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Tammin Sursok

Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Tammin Sursok

12th November, 2017

Tammin with husband, Sean McEwen and daughter, Phoenix

Tammin Sursok became a household name from her time playing Dani Sutherland on Home and Away and since then has appeared as Colleen Carlton on The Young and the Restless and Jenna marshall on Pretty Little Liars. Away from acting she has launched her own kids’ clothing line, Stella.Phoenix, founded a production with her husband, producer Sean McEwen and is a mum to daughter, Phoenix. Did I mention she has also found the time to start her own parenting blog Bottle and Heels? Here Tammin takes time from her extremely busy schedule to chat to me about motherhood, living in Los Angeles and how she handles working with her husband…

What is a day in the life of you?

Everyday is always different. As an actor, working with our production company, writing, and designing, whatever is the most time sensitive is what I focus on. I try to keep routine when it comes to my daughter though. We are up at 6am, we eat breakfast together, and one of us takes her to school. It’s the same with our night time routine. In a very unstructured business, I try to give her the most structure in her life.

What are you working on at the moment?

My hubby and I started a production company, Charlie Baby Productions, in 2015 and our projects are slowly but surely getting off the ground. It is extremely surreal to actually see your vision come to life. My business partner Kellie and I are also designing our next collection for Stella.Phoenix. We are actively building my blog, Bottle and Heels and my new show, In Bed with Tammin, on YouTube, where I get to talk real talk with celebrities in bed with a glass of wine.

Tammin’s kids’ clothing line Stella.Phoenix

You have been working on the film Whaling with your husband. What is the secret to working well together?

Believe me it doesn’t always go smoothly. But I’m glad in our relationship we argue over shot lists and not anything more serious. We absolutely love working together and I think we both bring our strengths to the table. But it definitely takes work in learning how to communicate properly. Time management is also important and making sure that your boundaries when you’re on set are clearly defined.

How involved are you with the designs for Stella.Phoenix?

My business partner and I are co-creators of the company. We speak almost daily and we do everything together from nuts to bolts. It has been such an incredible experience and I’ve learned so much within the last year in regards to children’s wear.

Where do you get your inspiration?

For me, travel is a huge way of finding inspiration. Looking out into the water and seeing the rich blues and the different colours of my surroundings. The shapes and textures from being overseas really helps draw inspiration for each collection.

How has life changed after becoming a mum?

Everything’s changed. I’ve really had to work on my time management and communication skills because sometimes you’re just so tired to even do anything. But the biggest thing for me that has changed is I feel like I’m living my life all over again. I see the world through new eyes and I never thought I could possibly feel the love that I have with my daughter.

Tammin with daughter, Phoenix

Where do you find the time to write your blog, Bottle and Heels?

My husband and I are very good with divvying up our time with Phoenix. He understands that on the weekends I need some time to write and I will give him another block of time somewhere in the weekend for him to do his work. But Phoenix now goes to preschool so a lot gets done during the day.

What do mums get out of reading your blog?

I think they get a sense of community and they feel like they have a network of mothers and women who offer support and guidance and a good laugh. The reason I started Bottle and Heels is I didn’t have any mothers that I could talk to after my daughter was born so I felt quite alone. I wanted to create a safe space where women could tell the truth and not be judged because of it.

What do you love the most about being a mum?

I love that I have this little buddy and we get to walk through this life together. She truly is my best friend, as corny as it sounds. Life is just so much more fun…and messy.

What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of motherhood?

I definitely thinking trying to have it all. I think women can, I just don’t think they can have it all at the same time. Also the guilt can be deafening. I never really felt guilty until I had Phoenix and now it happens at least once a day. Also, I think, losing parts of your identity but you definitely gain new aspects of yourself that are more colourful.

What is the secret to maintaining a career and juggling motherhood?

I think the secret is definitely time management. Having lots of lists. Open communication with your husband. Getting help when you need it. And giving yourself a break.

As an actress and singer-songwriter, which medium do you prefer the most?

Since Charlie Baby Productions was born, I honestly just love creating. I could never have a top choice but telling stories about the human experience in whatever form is what I love to do. I’ve always been a storyteller and that’s what propels me forward.

What is your favourite memory from Home and Away?

Being cast in the show was a pivotal point in my life. Everything changed from the moment I got that phone call. I will be forever indebted to that show and the opportunities it brought me, including my family.

Why did you decide to return to Pretty Little Liars playing your character Jenna Marshall?

I never left the show. I was on the show for seven years but Phoenix was born in between so I took a year off.

What was it like to play Jenna who is such a controversial character?

It was wonderful. I think being visually impaired taught me a lot about acting with my body. I learned a lot from that character.

Tammin spending time with her family

What’s on your bucket list?

Travel to places like South America, India, Japan. Build our company so we can be producing and creating more stories, especially for women. Have another child at some point. Expanding Stella.Phoenix into America and the rest of the world. And spend more time in Australia.

How do you keep your energy levels up?

I am almost militant about health. Without your health you have nothing. I’ve been eating and exercising in a healthy manner since I was 15-years-old. I’m a big advocate for superfoods. I don’t eat meat, and I don’t touch dairy. I was a huge coffee drinker for 15 years as I thought it gave me more energy, but I realised it was just frying out my adrenal glands. I haven’t had caffeine for three months and I can’t tell you how much better I feel. I sleep less but am never tired, my skin doesn’t break out, and I have tons more energy. Go figure.

What do you miss the most about Australia?

The lifestyle. The beaches, the food, my family. I feel like I can breathe when I’m there. Los Angeles is always a race and you always feel like you’re catching your breath.

Date with Kate


14th April, 2013
Hanging with Tammin Sursok at Rosehill Garden.

Hanging with Tammin Sursok at Rosehill Garden.

Actress Tammin Sursok has come a long way since playing the role of Dani Sutherland on Home and Away. Since moving to the US six years ago, Sursok has starred in a series of hit TV shows including The Young and the Restless and Hannah Montana, and is now on the popular American teen drama Pretty Little Liars. I caught up with the 29-year-old to talk about life abroad, working alongside Miley Cyrus and the struggles to make it in Hollywood.

Tell me a day in the life of you.

Each day is a 5am wake-up call. We shoot [Pretty Little Liars] at Warner Bros until about 6.30pm and I then study photography at UCLA at nights. On weekends I’m usually relaxing with my husband and our four dogs.

Tammin Sursok

You have found so much success in LA. Did it all just fall into place for you?

No, it was probably the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I went over there with no job security and no family or friends. I spent a whole year out of work, I went to 1000 auditions and I always heard ”no”, but a measure of success is how you handle disappointments and keep going. It’s definitely a very scary and tough business to be in and it takes a lot of resilience and it takes a person who is willing to put themselves through the torture … You have to keep on moving and you have to believe in yourself and you have to know what you’re capable of. People can say success has come easy for me but they don’t see the work behind it.

Tell me about your character on Pretty Little Liars.

I play a visually impaired villain. It’s a meaty role for me, as I normally play the girl next door. When we started the show we didn’t really know how successful it would be. It’s based on a book series, so we already had a built audience, but it’s really found a cult following. We just got picked up for season five. The show is definitely going very smoothly right now.

What was it like to land a role on such an iconic daytime TV show as The Young and the Restless when you first moved to the US?

It was my first big show since Home and Away, so I was relieved that someone hired me [laughs]. I actually watch the show, so it was surreal to be on the set that I had grown up with. It got me an agent and it got me a visa to work in America so I’m very thankful for that show. I learnt a lot so it was very sad to leave … but it was time to move on.

What was it like to then work for the Disney Channel?

It was actually one of the most exciting experiences because people don’t realise that those sitcoms are filmed and shot in front of a live studio audience, so it’s like live theatre. We would rehearse all week and then we would shoot … on a Friday night.

Are you still in contact with your co-star, Miley Cyrus?

No, I think everyone just moved on. When you work over there you spend a lot of time on set and don’t have much time for a social life. She is really talented and she is really funny, so it was great to be around the energy.

What’s the first thing you do when you come back home?

I have a really awesome Australian coffee and have a piece of barramundi and I see my parents. I look forward to that.

Will you ever move back to Australia?

My husband and I are talking about having kids at some point and I would love my kids to be schooled in Australia. I went to a school called Ravenswood on the north shore, so hopefully they can be schooled there.

Tammin Sursok

You had a Billboard top-100 hit in the US; will you continue your singing career?

At the moment I don’t have the time. But it’s definitely in my blood, so I would never say never, but it just takes time. If I have a break [from acting] it’s definitely something to be explored.

What’s next in the pipeline?

My husband and I have a production company and we just had our first film get into [the] American film festival Tribeca and we just got distribution in the States. We also wrote a movie together and we are just putting the final pieces together, plus we have two TV shows in development right now in the States and hopefully one of them we can bridge to Australia because it has a lot of Australian content in it.

WE WENT TO Rosehill Gardens, Rosehill.
A selection of canapes.
Moet Rosé imperial.
 Alexander McQueen dress and Neil Grigg hat.