ACTRESS Allira Jaques is as down to earth as they come.
She might have spent five years living in the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles' dream factory, but you'd never guess.
She's still a Novocastrian, and most importantly, a Boolaroo girl at heart.
Jaques, 35, has been back at her parents Boolaroo home in recent months to be closer to family while COVID-19 keeps the entertainment industry at a standstill.
When Weekender remarks that she must have noticed a few changes around the Lake Macquarie suburb when she returned home, she proudly laughs: "Yeah, we've got a Bunnings and Costco now. Boolaroo is on the up and up."
The career of arguably Boolaroo's favourite daughter is also on the up and up.
Next Thursday new Australian romantic-comedy Love You Like That opens in cinemas nationally and Jaques is front and centre.
Jaques plays a mysterious woman, Mim, who washes up naked on a beach and is rescued by a retired naval captain, Roy, played by John Jarratt (Wolf Creek).
Mim cannot remember where she's from but over the course of a day she has a transformative impact on the small coastal town of Seafront Sands, which is in a flutter about the discovery of this mystery woman.
Mim seemingly finds a "match made in heaven" with Harrison, played by Mitchell Hope from Disney+ series TheDescendants, but her past soon creates new challenges for the couple.
"It's a beautiful little film and I was super lucky to be a part of it," Jaques says. "It's something we need right now.
"I think it'll pull on the heart strings, it did for me.
"I've watched it and I was a blubbering mess throughout it. It's so funny as well. It's got a good balance. It'll have you laughing and crying at the same time."
Jaques auditioned for the role while living in LA more than two years ago.
She'd previously worked with Love You Like That producer Sean Gannon on the Australian horror films Daddy's Little Girl and Charlie's Farm and he felt Jaques would be perfect for the role of Mim.
After sending an audition tape to director and writer Eric C. Nash (Out Of The Shadows), Jaques landed the role, the biggest of her acting career.
"It was a completely different genre and a very deep character," she says.
"I wanted to have this mystery about her, but she's very relatable. It was a tough one to start with, but I loved working with Eric the director, because even though I was in LA, we did a lot of FaceTiming.
"It was his character he developed, so with him I did a lot of rehearsing. I had a lot of questions for him and he was so great collaborating with and understanding where I was coming from.
"He was great to work with because I had done a lot of horror films that are completely different to this."
While Love You Like That called for more comedic timing and chemistry with Hope, than running around the outback screaming like Charlie's Farm, Jaques found the transition to romantic-comedy more natural.
"I think this is the essence of my acting ability," she says. "I'm definitely that girl next door. It's where I get cast.
"It came to me much easier than I thought, but the character is something I definitely had to work on with Eric."
Jaques' story isn't typical of most Hunter-raised entertainers. She didn't attend the Hunter School Of Performing Arts or appear in school productions.
The former Lake Macquarie High student dropped out in year 10 and wanted to simply get a job.
"I wasn't in the right frame of mind to be focused on school," she says.
While the self-confessed movie and TV buff dreamt of acting, she says she lacked the confidence as a teenager to pursue it.
"I didn't do a lot when I was young, but I always wanted to be an actress," she says. "When I got to that teenage age, you know when you get embarrassed about everything, I felt like I can't have my mum see me kiss anyone on screen, or my dad.
"That's too embarrassing and I can't do this."
Jaques would later complete her HSC at university and then studied a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Teaching.
Meanwhile, Jaques was taking off in other areas. In 2007 she was crowned Miss Surfest and became the face of Alex Norrie Swimwear.
You're a needle in a haystack and you learn so much about the industry and how hard you have to work. I learnt a lot about myself.Allira Jaques
Later that year her glowing smile and bubbly personality took Jaques all the way to the top-10 of Miss Universe Australia in Perth.
With new-found confidence from modelling and studying to become a teacher, Jaques finally began working towards the world of acting.
She made her debut in Daddy's Little Girl in 2012, made an appearance on TV show Rake in 2013 before popping up alongside American Pie star Tara Reid in comedy-slasher flick Charlie's Farm (2014).
Like thousands of Australian actors before her, Jaques then packed her bags for LA to crack the cut-throat Hollywood film industry.
The five-year stint was challenging. Jaques' O-1 US work visa made it difficult to find roles. She mightn't have landed any dream jobs, but the experience was life-changing.
"Everyone in LA is there to fulfil their dream," she says. "You're not the only actor there. You think you're going there and it's like, 'here I am, let's do some work', but it's not as easy as that.
"You're a needle in a haystack and you learn so much about the industry and how hard you have to work.
"I learnt a lot about myself. I come from a really supportive and amazing family and I learnt a lot about other people and where they've come from and it gets you out of your bubble.
"It gets you out of your comfort zone and I think it's important to do that."
Jaques hasn't given up on LA, but she's in no hurry to return after taking a repatriation flight home in April 2020.
With Love You Like That about to hit cinemas, she's hoping the film brings new opportunities.
"I'm still quite new to the scene," she says. "I've been in it for a while, but I've stuck at it and it's one of the things you have to do with this industry, is hang in there.
"Being in the right place at the right time is a big part of it. I'm just hoping it'll open some doors and people can see what I can do with my work and hopefully I can get some more roles."
Love You Like That opens in cinemas on Thursday.