After finishing her long-term role as Dani Sutherland on Home and Away, Tammin Sursok told herself that she'd never return to a soap opera. But now, 18 years later, she's changed her tune.
"You know, I always said I'd never come back into soaps," Tammin, 38, reveals to TV WEEK. "It's not because I don't love it or it wasn't a great experience. It's because I felt like this chapter of my life was over."
This week, Tammin stars on Neighbours as trouble-making fashion designer Montana Marcel who has come to Ramsay Street to host her next fashion event.
For the Logie award winner, the experience of being on a fast-paced weeknight drama took her back to her 16-year-old self, landing her first role on Home and Away.
"It changed my life completely and defined who I was from a very young age," Tammin explains.
"I felt like I really needed make sense of that whole period of my life and realise that it wasn't so big, scary and overwhelming. It was a wonderful thing to be part of. It was definitely very cathartic."
The timing of her guest appearance was bittersweet for the mum-of-two, with the announcement of Neighbours' cancellation coinciding as she was on set.
While the cast and crew were rightfully devastated, Tammin was amazed at the attitude they brought to set each day.
"You would think that people would bring that into their work and they just didn't. They came to work professional and there was no giving up to anyone on set," she says.
"Seeing how hard everyone works, such a good work ethic, was wonderful to see."
For the last 15 years, Tammin has been living in Los Angeles with her husband, writer and producer, Sean McEwen and their two kids, Phoenix, nine, and Lennon, three.
But the Pretty Little Liars star always felt like Australia was home, too.
"We always wanted to make our home Australia and America," she says.
"It was always our decision before we had kids. When we had kids, things like school can become problematic, moving from one place to another."
When the pandemic hit and the boarders were closed, any plans Tammin and her family had to spend time in Australia were put on hold and living in LA, a hot spot for COVID in 2020, became a dangerous reality.
"It was a difficult time for everyone. My husband got COVID and had long COVID affects," she reflects.
"It was a really scary time. There were no vaccines, and people didn't really know what to do. The hospitals were full and he got it really bad. He was sick for quite a while and I'm just really grateful that he's feeling a lot better and we're moving on from it."
Thankfully, as the world started to open up again in 2021, Tammin landed exciting roles like Neighbours and Stan's series Joe vs Carole back home in Australia.
"It wasn't like we made a decision to pack up and come to Australia, it was just happenstance," she laughs.
"Now, we've been here for almost a year and we're going to go back to Nashville, and then come back here in a few months for my daughter to start her next school term."
Although Tammin is back on the soap scene, she can't see herself making a return to Home and Away just yet.
"I definitely know 100 per cent that I would never go back to a long-term character. The work is too intense and it's continuous. It's hard to spend time with family when you're working that many hours," she says.
"I prefer shorter six-week roles or a guest spot but you know, never say never."