Swift Street: It’s been an improbable rise to the top for the Perth-raised actor Tanzyn Crawford

Clare RigdenSTM
Stylist Ntombi Moyo oversaw this spectacular shoot with rising star Tanzyn Crawford.
Camera IconStylist Ntombi Moyo oversaw this spectacular shoot with rising star Tanzyn Crawford. Credit: Hana Schlesinger/Supplied

Ask Tanzyn Crawford, the Perth-raised, home-schooled acting graduate, how she went from university showcases to co-starring alongside Hollywood heavy hitters, and she admits she is as mystified as the next person.

Getting styled for photoshoots by an in-demand costume designer who has worked with Beyonce, Adele and Megan Thee Stallion? No idea how that happened.

Scoring leading roles in Cannes-nominated TV series? Mind. Blown.

“I am still amazed by how that happened, really,” the down-to-earth actor, 23, reveals to STM.

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“I feel like at WAAPA (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts), we got so much levelling, so many grounding speeches saying, ‘Only one in 200 is actually going to make a living out of acting,’ that I was so ready for a five-year slog of auditioning and working in cafes.”

Those years of grinding away for her big break never came. In fact, what did come next was something of a surprise: Crawford walked straight into a starring role in a big-name US production.

Tanzyn Crawford stars as Elsie in Swift Street.
Camera IconTanzyn Crawford stars as Elsie in Swift Street. Credit: SBS/Supplied

“I finished at WAAPA in 2021 and then one of my best friends there, Daisy, managed to convince her manager, who just happened to be in Perth at the time, to come to our show reel screening,” she explains.

“So they watched the show reel, and sprinted up to me afterwards and said, ‘Daisy told me you have American citizenship, I want to sign you’. And I was like, ‘Oh my god, it happens that quickly? OK!’”

Fast forward a few months, and she’d booked her first job — on high-profile director M. Night Shyamalan’s Apple TV Plus series Servant, no less.

Next came another major role, playing Kathryn Hahn’s daughter in the critically acclaimed TV adaptation of the novel Tiny Beautiful Things.

That waitressing side-hustle would have to wait.

Tanzyn Crawford sys she loved starring alongside Cliff Curtis, who plays her Dad in the series.
Camera IconTanzyn Crawford sys she loved starring alongside Cliff Curtis, who plays her Dad in the series. Credit: SBS/Supplied

“The fact that any of this has happened is still mind blowing to me,” Crawford says of her rapid ascension.

“I feel like I’ve worked really hard, and I really care about the art I have chosen — I’ve put a lot of effort into it — but so do a lot of people.

“So what makes me any more special than anyone else?”

Perhaps it’s the seemingly effortless way she shapeshifts in and out of her characters, or her wonderfully expressive face. Maybe it’s her natural talent.

Maybe it’s all those things, all of which are on display in her latest project, the wonderfully realised urban family crime drama Swift Street, which starts on April 24 on SBS.

In the series, she plays Elsie, a girl on the cusp of adulthood, hustling to get ahead in a world which isn’t always kind. Elsie is both young and world-weary, as she works on pulling off one last heist to help get her troubled dad, played by New Zealander Avatar actor Cliff Curtis, out of debt.

Swift Street was filmed in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Preston, and stands as an endearingly accurate portrayal of the diverse, rough-round-the-edges, but creative urban hub.

Crawford, who grew up in Perth (she split her time between here and the US, where her father’s family is based) admits it was a world far removed from the one she knew as a child.

Rising star Tanzyn Crawford  was styled by Ntombi Moyo, who has worked with Hollywood elite.
Camera IconRising star Tanzyn Crawford was styled by Ntombi Moyo, who has worked with Hollywood elite. Credit: Hana Schlesinger/Supplied

“I had to do lots of research, because we were capturing authentic Melbourne — and I was like ‘Oh my god, I have never been (there) before,’” says the star, who has spent the majority of the past few years working abroad.

Taking time out from her flourishing international career to star in a local drama might seem a strange sideways step, but as Crawford explains, returning to Australia to work was always part of her plan.

“I have always wanted to do Australian things, but nothing has ever really come up where I felt represented, or the character was something that I really connected with until I got this audition,” she explains.

“From the second I read it I was so blown away.

“I think I auditioned for three scenes, and they were all dramatically different, and I remember thinking, ‘This character is so interesting’. And it just felt so . . . right.”

Crawford also appreciated the fact the series was helmed by emerging director Tig Terera, and featured a diverse cast and team, including that aforementioned costume designer, Ntombi Moyo.

“I looked into it, and immediately I was like, ‘Wow, a person of colour who is writing and directing, and multiple people of colour in this show — that is incredible’,” she explains.

“I had never seen anything like that in Australia, and I felt I needed to be a part of that.”

Though it reflects a uniquely Australian story, Swift Street feels very global, and is already making noise overseas; it was recently selected to have its world premiere at the Canneseries television showcase.

Crawford’s trip back to Australia was only a short one — she’s already back filming overseas, in a soon-to-be-announced American feature film project.

Getting back to Perth isn’t on the agenda any time soon, though she desperately misses the place she still calls home, and in particular her mum and sister, who still live here.

“I am very fortunate where I have my citizenship, so that when a role comes up, I can go wherever no problem,” she says. “But I am just so content in Perth. I love it.

“I love the beach and Fremantle is my favourite place ever.”

But with projects lined up for the foreseeable future and an international career beckoning, those Freo sunsets will just have to wait.

Swift Street premieres on SBS on April 24.

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