In her new memoir (yes, she knows she's only 32, but more on that in a moment), Miranda Tapsell says she wanted to perform since she was a teenager, daring to pursue her dream after Aboriginal actor Aaron Pedersen conducted a drama workshop at her high school in Jabiru, the main town in the Kakadu National Park, when she was just 13.
"You don't aspire to be what you cannot see. Aaron made me see," she writes. "I could actually be paid for all of the things I enjoyed doing at home - dressing up and putting on funny voices. Except rather than do it badly in my lounge room, it could become a craft."
Nearly 20 years later, has she ever told Pedersen of how much he inspired her? "No, I don't think he does," she says. "We've crossed paths a few times since then but hopefully when he reads the book, he'll remember. I think when you meet a billion people a day, I don't expect him to remember a teenager he met in a school one day."
Not that Tapsell could be anything but memorable.
Ever since her big break in the movie The Sapphires in 2012, the effervescent Tapsell has worked consistently, appearing in everything from Love Child to Doctor, Doctor, The Secret City to Play School and The Dry, the film adaptation of Jane Harper's bestseller.
She stars in The Dry with Eric Bana and is still hopeful it will have a cinema release this year, even in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Because after so many frenetic years - her book Top End Girl documents her early life but, more particularly the crazy year of 2018 when she co-wrote, produced and starred in the box office hit Top End Wedding as well as organising her own wedding to comedy writer James Colley - things have come to a shuddering halt for Tapsell, and much of the Australian entertainment industry, in the face of the pandemic.
Tapsell says she has been focused on reading and writing new projects during the enforced break from filming but counts herself lucky that Colley can still work in isolation as a writer for The Weekly with Charlie Pickering. She was, also, undeterred when her book was released in the midst of the shutdown, dancing joyfully on Instagram to It's Got to Be Real by Cheryl Lynn, as she celebrated the achievement in isolation.
"I know people have said to each other, 'Be kind to yourself and, creatively, if you're feeling like you can't make something at the moment, be kind to yourself'. So I'm aware of that, too," she says. "But I'm just really lucky I've had my wonderful husband and friends to bounce off, so it's given me some fulfilment during this time."
A fan of romantic comedies, Tapsell has written her memoir almost as the literary equivalent, the book at once engaging and easy to digest, but with some bigger themes along the way, not least about getting more Aboriginal representation in film and television and her own identity, as the child of an Aboriginal mother and white father.
The memoir is also honest, including how hard she found studying at the prestigious acting school NIDA. And very funny. It's difficult not to laugh at her many asides, including the one about a particularly enthusiastic uncle who pulled a muscle while doing the floss at her wedding reception.
"I think that humour has been a way that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community has shared stories for so long," she says. "It's not to say my family don't acknowledge things that make them sad or angry but growing up, on both sides of my family, I learnt very quickly how to tell a good story. And I wanted to make sure with this book, the person reading it felt like they were the only person I was talking to."
Born in Darwin, a proud Larrakia and Tiwi woman, Tapsell says she had a happy, comfortable childhood. Her dad was the town clerk of the Jabiru Town Council and her mother was a teacher. Her adolescence was more fraught, when high school bullies started to target her Aboriginality.
"While I grew up being proud of everything I am, one of the big reasons I embraced acting was that I knew that being Aboriginal seemed to bother a lot of non-Indigenous people around me. Performing reminded me I didn't have to deny any aspect of myself," she writes in the book.
She was in high school when she won a Bell Shakespeare Regional Scholarship. She worked hard to get into NIDA and even harder to stay there. She felt at one stage that she was going to be kicked out of the drama school, finding the studies more onerous than she could have imagined. That scare spurred her to devote herself even more to her studies and, with that, eventually came the breaks into plays, movies, television.
But Tapsell never sugarcoats her story.
"I wanted to tell the stories of some of the tougher times I had in becoming an actor because I do get the impression from a lot of my cousins and nieces and nephews younger than me that they're just used to things happening at a faster pace.
"I particularly wanted to tell my story of going to drama school for young people, even if they don't want to do acting, so that they know, rewards can come with things that take their time. And that it doesn't happen overnight. Also, they need to see, hard work is a big part of it. A lot of it is about confidence as well. I had become, out the other side, a very confident person. I had skills, I knew what I was capable of and I think confidence is a huge part of getting a role."
She is still hopeful The Dry, the thriller starring Eric Bana, will be released this year. " I thought Jane Harper's book was fabulous, a lot of people really enjoyed it," she says.
Tapsell says her future will involve writing, producing, acting and another book.
What would Tapsell say to her 13-year-old self now? "I think that's the thing that would have blown her away, that everything she hoped for, came true."