Remember a little show called 24? How about Californication? If you are one of the millions of megafans of these hit series, you’re probably familiar with the talents of Australian actress Sarah Wynter. This April, the Irvington, NY, resident and single mother of three young boys (Oscar, 7, and twins Sam and Julian, nearly 4) is continuing her pattern of starring opposite gorgeous guys like Kiefer Sutherland and David Duchovny with a role as Peter Facinelli’s (of Twilight fame) wife on the drama Odyssey, debuting on NBC. Recently, our Features Editor Holly Parmalee chatted with Wynter about her new show, the elusive life-work balance that challenges all of us and how she got here (to Hollywood and to Westchester).
What’s your new show Odyssey about? It’s an action/drama written and directed by Peter Horton of Grey’s Anatomy. The fun thing about Odyssey is that there is a huge cast with many different storylines that eventually connect. It’s a lot like the show Lost in that way. I play Sarah Decker, the wife of the lead role, and so much happens to him that it makes for a very rich storyline for me.
Growing up in Australia, did you always dream of being an actress? Yes, I never wanted to be anything but an actor. I only came to New York to do some acting classes and that was 18 years ago! I was planning to take some classes in New York and London. Los Angeles was not even on my radar. I never thought I would move to the other side of the world [permanently], but it just kind of happened.
What was your first big break? I was the first person in Sex in the City to have sex on the show! And that was the pilot. That was my first big job. It was a topless scene in profile that was a big deal for me—very risqué. Then I moved to LA and did a few movies, auditioned more, and got a better agent. I worked nonstop for seven years. I got a starring role in 24 with Kiefer Sutherland and that was my big break.
What made you move to the East Coast? I fell in love with my former husband, who lived in New York, so I made the move. I now only audition for shows on the East Coast because I need to be close to my three little boys. When I left LA my career came to a screeching halt. I did little things here and there—guest spots on shows like The Good Wife, Blue Bloods and Elementary—but I have not had a regular job on a TV show in a long time. There are very few shows filmed here compared to LA. I did Californication in LA a few years ago, and it was manageable to fly back and forth because it was for a finite period.
Do you feel the ageism that seems so prevalent in Hollywood? What is interesting is that it’s gotten easier because all the actresses I used to go up against have kind of dropped out. People have kids, they move away, they change careers. The Good Wife, Homeland, House of Cards, Scandal: Those shows all have terrific roles for women 35 and up.
How have your three young children affected your acting career? I think having children has made me a better actor because I feel more and am able to open my heart. Creatively there are certain places I don’t think I could go to emotionally in a scene without having had the experience of being a mother. A lot of that is because I’m pretty much playing mums now—or a 40-something desperate to be a mum!
What’s the hardest part of being a working mom? The hardest part is finding the balance. I miss my boys when I’m working long hours but I also love my job. It can even recharge me for when I come back to them. So I try not to ever let guilt creep into my head. I also try really hard to make sure they all get some individual attention. With three, that can be very challenging. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Most nights I lie awake and make mental lists of what I missed that day and how I can fit it in and make it better tomorrow. But I do also have to remind myself that I am trying my best and life doesn’t look like it does in commercials!
What was your first impression of Irvington? My then husband and I went on an outing one afternoon and we fell in love with it. We came on a fall day, the high school was having a bake sale and car wash to raise money, the sun was shining, the leaves were turning colors. It almost seemed as if actors had come out to show us what an amazingly warm community Irvington was. It is socially and culturally diverse, and has the nicest train ride because it’s all along the Hudson.
What does your typical day look like? If I am not working, I exercise in the morning after dropping the boys off to school and preschool. I go to Hero in Dobbs Ferry or Method Fitness in Irvington. Both have amazing classes. Then I either learn lines and read scripts, and maybe meet a friend for lunch or coffee before I pick up the boys, do homework and plan dinner. On weeknights we all go to bed very early, including me. If I am in the city for appointments I always try to see a friend for lunch, or a cocktail if it is later in the day. I used to drive all the time, but now I love the quiet downtime on the train. Grand Central is always a beautiful point of entry and exit.
What do you miss about the city? We lived in midtown in a big hi-rise building with amazing skyline views and views of Central Park, near Carnegie Hall. I miss it, especially being able to hop into a cab and be home in five minutes. But with three young boys there is not a lot [else] I miss!