When Samara Weaving farewelled the sandy shores of Summer Bay in 2013, the young Aussie actress set her sights on Hollywood.
It's almost a rite of passage for former Home And Away-ers to give things a crack in the entertainment capital of the world. And like many of her predecessors, the then 21-year-old longed to be the next big thing.
Now five years on, and Samara's done better than most, landing several key roles, including a part in the 2018 Oscar-winning indie film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
"I have to pinch myself," Samara, 26, says of her recent success. "I'm just so grateful it has been going so well."
But while her career in Tinseltown goes from strength to strength, Samara will always call Australia home.
So much so, the former Summer Bay bikini babe is preparing to grace our screens again. Only this time, she'll be turning heads in broderie anglaise gowns, straw hats and pointed black boots in Picnic At Hanging Rock.
Samara plays wealthy schoolgirl Irma Leopold in the hotly anticipated period drama based on the classic Australian book and film of the same name.
"It [Picnic At Hanging Rock] is a quintessential Australian story," Samara explains, "to the point where some people think it's a real story."
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a reimagining of Picnic At Hanging Rock comes with certain expectations.
So did Samara feel the pressure?
"It's funny, but I didn't," she admits. "That's because Larysa Kondracki [the series' co-director] did a great job of planning and executing. She had a real vision. I think people are going to be happy with the outcome."
Chatting to TV WEEK, Samara recalls auditioning for the job while holidaying in Australia last year.
"I think it's important to know where your roots are and to give back," she says of returning home down under for the role.
"It's always lovely to support the [entertainment] industry in Australia.
"Hopefully, shows like ours can inspire others to create big, awesome series that will change the TV landscape."
During her audition, Samara read with co-stars Lily Sullivan and Madeleine Madden who, along with Samara, play the schoolgirls who famously go missing while visiting Hanging Rock.
"The three of us really clicked," Samara enthuses. "We were all able to get a sense of each other as actors, and the characters just made sense in the room. It was magical.
"We've all become good friends since filming. That wouldn't have happened if we hadn't had chemistry from the start."
Of course, when Samara is back home in Australia, it's hard for her mind not to drift back to life in Summer Bay.
"I was catching a train, and I went past the big Channel Seven building, which was where we'd shoot Home And Away," Samara shares. "I thought, 'Wow, being on that show seems like such a long time ago.' It was such a lovely, nostalgic moment."
Samara played the Bay's troubled teen Indi Walker for four drama-filled years before she decided to move on in 2013.
It wasn't her first gig – she'd been in the short-lived Network Ten drama Out Of The Blue – but her role in H&A was the one that put her on the map.
"It was such a great jumping-off point to where I am now," Samara explains. "That's where it all started."
Her stint in the Bay has certainly stood her in good stead in the US.
"When I first moved to LA to talk to agents, they'd never seen the show," Samara says. "But they recognised it as a breeding ground for Australian actors.
"It's such a great place to start and to learn your craft. So many actors have come from the show."
Big names like Chris Hemsworth, Isla Fisher, Melissa George and the late Heath Ledger are all H&A graduates who have gone on to find fame in LA. Samara can now add her name to the list.
After all, acting – and filmmaking – is in Samara's blood. Her father, Simon Weaving, is a filmmaker. Her sister, Morgan, is also an actress. And her uncle is none other than Hugo Weaving.
Last year was a watershed for the young Australian. It seemed like she was everywhere. As well as appearing in Three Billboards, she starred in the bloody Netflix drama The Babysitter, and she had a key role in well-received Stan dramedy SMILF.
"It's humbling that people want to work with me," she says. "And it [her career] seems to be on a good trajectory. I'm so lucky."
- PuzzlesThe Australian Women's Weekly July Issue Online Entry
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