Australian actor Melanie Vallejo is best known for portraying Sophie Wong in the television series Winners & Losers, which reaches its season finale this week. I caught up with the 33-year-old to chat about the show, awkward scenes and her physical fear of stage fright.
What is a typical day for you?
A typical day is a 5am wake-up to be in the make-up chair at 5.45am to look beautiful. It takes a lot of work – clearly! We shoot all day until about 6.15pm. They are pretty long days but there is a lot of waiting around, which I think is the thing that makes you more tired. Then I go home, see my husband, cook dinner – like a good wife (laughs) – and then I go to bed early and do it all over again.
It looks like a fun show to be part of.
It is a very fun show to be part of. There is lots of laughing, which (makes it) hard sometimes when we have to do dramatic things. Tom Wren (who plays Doug Graham) is now a really good mate of mine and because we had a love story for so many years, I think, ”I can’t do that with you any more – he is like my brother!” All that onscreen lovemaking and kissing and stuff is so awkward for an actor.
What has been the most awkward scene you have done?
The most awkward thing was my first day on set, when I hadn’t met any of the crew, and for the first episode in the big print it said: ”Sophie is topless”. Anything to do with nudity is always going to be awkward, but I had sticky things on my boobs and I didn’t know Tom and he was like, ”Hello, nice to meet you.” The director said, ”You just have to ride him for a couple of minutes and hop off,” and I was like, ”This is what I have to do for the three years!” That was my first introduction to Winners & Losers. When you are in the middle of it, you are thinking, ”I’m getting paid to do this. This is not normal. I’m married. What’s going on?”
How does your husband react to your onscreen love scenes?
He is pretty good with it but I think it’s always going to be weird, and I think it always helps that he knows Tom very well and I know Tom’s wife. We are all friends, so I think, strangely, that actually makes it easier, because there is a lot of trust involved. But it’s such a strange thing to do; I don’t know anyone who enjoys it.
Are you anything like your character Sophie?
I don’t think so, especially not in the first series. She was like the crazy, wild one, super disorganised and super messy, and I think I’m pretty much the opposite to that. But then I think after playing the same character for three years, the lines do blur a bit, and I don’t know if I just subconsciously turn more into someone like me. I certainly implement how she dresses.
In what way?
In the first series I was wearing a lot of short skirts and she was just – how would you say it nicely – Sophie was a little bit wild. So she would wear lots of revealing clothes, which I was not a big fan of, and then progressively I’ve noticed now Sophie just kind of dresses like me, which is awesome. It’s ultimately up to the costume designer, but when you have a whole rack of clothes, I just quietly suggest that I like pencil skirts as opposed to short skirts.
When your fans meet you, do they expect you to be just like your character?
All the time, it’s very strange. People always call me Sophie. People always say I’m much shorter and much prettier in real life and I always think: ”Is that a compliment or not?”
What is the strangest thing someone has said to you?
For my first big job I was a Power Ranger, so there was a lot of weird fans from that. I would get a lot of fan mail from all over the world because it’s such a big show and I would get sent figurines of myself. It’s weird.
If you didn’t become an actor, what career path would you have chosen?
I never really wanted to do anything else, I really don’t know. I have lots of interests. I’m obsessed with interior design and fashion, so I could imagine doing that, or being an artist.
Do you have a secret talent?
I can sing. All four of us (from Winners & Loser) will often sing on set like a four-part harmony. So you never know, there might be a Winners & Losers – The Musical. The poor crew have to listen to us sing all the time.
Did you ever think about becoming a singer?
No. I really like it but I get really bad stage fright. Not with acting, but with singing – like physical fear.
The season finale of Winners & Losers is on Tuesday and Wednesday at 8.30pm on Channel Seven.
WE WENT TO The Botanist, Kirribilli.
WE ATE Halloumi salad and chilli chicken tacos with lettuce, onion, sour cream, tomato and black beans.
WE DRANK Sparkling water.
I WORE A Dion Lee top.
MELANIE WORE Thurley jumpsuit and Versace heels.
Photo: Wolter Peeters