Life after Secret Life

That was then ... Sibylla Budd is best known for <i>The Secret Life of Us</i>.

That was then ... Sibylla Budd is best known for The Secret Life of Us.

For many actors, turning the big 3-0 can spell the death knell for their careers. Pretty young NIDA graduates, fresh out of drama school, start landing those plumb roles and all of a sudden the phone just stops ringing.

But for 36-year-old Sibylla Budd, the Canberra-born, now Melbourne-based actor, best known for her role as Gabrielle Kovich in seminal naughties drama The Secret Life of Us, the reverse has been true.

Since relocating from Sydney two years ago with her husband, filmmaker Peter Carstairs, Budd's plans to settle down and enjoy quietly raising her baby Albie, now 2, have been upset somewhat.

''Work suddenly started to flow when I came here, which has been great,'' Budd says of her move. ''I did an episode of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, which was really fun. And then Redfern Now, which was back up in Sydney. Then I did the new ABC series, It's a Date, which will be on in August.''

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For the past seven months she's also been filming a regular guest spot on Winners and Losers. Her character, Dr Carla Hughes, joins the show as dreamboat Dr Doug's (played by Tom Wren) love interest.

''It's been a lovely show to work on,'' Budd says. ''It really is the nicest cast and crew to be involved with.

''To come in as the outsider, they were really welcoming. No one was affected - the crew as well. It really was just a nice place to go to work every day. I was pretty lucky to be there.''

On the subject of luck, Budd knows all too well how fortunate she was to walk out of drama school back in 1999, and straight into regular work.

''I did think I was going to do theatre, but then straight away I did a telemovie, then the pilot for The Secret Life of Us, and then a feature film, The Bank. So my first year out was pretty great,'' she says.

It wasn't until a few years later, when Budd decided to leave Secret Life after three seasons, that she learnt first-hand what being a jobbing actor in Australia really means: sporadic periods of unemployment.

''Everything flowed really organically for the first, I guess, three or four years. And then it was a bit of a rude shock when it all stopped,'' Budd says.

''I didn't get complacent, but you forget what it's like to be on the other side as an actor. Which is, 'Oh my gosh, where is the next job going to come from?'''

In Budd's case, it was roles in All Saints, Sea Patrol and the short-lived Canal Road, but nothing quite on a par with the series she'd come from.

And, for a while there, she disappeared from our screens.

The Secret Life of Us, so of-its-time, was responsible for launching the careers of Claudia Karvan, Deborah Mailman and Joel Edgerton. Budd admits that, back then, she didn't really think about just how important the show would turn out to be.

''I didn't quite understand it,'' she says. ''Now I look back and think, 'Oh gosh, I had such an amazing opportunity, and it was such an amazing thing to be a part of.'

''At the time, when I came out the other side of it, I said, 'Now what?' What is there?' And then it's like, 'Oh, there's not much more like it!' It was more of a shock and facing the reality of TV. I think at the time there was just a lot of cop shows going on [and not much else].''

Rather than do what so many of her contemporaries were doing and move to Los Angeles, Budd chose to stay put in Australia, taking theatre roles where she could.

''I think I'd rather be unemployed here than in LA,'' she laughs. ''I did go over for a couple of months and it was a bit like, 'Oh god, every man and his dog is here trying to make it!' Everywhere you sit and have a coffee, there is someone talking about their manager, or their test, and it became a bit like, 'Gosh, where are we?' I didn't want it to be my whole world.''

Enter Peter and Albie.

''Now it's not the be all and end all, if work doesn't happen,'' she says. ''I don't see myself as 'just an actor' any more, which is interesting.

''I don't know whether motherhood has changed me, but I am sort of realising that I can do other things, and wear other hats, which is exciting.''

These other hats include working on a TV project with her husband, a collaboration with Matchbox Pictures, of The Slap fame. It's still in development stage, but things are looking promising. She's also working on another project with advertising agency, Naked Communications.

So, for the time being, Budd is enjoying having some rare downtime.

''Life's been crazy, but great,'' she says.

Winners and Losers airs Tuesday on Channel Seven at 8.30pm.