Actor Sophie Dillman is not pregnant but if a recent incident is anything to go by, she is doing a convincing job of playing Summer Bay’s mum-to-be Ziggy Astoni.
“We had a guest sitting in the makeup chair around the time I was wearing the pregnancy belly and I said something like, ‘Oh, I can’t watch that kind of movie any more,'” Dillman says.
“He was like, ‘Yeah, well, I mean, it’s too sad in your condition’. I said, ‘Hang on’, did a bit of a double take and then said, ‘You know it’s a fake, right?’ “
It came as no surprise to Dillman that plenty of fans also believed she was pregnant in real life, given that she and co-star Patrick O’Connor, who plays Ziggy’s partner Dean, have been in a relationship for several years.
Dillman says the weirdest part of the whole storyline was the scene where Ziggy tells Dean she’s pregnant.
“I was surprised to find I was nervous myself, too,” she says, adding that the storyline has sparked some interesting conversations between her and O’Connor.
Ziggy’s unexpected pregnancy came just as she was offered the professional surfing contract she had always wanted. The young mechanic eventually opted to put motherhood above her career.
“I think it was definitely a difficult choice for Ziggy because she had so many things just about to bloom in her life, but she was given the space to make the choice and that’s the choice she made. And I think she’s thrilled,” Dillman says, adding it was particularly poignant those scenes were being filmed as the Roe vs. Wade abortion debate was splitting America.
“It was really great to be able to have those sorts of discussions, about the different scenarios and how we feel about them, with your real-life partner.”
Dillman and O’Connor, who earlier this year had to shut down rumors they were engaged, have also had to deal with fans thinking the pregnancy is real.
“I think it’s something to do with the concept that everyone’s rooting for the happy ending and I totally understand that,” she says.
“I like that with people that I watch or admire so I totally get that. And I think sometimes people forget that Paddy and Sophia are very different people to Dean and Ziggy.”
While Ziggy’s pregnancy has had its ups and downs, Dillman says the experience has, on the whole, been fun.
“I’ve gotten to have all of the pregnancy symptoms without actually having the pregnancy symptoms,” she says, adding that she has few fears herself about the physical challenges that come with having a baby.
“I’m a nurse so I’ve seen it all,” she says, laughing. “I think it is the pain of the birth that scares a lot of people, but because I have endometriosis, and I’ve already had so much uterine pain in my life, I’m like, ‘Bring it on.’ I am so excited to be a mum one day.”
However, the life changes that a baby brings – the loss of career opportunities and income – do concern her.
“I’m 30 now, so I have girlfriends who have kids or are thinking about having kids and it’s really important that those concerns are voiced and people see them,” she says.
“A lot of the time, it’s a woman who is the one who has to take time off, which means they don’t get that money for super, which means that their employers are less likely to give them a raise or a promotion, and all that puts them on the back foot.
“It’s been really great to have those conversations and have people talking about it.”
That aside, Dillman says she has loved Ziggy’s pregnancy, revealing that many of Ziggy’s experiences are drawn from the lives of the drama’s writers.
“The writers have also paid homage to some of the things that are around in Paddy’s and my lives as well. One of Dean and Ziggy’s suggested baby names, her nickname would be Winnie, and that’s our puppy’s name,” she says.
“It’s really cute that they’ve done that for us and we’ve had a lot of fun playing with that sort of stuff ourselves as well.”
There’s even been spirited baby name discussions with Dillman and O’Connor’s wider families.
“My sister Hannah and I argue about baby names because we both love a certain girl’s name and we’ve both decided that whoever gets the first girl gets that name.”
Home And Away, TVNZ 2, weeknights.