You may remember Samantha Tolj in her role as Kelly O’Rourke in Blue Heelers, she now joins the cast of Home and Away playing Shandi Ayres.
Although Shandi is only twenty two, she’s already travelled, tried most illicit substances and engaged in her fair share of ‘free love’. This liberal attitude comes from growing up on a commune with her single mother, Sherrie, who encouraged her daughter to embrace life and experience everything she could.
Shandi arrives in the Bay wanting to meet her father, John Palmer. She’s heard a lot about him from her mother, but not much of it has been positive. Sherrie and John parted on bad terms after John joined what Sherrie termed ‘the government’s war machine’ – otherwise known as the navy. Still, as Shandi says ‘every girl eventually wants to meet her father’…so despite some nerves here she is - ready to break the news to John that he has a daughter!
How was the character of Shandi described to you when you first auditioned?
Samantha: She’s a hippy, lives her life one day at a time, takes each moment as it comes, and she rolls into town to find her father.
Did you enjoy playing Shandi?
Samantha: I absolutely loved it, she’s very direct and is not afraid to say what she thinks, but warm hearted too… yeah I had a ball playing her.
Shandi grew up in a ‘commune’, does that lifestyle appeal to you?
Samantha: (laughs) I haven’t been on a ‘commune’ myself, but I’m originally from Melbourne and have lots of very eclectic friends down there, and I tried a few phases as a teenager…the surfie phase, the hippy phase, the grunge phase but I am quite happy living by the sea, I suppose I am very close to nature and need trees and greenery around me.
Have you enjoyed working with Luke(Angelo)and Josh (Miles)?
Samantha: They are just heaven to work with, actually the whole cast were so welcoming, they’re just warm friendly people who are really good at their craft and the crew and directors are amazing. It was beautiful to work with Danny Raco (who played Leah’s brother Alex) as a director, because we have worked alongside each other as actors, so it was really nice to have him directing my first block as Shandi.
Have you worked with any of the other actors?
Samantha: I worked with Luke (Jacobz) on McLeod’s Daughters many moons ago, and I was really blessed to work with some lovely people like Esther Anderson and S…….(we can’t reveal his name yet)
Shandi is a traveler, what countries have made the biggest impression on you?
Samantha: Snow boarding in Canada, yeah I think I left a little piece of my heart in Canada. Twilight in the mountains is bliss and it warms my heart just thinking about it.
You have worked on a lot of Australian dramas, are you happy to add Home and Away to the list?
Samantha: I am, I have been living in Sydney for about three years, so I am really happy to work on Home and Away. It’s a well oiled machine, but there is always room for new people.
What made you choose acting as a profession?
Samantha: I started theatre when I was 10 years old. I always liked to tell stories and I had a lot of energy as a child, I was a dramatic child so I went to theatre classes to harness some of that energy and fell in love with it. I started film and television when I was 15 and I really like telling the tales of people’s lives, they are fascinating to me.
Is there a character that you have played that is really different to you?
Samantha: I suppose I find a little bit of me in every character I play to make it authentic. Johnny Depp once said that we have to do that, otherwise we are just pretending. In television I get cast as a similar character, but in theatre you can be cast against type a bit and I once played Princess Diana and also a very unwell heroin addict and I found that confronting but really exciting, to be able to step really far away from myself.
Do you have any other passions outside acting?
Samantha: The ocean, I have to be very close to the ocean or in the middle of a snowfield. Being outside and swimming in the ocean is my way of cleansing and rejuvenating myself.
Is there anyone in the world that you would love to work with?
Samantha: I love Baz Luhrmann films, I think they are just masterpieces, so I would love to work with him and I would like to play a character alongside Johnny Depp, I find him one of the greatest character actors of our time. But we also have a lot of amazing film makers and actors right here in Australia. Ben Mendelsohn in Animal Kingdom and the Edgerton brothers are doing some really great work.
If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for?
Samantha: Peace and love for myself, my friends and family.
That’s a good wish, thank you Samantha
Samantha: Thank you, it’s been lovely talking with you.
To see a full listing of Samantha's work, go to the IMDB website.
Lincoln Younes and Kelly Paterniti will be competing at the Paniyiri Greek Festival in...