to the supernatural and fantasy genres. She first came to our attention in 2006 when she played a teenage girl turned mermaid in the Australian series She made her US debut in 2011 as a young witch in the supernatural drama series In 2012, she joined the cast of
“You get to do all these fun things, then the clock hits midnight and you’re back to your normal life.”
Diaries, which led to a role in its spin-off series, The Originals. Tonkin broke out of her fantasy-character niche this year when she snared a lead role in Safe Harbour, an SBS drama about asylum seekers, and then followed that up with a part in the US drama series The Affair.while it still has supernatural elements, Bloom is part of Tonkin’s strategy to transform perceptions and establish herself as a serious actor at home and abroad. “When you do a show like Vampire Diaries for that long, [you’re in] a certain demographic,” she says.“it was amazing and I am grateful, but now I’m excited to do something different.i need to flex different muscles,be challenged and have a new experience as an actor. I want to do something out of the box — not to prove anything, but because that’s just what I gravitate towards when I’m choosing something to watch for myself.”
Tonkin’s love of film blossomed while she was growing up in Mosman on Sydney’s north shore; she and her family went to the cinema every Thursday night. “I loved the movies, but I also loved the atmosphere and the ritual of going to the cinema,” she says. “The memories of getting there and getting home and talking about the film afterwards — it’s something we all bonded over and really enjoyed.” At the age of 12, she found respite from shyness by connecting with other creative children at the Australian Theatre foryoung People.“it was this nice little secret community of kids who weren’t from my school,” Tonkin recalls.“it was just a place to go to escape and become someone else and learn about something that wasn’t in the curriculum. I loved the community it created.” Today,tonkin’s tribe in LA includes close friends and fellow Aussies Lara Worthington, Bella Heathcote, Margot Robbie and Teresa Palmer. “I like being around lots of people being creative and inspiring each other,”tonkin says,“but with industry friends, I try not to talk about work, jobs or auditions.we talk about everything else instead, and I try to have lots of people over to my house or take trips to northern California spots like Ojai.” Tonkin chronicles those trips on Instagram, where you’ll see snaps of her on the beach with her bestie, Matteau designer Ilona Hamer (Tonkin has fronted the swimwear brand since 2015); at the Chanel show in Paris (Tonkin is an ambassador for the French luxury brand); on the red carpet or on set. But among the glitzy shots, her grid is peppered with exhortations abouttime’s Up,gun control,#blacklivesmatter and immigrant rights. “If the younger girls and boys who follow me are consuming the media I’m trying to sell them about the shows I’m in, I think it’s only fair to share another side of the world with them, and maybe get excited and inspired about something else as well,” Tonkin explains.
She is also outspoken about the pressures women face when it comes to body image, and how social media can promote extreme clean eating and orthorexia: obsessive avoidance of food the sufferer considers harmful.“i think people can really misuse the word‘healthy’,” she says.“people look at actresses on social media and think,
Oh, she’s so healthy, I wish I was like that. It’s all very well to look after yourself — and I love good food in my body — but I also like to balance that with wine with my friends.the word ‘healthy’ means comfort and happiness more than just green juices and yoga, and there’s another part of health which is about connecting with nature, being aware of our environmental footprint and meditating, which is something I’ve just started to do. In terms of body image, I try not to be some holy grail of health and wellness — that’s why I try not to talk about the way I eat. But with something like meditation courses, that, to me, is helpful to talk about. After I posted about [meditation coach] Laura Poole, lots of people with depression reached out to her wanting to learn more about meditation.that’s the way I think I can inspire people, rather than just taking a selfie with a smoothie.”
In the 1999 film Girl, Interrupted,angelina Jolie’s character, Lisa, says,“if I could have any job in the world, I’d be a professional Cinderella.”the fantasy job title resonated with Tonkin so much she’s appropriated it for her Instagram bio to describe her lifestyle’s surreal mix of glamour and grit.“it totally does describe my life sometimes,” she says.“a couple of weeks ago I had the most amazing trip with my girlfriends, staying at an amazing house doing all these amazing things, then the next night, I was staying in a hostel in Barcelona by myself.you get to do all these fun things, then the clock hits midnight and you’re back to your normal life.”
And with that, she’s off to enjoy a normal afternoon in Byron Bay.“i’m going to lie on the beach, then walk home and Dad is taking me out to dinner,” she says.
Phoebe Tonkin wears Chanel top, $3180, beret, $1095, with brooches, clockwise from top left, $760, $1060 and $925, and bracelets, $1615 (on her left arm) and $6755. Styled by NAOMI SMITH