Aussie star Eliza Scanlen on her 'evil' Home & Away role: 'More fun'

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·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
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Even though her stint on Home and Away in 2016 was brief, Aussie actor Eliza Scanlen's character, the devious and obsessive Tabitha Ford made a huge impression on viewers.

Tabitha's involvement in a twisted love triangle — which saw her impersonate her friend in order to seduce her boyfriend — saw her earn the title 'Most evil mean girl in soap' on a Summer Bay fan page.

Eliza Scanlen as Tabitha Ford on Home & Away in 2016. Photo: Channel 7.
Eliza Scanlen as the 'evil' Tabitha Ford on Home and Away in 2016. Photo: Channel 7.

'Off-kilter roles are more fun'

But as Sydney-born star Eliza tells Yahoo Lifestyle, it was exciting to see just how far Tabitha would go to get what she wanted.

"What was funny about Home and Away is that you don't know where your character's going to go because they write the scripts as you're acting," the 22-year-old says.

"So I just remember getting the script every week and going, 'Oh, she really did that. Wow.' I was just complicit in the evilness of Tabitha," she laughs.

Eliza, who went on to make the leap from Home and Away to Hollywood, admits she enjoys playing difficult, unlikeable roles.

"I don't think that any character in a film or TV series should really be consistent. I think that even unlikeable characters can be likeable.

"I am drawn towards characters who are a bit off-kilter because it's just more fun."

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Actors Amy Adams (L) and Eliza Scanlen pose at the after party for the premiere of HBO's
Eliza and her Sharp Objects co-star Amy Adams. Photo: Getty Images.

The school of Summer Bay

Eliza was just 19 when she landed another complicated role, this time as Amy Adams' self-destructive younger sister in the hugely successful HBO series, Sharp Objects.

She tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she credits her time on the long-running Australian soap for teaching her the ins and outs of a film set. 

"Looking back on that time, I hadn't had much experience on a set at all. I did Home and Away while I was doing the HSC.

"If I hadn't done that I think I would have been 100 times more scared going into Sharp Objects."

Even though Tabitha was a divisive character, Eliza will always be thankful for her time in Summer Bay.

"Home and Away teaches you to move very quickly and you develop a very strong work ethic that really assists you in other jobs," she says.

FIRES Ep 1 Tash (Eliza Scanlen) and  Mott (Hunter Page-Lochard) credit Ben King
Eliza as volunteer firefighter Tash with Hunter Page-Lochard, who plays Mott in the new ABC mini-series, Fires. Photo: Ben King (supplied).

Sparking conversations

Since then, Eliza has starred in massive big-budget films such as Little Women, Devil All The Time and the upcoming horror/thriller, Old.

But she recently made it back home to shoot a project that's uniquely Australian. In the ABC mini-series, Fires, Eliza plays Tash, a young volunteer firefighter in Queensland who puts her life on the line at the outbreak of the devastating 2019-20 bushfires.

Tash and her fellow firefighter Mott (played by Hunter Page-Lochard) aren't based on real individuals but are instead inspired by the real-life experiences of everyday people at the front line of the catastrophic event.

For Eliza, there was also a strong environmental message coursing through her character.

"Tash and Mott are symbolic of the younger generations of Australians who are very vocal about climate change and want to take action, not only for the benefit of the environment but also for future generations who will have to take on the severe costs of climate change," she explains.

While some might say it's too soon to dramatise such a deadly, dark time in our history, the subsequent outbreak of the pandemic has no doubt driven it to the back of public conscience.

"I don't think of [Fires] as entertainment but more like an emotional education in the experiences of bushfires and also as a way to spark conversation again because when the bushfires did occur it was quickly buried by the news of Covid," she says.

Fires premieres 8.40pm Sunday, September 26 on ABC TV and ABC iview.

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