Reef Break star and executive producer Poppy Montgomery opens up to PEOPLE about her blended family in an exclusive interview
Poppy Montgomery is making it work with her ex — in fact, they’re still close friends and even live down the street from each other.
“They look at what we do rather than what we say,” adds Montgomery, 47. “[Adam] remarried and his stepkids are the same age as my stepkids, so we’re all really close.”
Montgomery, who’s the star and executive producer of ABC’s new crime drama Reef Break, also has two kids (son Gus Monroe, 4½, and daughter Violet Grace, 6) with husband Shawn Sanford, whom she married in 2014. Sanford, the director of lifestyle marketing at Microsoft, has two children from a previous marriage.
“You need a map to keep track of it all, but it actually works really well and they’re all really close,” Montgomery tells PEOPLE. “My parents divorced when I was young but stayed best friends. I think that’s probably why I did it. It was just sort of something I understood.”
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The Australian-born actress says she’s friends with Sanford’s wife and her children from a previous marriage, as well. The entire group — 15 people in total — even spent Easter together this year.
Montgomery shared a picture from the day on Instagram, writing, “HAPPY EASTER !!!!!🐣🐰🐇We finally did it ! All of us in one picture!!!!! 🥕🥂🎊”
The family is currently relaxing on the beach and enjoying surfing lessons in Queensland, Australia, while Montgomery films Reef Break (in which she plays Cat Chambers, who’s described as a “thief-turned-fixer for the governor of a stunning and seductive Pacific Island paradise”).
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After the ups and downs of working on Unforgettable (the CBS mystery drama was canceled three times before finally going off the air), the star says being back in front of the camera is “easy and stress-free.”
As part of her surfer cool-girl role, Montgomery gets to ride on Jet Skis, drive rescue boats and strut down the beach in a bikini.
“We wanted to make the show fun,” Montgomery says of Reef Break, which premiered on June 20. “It’s like a big TV version of a summer beach read.”
Still, balancing mom life with her busy work schedule is a challenge. “I drink a lot of coffee and I take power naps whenever I can,” Montgomery says. “I try to meditate for 20 minutes, 5 minutes or even 30 seconds. When I’m exhausted, I just close my eyes.”
“When I’m at work, I feel like a bad mom and when I’m totally focused on being a mom, I feel like I’m neglecting my job,” she admits to PEOPLE. “It’s a constant internal mom guilt battle that I fight every day.”
“When I’m on the show, I’ve got to be on the show, and when I’m with the kids, I’ve got to be with the kids. I realized trying to do both equally just doesn’t work.”
Reef Break airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. EST on ABC.