The moment Simone Kessell was offered her role on Wonderland, she took a marathon route to preparation.
She unpacked the series box set and watched the lot. In one go.
"I thought I'd just fast-forward it, but no – I binged the whole thing! All 13 eps! And I was like, 'Oh my God – I am so into this show! This is good.'"
Kessell, who first moved to Sydney from New Zealand at 19, joins the cast as Sasha, Tom's [played by Michael Dorman] ex-girlfriend who makes a reappearance in his life, causing quite a stir.
She admits she's enjoying revisiting her beachside days of old.
"It reminds me of [time spent] in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney," says Kessell, who has since gone on to star in a host of Australian series, as well as big-ticket US shows like CSI: Miami,Criminal Minds and Terra Nova.
"It's so Bondi – that life you have pre-children."
It's a life pretty far removed from the one she finds herself living these days – despite the fact she still calls Bondi home. Married to Australian filmmaker Gregor Jordan, she has two children, Jack, nine, and Beau, 18 months. The couple split their time between Australia and LA, but are currently surf-side once more, while they focus on local projects.
Their life is a constant juggle as they balance family with the reality of life in a peripatetic creative industry.
"It's been a very busy six months," says 39 year-old Kessell. "I was doing Fat Tony down in Melbourne when Beau was five months, and I was there, expressing in the green room and getting the runner to take the milk back – things like that.
"It was exhausting – even my bones were tired. But now, because he's a year and a half, it's lovely – I can juggle it. He goes down at 7pm, and I'm learning lines till ten, then to bed and up at six. We have a good system now, and I think this is one of the reasons I took Wonderland – because life is so much easier."
The fact that the series films down the road from her Sydney base means Simone can roll out of bed and on to set within ten minutes – a definite bonus for this time-strapped working mum.
"We have green cards and a house over [in LA], and if the right project came along it would be worth going back for … but I want to have Sydney as my base rather than Los Angeles, because I really think with little ones, living near the beach, and the lifestyle you get here in Australia, is just incredible," Kessell explains.
"LA is a fabulous city when you're single, or when you don't have children and you're working. But to be a mum there, it's just that little bit tougher."
That's not to say living back in Bondi doesn't come without its disadvantages. Kessell's Eastern suburbs base camp means she's frequently on the radar of the area's ubiquitous local paparazzi. Recently the show's publicist was horrified to see photos of Kessell's character in what looked suspiciously like a wedding dress.
"He had a total freakout," Kessell says of the papped on-set photos. "I had to say, 'Look, it could be a dream sequence, it could be a fake wedding, it could be the past…"
But she also found the intrusion frustrating.
"I went for a run the other day down at the beach, and the same freaking photographer took a photo of me running in a bikini!" she says, clearly mortified. "I don't quite know what to make of it – clearly Lara Bingle is not in town and there's no one else to photograph. But that's living in Bondi."
It's a small price to pay for Kessell, who admits she's enjoying being back working in Australia. So how does filming a small local production like Wonderland compare with those monolith US series she's used to?
"There are so many cooks in the kitchen when you work on American shows – you're just a pawn piece in a chess set," she explains. "It's great, but until you become the Simon Bakers or the Toni Collettes of television over there, it's pretty tough going.
"You bounce around between shows, and do some pilots, and if they don't get picked up you start back again. It's exhausting.
"I have to say, coming back here, and having one agent, no managers and when the producer is calling, on Wonderland for example, she's calling to say she's watched the rushes and is excited you're a part of the show – it's great.
"When a producer calls you in LA, you're like, 'F--k? Am I fired?'"
Wonderland, Ten, Wednesday, 8.30pm