Eighteen months have passed since TV WEEK sat down for a chat with Ashleigh Brewer.
It may not seem like a very long time between catch-ups, but as we reunite for our exclusive photo shoot in Sydney, something feels different.
Dressed in a powder-blue suit and sporting a chic blonde bob, the Brisbane-born actress poses with finesse.
Between shots, Ashleigh trades banter with the crew and chats enthusiastically about her new role in Home And Away as policewoman Chelsea.
It's at this point, we realise what's changed – or, more precisely, who. Ashleigh not only looks different, but feels it too.
The 27-year-old, known for her role as Ivy Forrester in The Bold And The Beautiful, has shed her imposter syndrome insecurities – the "I shouldn't be here" feeling, as she once described it – and embraced a newfound confidence.
"It's taken me into my late 20s to realise what I want in life," the former Neighbours star explains.
"I now have a determined mind to say, 'You can actually go and get what you want.'"
As the shoot wraps up, Ashleigh quickly changes into casual denim jeans before coming to sit cross-legged on a nearby chair.
With a big grin, she indicates she's ready to dive in – and it's clear we've got a lot to talk about.
TV WEEK: Welcome home! Are you enjoying being back in Australia?
Absolutely! I really missed it. I finally said it out loud: "I think I need to go home, get a job there and hit the reset button." Los Angeles can be a hard town, so I wanted to… not start again, but gain some confidence back home.
And has it worked?
Funnily enough, through my character in Home And Away, I got to exercise that grown-up muscle. I've learnt to be still and say: "This is what I want, this is how I feel." I'm used to being a bit more flighty, but [Chelsea's] presence is grounded. H&A is also a female-driven workplace and that way of thinking filters through. The female characters aren't too stern or hard, but they have backbone, which is nice.
Did you ever question your decision to be an actress?
It's so hard, especially if you don't know what you're chasing. Los Angeles can be tough and you can't go there thinking, "I want to be an actor." It's not good enough. I'm so lucky I landed a show and was able to support myself. Now, I want to explore a character and be stretched creatively. That's important to me.
You were encouraged to chase your dreams by your good friend, and former Neighbours co-star Margot Robbie. It must be nice to have someone to lean on who's in the same industry.
She's been my number-one supporter from the beginning. I respect her opinions and advice wholeheartedly. Having her there to lean on is so encouraging. I often think how lucky I am because my boyfriend, Zac, works in the industry as a manager and my closest friend [Margot] basically is the industry! [Laughs]
What will it take to get you and Margot back on the screen together?
[Laughs] Wouldn't that be so good? I'd love to and it would be so easy working with her. I should be so lucky.
Starting this chapter on Home And Away and basing yourself back in Australia, would you say you've finally reached the confidence you were striving for?
Well, I hope it gets even better. But over the past 10 years? Absolutely. Although, I was a pretty sassy 15-year-old! [Laughs]
To read more from our interview with Ash, pick up a copy of this week's issue of TV WEEK. On sale now!