Cecilia "Cece" Peters had only appeared in a handful of Australian shows – Catching Milat, The Wrong Girl, True Story With Hamish & Andy – before landing the lead role of teacher Paige Dunkeley in the AFL-based drama Playing For Keeps.
On screen, it's been a baptism by fire for Paige, a country girl entering the elite social circles of the football code's WAGs.
Off screen, it's been just as much a step beyond for Cece's blossoming career.
"The parallels between me coming into this industry and Paige coming into the socialites' footy scene are definitely there," Cece tells TV WEEK. "She's [Paige] navigating it, I'm navigating it, and we're both growing."
Although chatty and effusive about Paige's evolving narrative in Playing For Keeps, the more private Cece says her own expanding media profile has been a learning experience, both in her craft and within herself.
"There's a lot of focus on image in society and on social media," the young actress explains. "Finding a way to love yourself, your body and your mind, particularly as a young female, is a huge journey everyone has to go on."
Cece has relished portraying a woman who doesn't fit the stereotype of a lead character, let alone a WAG.
"In the past, the funny, silly one has always been the best friend," Cece says of Paige. "[But] she's got all the character traits to make a truly boss woman who is nurturing, ballsy and funny."
With a dream lead role already on her CV and so early in her career, Cece is well and truly kicking goals.
So it's all the harder to believe she almost pursued a different path.
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"Acting kind of happened by accident," Cece admits. "I always had an interest in acting, and then the first audition I went to was for a kid's TV show, so I ended up in the industry at an early age without really comprehending what I was doing."
Cece played 13-year-old Tiger Johnson in the 2009 Australian comedy Snake Tales, a show about two best friends growing up in the Outback. While the role only fuelled Cece's desire to become an actress, she nearly put an end to her career before it had begun.
"I went back to school," she says pensively, "and the careers counsellor said, 'Acting's not a real job, you should study physics and be an architect'."
And that's what Cece agreed to do.
But when she got to the end of Year 12, "I realised, 'I don't want to do this for the rest of my life,'" she says.
Luckily, Cece's perseverance and natural talent landed her a position at the prestigious Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).
"Off I went, and I never looked back," she says.
With her sights set firmly on the future, Cece is happy staying and working locally, but she admits Hollywood is always in the back of her mind.
"I'm very happy finding my feet in Australia," Cece says. "LA is always looming over every actor's head, so sometime in the future."
Playing For Keeps is on Wednesday's, 8.30pm on Network 10
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