Last month, she finished up a four-week run as a lead in the Australian premiere of a West End stage thriller, 2:22 A Ghost Story – starring alongside Ruby Rose and Daniel MacPherson.
“It’s kind of uncommon to have a play of that genre … it’s not horror but it’s thriller-y,” she says of the play. “There’s a lot of tension that builds and it gets cut down with humour which relieves the tension, and then it kind of builds again. It’s interesting and fascinating, and there are also really great modern conversations flowed throughout the whole piece because it’s set at a dinner party.”
Having made a theatre debut in 2011’s The Ugly One with the Perth Theatre Company, a return to that format was a dream come true for Ward. “Just the experience of doing a play was fascinating because you get a different response from the audience every night,” she explains. “Some nights you can kind of do something different or you’ve got a different sort of energy. You learn a lot.”
Acting has always been on the agenda for Ward. She made her screen debut in The Black Balloon back in 2008, for which she won the Australian International Movie Convention Award for Australian Star of the Year, and was also nominated for a Film Critics Circle of Australia and IF Award for Best Actress. She later went on to appear in the film The Strangers, as well as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
“I’ve been doing acting lessons since I was quite young and I was always the clown of my family,” she says of where her passion came from. “So that’s something that will always be a part of me.” And while acting was always an aspiration, Ward unintentionally found herself thrust into the modelling scene at 14, after being discovered while accompanying friends at an audition for the TV show, Search for a Supermodel, in 2002.
In 2004, she was the youngest model to appear on the cover of US Vogue and at 17, she became the face of Calvin Klein’s Obsession campaign, replacing ’90s icon Kate Moss.
After many years walking for luxury brands like Marni, Balenciaga and Prada, both modelling and acting took a back seat while Ward was busy raising her three children, Naia, 9, Jett, 6, and Kirra, 3, with partner David Letts. So why the return to acting now?
“I haven’t been ready to work while I was pregnant or in early motherhood … so I guess it’s kind of timing,” she explains. “People intuit when you’re ready and then the universe kind of aligns. Or you start getting out there a bit more or things come to you … I obviously have moments when I’m more ambitious or I have moments when I’m more busy and it drops off at times – which is life! It kind of comes and goes, and this is the wave that I’m on at the moment.”
It’s a wave that Ward is clearly relishing. The star is in the process of finalising her American visa so that she can pick up more work over there, and she has also started writing scripts and short stories as a “work-in-progress” side hustle.
“I feel like modelling and acting are both really fun, they’re both passions of mine and I love that I can do that as a job and get paid for that,” she shares. “But I prefer, now, carving out a bit more time – what little time I have left because I do have my kids as well! – for writing too because I do love comedy, so I’ve got a few projects going there and that’s quite fulfilling for me.”
The juggle between her career and motherhood, Ward admits, is “definitely the hardest part of working”. But now, getting to choose the jobs she takes on, whether it be modelling or acting, makes it all worth it for the busy mum.
“Some modelling jobs are really awesome – you get to do really awesome things and the crew’s really awesome. And on the show, I got to work with one of my oldest friends, Elissa, who I’ve known since I was 11 or 12,” she tells.
“I’ve been a bit spoilt, every time I have an opportunity. I’ve been really lucky to really enjoy it all … I’m just happy to be working!”