From Home and Away to Hollywood: Tammin Sursok reflects on her “life-changing” career

After living abroad for more than ten years, the Australian actress reveals why she really left the States
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Since arriving back on home soil in June, Tammin Sursok has been counting her blessings. “I’m a big believer in manifestation, and this year was all about getting back on set and doing what I love, which is acting,” she tells WHO. “After kids, sometimes the work can slow down. But I really believed, and this year that’s what happened – work started ramping up again.”

As luck would have it, that back-to-back work has seen her relocate from Los Angeles, where she’s been based for almost 15 years, to Brisbane. The actress, who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and moved to Sydney at age 4, has just finished shooting a romantic comedy called Love and Penguins alongside Jason Wilder and Madeleine West.

Tammin Sursok
Sursok is back in Australia after more than a decade abroad (Credit: The Photo Pitch)

The pandemic delayed production on her next gig, a TV series about a pack of cut-throat publicists called The Good Hustle, until January. Her next project, which hasn’t been announced yet, is also set to film Down Under.

“It’s actually been so lovely. We haven’t been able to spend such an extended period of time in Australia,” says Sursok, who shares daughters Phoenix, 8, and Lennon, 2, with her producer husband, Sean McEwen. “It’s been really nice to see what it would be like to live here permanently again.”

Riding out the pandemic here instead of the United States is also a bonus. “We’ve lost people to COVID and my husband was severely ill with it at the beginning of this year,” shares Sursok. “When you see that firsthand – there is trauma that comes with that.”

Tammin Sursok
Sursok with her husband and their two daughters (Credit: The Photo Pitch)

Although she looks forward to seeing her Sydney family and friends once state borders reopen, Sursok has settled into Queensland life like a local, helped by the fact she once lived there for a year while growing up. “Brisbane is such a great city. There’s so much to do, it’s so great for families,” she says, adding her daughter is even attending the same school she once did. “It’s really nostalgic for me.” 

She’s a little less keen for her daughters to follow in her footsteps towards the spotlight, although they did recently appear alongside their mum in a campaign for the iconic brand May Gibbs.

“My daughters love being in front of the camera and while I don’t try to push them away from it, I won’t be putting them up for work in TV or film until they’re at least 18,” she says. “I was a young child actor and I think they should finish school and then make that decision.”

Tammin Sursok
The star’s daughters recently appeared in a campaign for iconic Aussie brand, May Gibbs (Credit: The Photo Pitch)

Entering the business as a teenager, she says, had its ups and downs. “I begged my parents to let me get into the business, my parents didn’t push me … I was very keen to be a young actor. That being said, there are some moments I probably missed out on growing up,” she tells WHO. “I want my kids to have that normalcy and to be kids for as long as they can.” 

Sursok had just finished Year 10 when she scored an agent and landed her first audition for the role of Dani Sutherland on Home and Away. “It was life-changing,” she tells WHO of her gig on the iconic Aussie soap.

“I went from being a normal schoolgirl, who worried about who she was going to sit with at lunchtime, to being on the cover of magazines and being recognised in the streets. I loved being on set, working with other actors and crew – it was amazing.”

Although she doesn’t keep in close contact with her former castmates, they still hold a special place in her heart.

“If I do see them, it’s like no time has passed because we were all coming up at the same time,” she said. “I’m still in touch with Martin Dingle Wall. I run into Chris Hemsworth. He’s lovely … if I see Bec Hewitt, she’s wonderful.”

Tammin Sursok
The actress in her first role on Home and Away (Credit: Channel Seven)

After leaving Summer Bay, Sursok scored a run of roles in Hollywood, shooting 165 episodes of the soap opera The Young and the Restless, starring opposite Miley Cyrus in Hannah Montana and gaining worldwide fame in the hit show Pretty Little Liars. However, when work slowed down, she didn’t hesitate to create her own opportunities in the industry.

Together with husband McEwen, whom she married in 2011, she produced, wrote and directed the comedy series Aussie Girl, based on her experiences as an actress trying to make a break in Hollywood. She also starred in and co-wrote the movie Braking for Whales with her husband, which McEwen also directed.

“I’m a big believer in creating your own destiny,” says Sursok. “You can’t sit and wait for the phone to ring.”

Aside from her acting work, Sursok co-hosts the popular podcast Women On Top with Roxy Manning. “My intention is just to make women and mothers feel less isolated and to have that space to share their own experiences,” the star has previously told WHO. “To come together as a community and as a collective and support one another.”

Tammin Sursok
Sursok starred on Pretty Little Liars throughout it’s seven seasons (Credit: Getty Images)

When not on set, Sursok’s own family life revolves around dropping the kids at school, hitting the gym (“It really helps my mental health,” she says) and working with her husband on scripts as well as social media skits. “I’m not going to lie, sometimes it can be hard to work with your significant other,” she says. “But I think we make it work.”

Flexibility is also part of the deal for the couple. “Because we’re both in the film and entertainment business, we always knew this was going to be our life,” says Sursok of making the most of their temporary relocation. “We follow the work where it leads us. As long as we stay together as a family, it will all work out.”

Spending the festive season with extended family will also be a bonus. “We have a lot to be grateful for this Christmas,” Sursok adds.

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