Tammin Sursok Talks Directing, Her Hilarious Podcast, & Motherhood

Tammin Sursok Talks Directing, Her Hilarious Podcast, & Motherhood

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Having acted since she was a teenager (see Pretty Little Liars plus Home and Away), this hilarious (and stunning) South-African born LA-living actress has been turning her attention to directing, podcasting, producing, YouTubing, and momming as of late. Recently, from her home in LA, she shared her heartfelt experience being overweight and bullied as a child, tips to working with her hubby on their many projects (and still managing to keep it cute), plus the reality of pursuing a career while being a mother (the name of the game is efficiency, ladies!).


What's the latest?


Before my husband and I got married, we co-wrote a film together, as a test! Our theory was, if we could write something together and NOT want to kill each other, then we figured we'd be able to survive marriage too! Now, years later (like poetry), we turned that script into a film called Whaling and recently premiered it at the Boston Film Festival.


OMG love that, what else are you working on?


We have so much coming out over the next year, including the film Whaling I just mentioned that we co-wrote together, and I starred in, plus my husband directed. Additionally, we are filming a movie in Australia, and releasing a TV show called Aussie Girl. Plus, I'm directing my first feature! I've had it in my back pocket for a handful of years, and we finally have the right people behind it!


It’s a very exciting time; there's been a huge push for women to direct and a lot of industry support. People who are eager to see female directors come out and tell great stories.


What's it like to be married and work together?


We have a production company together, in addition to each of us working on and developing our individual projects. Our process is very organic and typically begins with a brainstorm session wherein each of us talks through what we’re imagining for the project. Then, we flush it out, and the story begins to take shape.



Photography by Kate Moore


Photography by Kate Moore


Have you seen a trend toward more female directors?


Yes, lately there’s been a space opened for female directors. For the longest time we’ve been underrepresented. Before recently, the STAT was something ridiculous like 5% of all directors were women. Now, we’re beginning to make strides in the industry as female directors with wonderful stories to tell.


How did you get your start in the industry?


When I was a kid, I was extremely overweight to the point of being bullied. Then, when I was 15, I made a significant shift. I started to exercise religiously, wholly changed the way I ate, and lost a considerable amount of weight. Shortly after, I was approached by a modeling agency to model, but I didn’t want to be a model. They did, however, have an acting division that interested me. I began to cast for roles such as my character on Pretty Little Liars and became successful at an early age.


Even with all the success, those early days of being overweight remain with me and I consider it important to talk about — especially as a lot of people struggle with bullying. For me, if my platform can help just one person, then my job is done.



Photography by Kate Moore

   

I love the fact that my daughter sees me working and pursuing what makes me happy.

Your podcast, Women On Top, is hilarious! Tell us more...


With topics such as Demi Moore’s cocaine addiction, and lopsided boobs, the show is fun, honest, and authentic! I always say that if you’re not laughing, then you are crying. So, better to be the former. On the show, no subject is taboo. Leaning into the hilarity and levity of it all from poop explosions to sexy mishaps, we talk about the reality of trying to be a modern woman with a career and kids — which is not always easy. The podcast is a total passion of mine with featured guests such as Kristin Chenoweth and Lindsey Price.


Best advice you’ve received on your podcast?


There’s always a nugget or gem of advice that I take from every guest. Be it a celebrity or an expert sharing their hacks on how to be a better person/woman/mother, plus solid relationship advice, mental health, self-love, mom hacks, and always a good joke.


Plus, you have a YouTube show?


Yes! It’s called In Bed With Tammin, where celebs get in bed with me and talk openly about their lives. It's honest and entertaining. One of my guests let me touch her boobs in the first five minutes! I think people forget we are on camera — so funny!


From a full time career to balancing motherhood?


For as long as I can remember, my career was my first and foremost priority. Therefore, having children took a major mental adjustment as there's a lot of guilt that comes with being a working mom. I'm constantly in conflict with myself. I don’t want my children raised by nannies, however, I need to work to fulfill myself so I can show up as the best version of me, for them. It makes me a better mother as well as financially able to provide for them in the way that I see fit.


A role model to your kids?


I love the fact that my daughter sees me working and pursuing what makes me happy. This is important. Ultimately, it will seep into her mind to focus on things that make her feel good so she can show up fully in her life. Balancing being present for her and a working role model is challenging and goes hand in hand.



Photography by Kate Moore


Photography by Kate Moore

With so much going on, how do you organize your time?


Time management has always been difficult for me, but I beat myself up way less about it now. Which is healthier than always feeling guilty. I have my nanny for two days a week. So I try to pack my "nanny" days with meetings and work. Regardless, when I am with my kids, I am thinking about work and vice versa. Not sure if that ever goes away. I do my best to be present in whatever I am doing, be it work or being with my kids. However, if my daughter is up late, sometimes I answer emails, but I try not to. There are no two days alike, in general, I have the baby on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and my husband and I tag-team at night. On Tuesday and Thursdays it's back to back filming recording podcast, writing blogs, and taking meetings and on Friday we have date night — which is vital for our marriage. This gives us time to really talk instead of solely coordinating logistics, which is really easy to do when you have kids and careers.


Hacks or secrets to working together as a couple?


Date night, schedules, and communication are critical. It's essential to strike a balance between time apart to do our own thing and time together as well. Plus, we give each other space to take care of ourselves (yay, me-time!). That means, we each take turns watching the kids every day so the other can go to the gym; otherwise, we are horrible people. Also, accepting our differences and celebrating the things that we like about each other is important too.


Do you workout?


Recently, I started going to this workout called Training Mate in LA. It’s 45 minutes of circuit training and the perfect workout; you’re in and out and feel great. It makes me a better mother, partner, and creative. Also, nutrition is super key — I notice a massive difference in my mood and attitude when I eat well versus when I don't. Plus, I do Class Pass yoga and pilates to round out my routine five days a week.


What’s your food philosophy?


I'm very conscious of what I eat. I was vegan for a long time, and now I am a vegetarian — I don’t do dairy, but I eat eggs. Plus, I make stir fry, salads, oatmeal, and whole grains. I drink mainly green tea and water and avoid fried foods, coffee, and alcohol. While that may sound restrictive to some people, it allows me to feel good and clear to live my best life!


 

Photography by Kate Moore 

   

Having children took a major mental adjustment. There's a lot of guilt that comes with being a working mom. 

Advice to younger girls coming up in the industry?


At the end of the day I would say create it yourself — a lot of times we hope & wait for other people to make our dreams come true when the only person that can do that is you. If someone else adds to that it is a bonus, but you can’t leave it up to other people to make you successful or not. These days, with social media and all the platforms available, there are so many ways to do that from picking up a camera and creating your own web series to launching your own YouTube channel or joining an improv group.


Joined an improv group?


Yes! Upright Citizens Brigade, which was totally out of my comfort zone — it taught me so much about being human and letting myself fail in a way. Very vulnerable in all my creative choices and maybe they don’t succeed but you keep going. It was very interesting and taught me a lot about life.


Any advice?


Look at your life and see where you want to be in ten years — if that includes kids or not, great. But plan for where you want to be, not where you are today. What do you want your future to be? And, you figure it out. You always do. Anything worth having is difficult.


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