When we call, actress Sophie Dillman is in her car, on speaker phone, giggling as she informs TV WEEK where she is. “I’m on my way to the beach right now, and the weather isn’t exactly ideal. But I think we’re back to square one now!”
It’s mid-morning, and she’s back on set of Home And Away for the first time in a week. Sophie is familiar with the travel to Palm Beach in Sydney’s north, which is home to the imaginary town of Summer Bay. Sophie’s years as Ziggy Astoni on the long-running drama have provided her with some routine and security, which is a rare gift for performers.
However, in 2022, the motivation is a little different. Sophie admits that the world seems different and that she is different. The Queenslander has felt the impact of the global pandemic, as have many Australians, to the point where her holiday break with her boyfriend and on-screen partner Patrick O’Connor “didn’t feel quite long enough.” She, on the other hand, is grateful for what she has.
“I’m incredibly fortunate – my cup is overflowing,” she says. “So far, no one in my immediate family has become ill as a result of COVID-19, and I am unaffected. I hadn’t gone home in almost a year, so seeing everyone was amazing. Being with my family reconnects me with my roots.”
While Sophie has deep ties to her native state, she is accustomed to the fast-paced lifestyle in Sydney – “I find I get impatient in Brisbane now,” she says – and currently resides with Patrick, who plays Dean Thompson on the show. In addition, she is now in her fifth season on Home And Away.
Sophie, like her on-screen character Ziggy, has a bright smile and exudes self-assurance. It can be discovered in the most unexpected settings, such as after a workout, while conversing with friends, or while sitting on the couch with Patrick – “I adore hearing Paddy’s passion for what we do and our future,” she adds.
This wasn’t always the case, though. The actress has spent a long time figuring out who she wants to be, a difficulty she encountered on the shores of Summer Bay. The path she now takes was previously a little bumpy.
When asked if she’s changed since her debut in 2017, Sophie responds, “Yes [I’ve changed], completely — immensely.” “I was about to turn 25 when I got the job on H&A.” I was still extremely young and hadn’t seen any personal growth.
“I’d spent my entire life in institutions: I went to school, earned two university degrees, and worked as a nurse for a year when I moved to Sydney. I discovered what it meant to be self-sufficient.
“Then I landed on Home And Away, where I was still learning how to be an adult — with the added strain of being in the public eye and how others perceive you.” It had been a steep learning curve.”
There was an incredible sense of exhilaration in the air during Ziggy’s first season as a mechanic. Sophie, wide-eyed, was eager to prove herself in a situation she refers to as “Am I dreaming?” The advice on how to handle media attention came thick and fast, and the walls began to close in quickly.
“I remember being upset or depressed, or taken back and vulnerable… that all happened,” she recounts. “However, I had a great support system.”
“One of the first stories about me – I’m not sure if it was the storey or the images – made me quite angry. One of my dear friends, Raechelle Banno [who played Olivia in H&A from 2015 to 2018], sent me a gift and wrote me a note regarding the issue. I elected to follow the advice I’d received from numerous sources, and as a result, I’ve escaped reasonably undamaged.”
Sophie is paying it forward now, five years later and wiser.
“I try to tell everyone the same thing every time someone new comes on set, because it saved my life.” “I’ll be eternally thankful,” she says.
Sophie, who is an ambassador for Endometriosis Australia and has been personally touched by the disease, is quickly becoming a role model for other women, whether in the entertainment world or outside. She believes the benefit completes the loop.
“My mother [a nurse] is a role model for me.” “She’s fantastic at fixing problems, assisting others, and keeping people calm,” she says. “In an emergency, she’s the first person I call.” My girlfriends, on the other hand, are nurses, economists, lawyers, business owners, optometrists, and bank employees, to mention a few. They are quite motivating to me.
“I didn’t see many women helping other women when I was growing up in the 1990s, and I wish I had. It’s inspiring to see women achieve success. It’ll be worth it if I can help just one person.”
Sophie’s progress continues in 2022, with a mantra to “be kind” to herself and others. It’s fine if it’ll never be finished. Her goal is to have just enough to keep her feet on the ground, not to have everything.
“My mother taught me to always try to put things into perspective,” she explains.
“There is a lot of tension in the globe right now, and everyone is tired. Over time, I’ve undoubtedly matured as a person and a woman. I’m more at ease in my own skin, and I’m more certain of who I am, who I want to be, and who I want to be around. One step at a time is what I’m doing.”