Our SPECTACULAR! interview with Tammin Sursok
Born in South Africa and raised in Australia, Tammin Sursok has been performing, since she was a child. The 25-year-old was a member of the Sydney Youth Musical Theatre, where she participated in all of her school's stage productions, and she graduated from the London College of Speech and Drama. Also an accomplished singer, Tammin achieved platinum sales status in Australia, before moving to Los Angeles to establish a name for herself in the States.
Along with playing Colleen Carlton on the popular soap opera "The Young and the Restless", Tammin can currently be seen in the Nickelodeon original musical movie Spectacular! (out on DVD on March 31st), in which she plays the cute and perky Courtney Lane. As the leader of a show choir that is desperate to beat their rivals, Ta-Da, Courtney recruits Nikko (Nolan Gerard Funk), an edgy musician who has just been dumped by his girlfriend and kicked out of his band, to be their lead male vocalist and help them win a big competition.
Tammin told us about how much fun she had, filming this entertaining new musical.
TeenHollywood: How did you get into acting, and how did acting take you from South Africa to Australia to Los Angeles?
Tammin: I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. When I was six years old, I immigrated to Australia. I have been acting since I've been talking. I didn't really think that there was another option for me, as a career. I was six years old and I remember telling everyone to sit down because I was going to put on a little song-and-dance performance for them. It was just something that I loved, and I wanted to be involved in it, from a very young age. I did musical theater from ages 7 to 14, and then I got an agent at 14 and auditioned for a TV show, called "Home and Away", which went to 200 million people, but nowhere in America. I was lucky enough to get the part, which was incredible. It was my first audition, so I thought it always worked like that, and you always get your first audition, but that is not the case. So, I was on that show for about five years, and then I started recording music, and I went to London to do music. And then, I decided that I wanted to go to America and be in film and television, so I left everything behind and went there.
TeenHollywood: How long after you moved to the States did you start working, and how soon did you get involved with "The Young and the Restless"?
Tammin: I had a full year of not really doing anything. I left my surroundings and wasn't really used to that culture. It was a whole new country for me, and I didn't have any friends or family, so I had to adjust to that, let alone try to get a job. So, I was just walking around aimlessly for about a year. And then, I was lucky enough to book "The Young and the Restless" and a couple of movies, all on the same day, which was a very good day for me. It was probably just after a year that I started working.
TeenHollywood: How did you get involved with Spectacular!? Had you been looking for other work to do, while you were working on the soap opera?
Tammin: Yeah. Nothing has ever been a lifetime thing for me. I love creating new characters and meeting new people, and getting to just change and evolve. The Young and the Restless is such an incredible show, and it was just a blessing to be able to be a part of it. I don't know how long I'm going to be on it, and if it's going to be one more year or ten more years, but I've always wanted to expand and do other things as well, whether it's singing, film, dancing, or anything like that. I'm allowed to do both, at the moment, so I'm very lucky.
TeenHollywood: What was it about Spectacular! and your character, Courtney, that appealed to you so much?
Tammin: I've never had to play a character with such an A-type personality. I used to watch movies like Election and Grease, and I always wanted to be able to be that person because that's not who I am in real life. There wasn't even a script available when I went in for it, but the scene was very good and very strong, and it was smart. Sometimes they think that, if it's for teenagers, they have to dumb it down, but it was great. The words and the dialogue were fantastic, and it just seemed to really fit.
TeenHollywood: How do you feel about the comparisons to High School Musical?
Tammin: We're definitely skewing to an older audience. Everyone is going to compare it because they're both musicals, but there were so many musicals that happened before High School Musical. It was just such a phenomenon that people are automatically going to compare it to that.
TeenHollywood: Since you had done musical theater and been a successful recording artist, how was it to get back into the music and dancing? Did it take some time to adjust?
Tammin: The singing stuff was so easy, it was like a duck to water. I was surprised at how much I loved being back in the studio again. There is definitely a buzz and a great energy about being around those kind of people, who are always creating music. That was very easy for me. The dancing took a little while. Not everyone is dancing every night at home, but you can sing anywhere you want to go. So, the dancing took a little bit more out of me, but we worked with some of the best choreographers. RJ Durrell, who's Madonna's and Britney Spears' choreographer, whipped us into shape very fast. It's a sense memory. After a few times, your body gets back to it.
TeenHollywood: Were you anything at all like Courtney, when you were her age?
Tammin: No. I'm a little bit messy, and she looks like she'd be a neat freak. I'm a little more easy-going. I'm happy to have a grey area, rather than have things be black and white. I'm not very controlling, and she's kind of controlling. But, on the flipside, I love music and I love being part of an ensemble, and being able to sing and dance. So, that part of me is similar, but not her personality.
TeenHollywood: Can you talk about working with your ensemble of co-stars?
Tammin: I honestly had so much fun. I've been very lucky in my life, that most of the people I've worked with have been fantastic. There have been no egos and no arrogance. When you're doing a dance film, everyone's singing and dancing, so everyone is on this natural high, all the time. We had all this energy and we bounced off each other. It was a really good thing to be a part of, and it makes you addicted to dance films. All you want to do is be in singing and dancing musicals. But, we all got on really well, so we were really lucky.
TeenHollywood: Was there anything that was particularly challenging about making this film?
Tammin: The challenging thing was just having to be so precise, in all our dance moves. We shot that last scene over five days, and that was challenging, after awhile. My feet were bleeding, after the first day. I really have so much more empathy now for dancers. I don't know how they do it. The challenging thing was just to get passed all the soreness and keep going.
TeenHollywood: Did you have a favorite song or performance?
Tammin: The last one. And, "Eye of the Tiger" was so much fun. We had rehearsed it, but it wasn't like the last number, so we got to be a little bit more lax about it. Those costumes were ridiculous and we just hammed it up. It was a lot of fun.
TeenHollywood: Were there any costumes that you just didn't want to have to put on?
Tammin: The cowboy outfits were ridiculous. I was like, "Am I really wearing this?" But, you're not going to wear that in real life, so it's cool that you get to wear it in your false life. That is the costume that I definitely remember.
TeenHollywood: What's it like to receive the kind of fan attention that something like this brings? Has it exposed you to a new, younger audience?
Tammin: Being on a TV show in Australia, I was so lucky to have the most amazing fans. I've seen it, so it hasn't shocked me so much. For Nolan, it's a little scary when people start taking his photo and asking for his autograph. It's also so much fun. You want people to recognize you for your work. I think it's a younger audience, now that I've been in L.A., but in Australia, I definitely had that young audience. I like when it is that young audience 'cause they're so forgiving. They love you for what you do, and they just want you to give them a picture and a hug. I think that's really sweet.
TeenHollywood: Would you be interested in revisiting this character for a sequel?
Tammin: Absolutely, yeah!
TeenHollywood: Have you given any thought to what you'd like to see happen with Courtney?
Tammin: They're talking about sequels. We just have to see if the movie holds and if people are responding to it. I would love to do a sequel. I would love to do another competition, maybe with lots of different groups. I'd like to see something happen to Royce (Simon Curtis) and Courtney. There are so many options they can go with. It will be really fun, if we get to do it again.
TeenHollywood: When you're voted Sexiest Woman in the World by Australia's FHM magazine, is it weird to go from that to playing a teenager?
Tammin: I got voted when I was 19, so I was a teenager then. It's interesting. I think Australia is a little more open to that kind of stuff. You can still be sexy and young, and not be slutty. I feel like I'm still a teenager, and I still feel like I put myself together right, so that I can be cute and boys can notice me, but it's not in a slutty way. For me, it's all different sides of my personality and, as an actor, you have to play all these different characters, so it doesn't bother me at all.
TeenHollywood: Is there anything coming up for Colleen on "The Young and the Restless", that you're looking forward to fans getting to see?
Tammin: Yeah. My character challenges Victor, so there's going to be a lot more of that. Eric Braeden and I have so many scenes together, and he's just so phenomenal to work with and so encouraging. Now that Colleen's father has died, there's going to be a lot more material with Eric and I, which is really cool.
TeenHollywood: Since it's kind of like having a crash course in acting, what have you learned from being on a soap opera?
Tammin: You have to be professional. You have to know your lines. You have to go with the flow, a little more than you would on a movie 'cause you have three days to shoot something. I really believe that it teaches you how to be a pro, on set. I think it's great for every young actress to do because it really does teach you a lot. You get to play all of the emotions, all in one day.
TeenHollywood: When fans talk to you about "The Young and the Restless", are there things that you hear most often from them?
Tammin: No. But, I did the horrible thing of looking myself up on the Internet, and they're really mean sometimes. I'm like, "It's not me, I swear!" Sometimes, they don't warm to you, especially if you've taken over a character, like I did. I would like to see my character go in some different directions, so they can be more warm to her.
TeenHollywood: Who is closer to you personally, Courtney or Colleen?
Tammin: Neither. Dani, the character on "Home and Away", my show in Australia, was closer to me. There's always elements of you in everything, but the circumstances are so crazy that they're so far removed. It's not like with Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. I'm not there yet.
TeenHollywood: Are you the type of actor that likes to give input into the direction of your characters, or do you just go with what you're given in the script?
Tammin: I think it's very important to have your own stamp of approval on it because it's part of you. Your character morphs into you. So, I'm definitely very aware of that, and I do like to take control.
TeenHollywood: Have you done any other projects, since Spectacular!?
Tammin: I've been cast in a few things, but sometimes the timing doesn't work out right. So, we're in talks over a few things, but I have to wait until the official word is out.
TeenHollywood: If you had your choice, are there specific types of roles or genres that you're hoping to do, that you haven't gotten the chance to do yet?
Tammin: Yeah. I would really love to play someone like Charlize Theron did in Monster, or like Anne Hathaway did in Rachel Getting Married, where you can really sink your teeth into something that is so far removed from who you are. Those characters that have a lot of hardship in their lives and a lot of layers would be fantastic to play.
TeenHollywood: Are you looking to pursue both acting and music, or do you plan to focus more on one or the other, in the future?
Tammin: I have been approached to do music, by a few different companies. I think I would definitely do it again, but it has to be the right way. With music, you really have to put your heart and soul into it, so it would just have to be the right situation for me to do it again.
TeenHollywood: What type of music do you most enjoy doing? Are there people that inspire you, as far as your music goes?
Tammin: I love all the strong females, like Tori Amos, Imogen Heap, Alanis Morissette and Sheryl Crow. Those strong female voices are something that I relate more to.