Michelle Lim Davidson was told many times she'd never make it as a television actor because of her "look".
Well, take a look at her now. This talented Korean-born, Newcastle-raised actor has proved them wrong.
Michelle is an in-demand, award-winning, AACTA-nominated actor who was scouted by Ben Elton and is part of the Logie-winning cast of ABC TV series The Newsreader. She has numerous theatre, film and television credits to her name and has been a popular presenter on Play School for the past 10 years.
After The Verdict, which premieres on the 9 Network on August 10, presented her with a few career milestones.
It is her first lead role in a television series.
She is the first Korean-Australian person to play a lead role on Australian television.
And it's the first time a Korean-Australian character has led an Australian television series.
She still can't quite believe it.
"I grew up dancing and singing. Never in a million years did I think I would become an actor," Michelle, 34, says.
"I was incredibly introverted as a child and my parents decided to enrol me in weekend drama lessons to try to bring me out of my shell. I was still really shy and it took me a couple of years to properly participate.
"Acting is something I fell into, I guess, and sometimes I still catch myself and go 'Oh my goodness, I'm an actor'. But I love it and I wouldn't want to do anything else.
"I am the first Korean-Australian person to play a lead role in Australian television and I could never have dreamt that was possible at the beginning of my career. I was told so many times I would not work in television, but here I am."
She says this with pride and a hint of determination in her voice, and rightfully so. Michelle has worked hard to get where she is today - which is leading an all-star cast that includes actors the calibre of Magda Szubanski, Lincoln Younes, Tess Haubrich and Sullivan Stapleton.
After The Verdict tells the story of four very different Australians who have just finished jury duty on a high-profile murder trial. Back in the real world, they have second thoughts: have they let a killer go free? They decide to take the law into their own hands, and so begins a high-stakes game of cat and mouse uncovering a web of secrets, betrayal, blackmail and murder.
Michelle plays Clara, a working mum juggling a messy divorce and an unsatisfying job who is determined to uncover the truth about the murder.
I watched two episodes of the series in preparation for our chat, and can admit I was drawn in hook, line and sinker. Michelle laughs when I tell her that I have a bone to pick with her - I need to know how it all pans out, and now - but gives nothing away.
"I apologise for that but I'm also thrilled. Not many people have seen it yet," she says.
"It's really exciting for me to hear how much you enjoyed it."
Michelle says she tries to "bring a bit of my heart" into each role she plays. What did she bring to Clara?
"I think that for me, as an actor, it is important for me to be at my most open and vulnerable. I try to do that in my personal life as well," she says.
"So for Clara, I really tried to give her that part of me that is really open to experiences and to pursuing something that I am really passionate about.
"We did some research before the show and it's such a weird concept to do jury duty. It really is. You are plucked from your normal life and put into the courtroom.
"Maybe it's TV shows and films that set you up to believe that you are going to solve a crime, that you're going to get a satisfying result, but as it is in this scenario, if you get a not guilty verdict you're left thinking 'Well, what really happened?'
"Clara in some respects becomes an amateur detective, driven by her desire to find justice. I'm very determined and I want justice for people as well, so I tried to give her that kind of purity; that sense of being pure of heart and intentions."
This is not a drama like The Twelve. Far from it. After The Verdict is a comedy/drama that verges on thriller.
Michelle's comedic timing is spot-on as Clara. It is no fluke that Ben Elton cast her in his 2011 comedy Ben Elton Live from Planet Earth after watching her perform in her WAAPA (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts) graduation showcase.
"Channel 9 and Ben gave me my first job out of drama school, and all these years later to return to the network and play my first lead role in a television series, it's like I've come full circle," she says.
"I love comedy, and for a long time I mainly did comedy.
"Having the opportunity to play Clara, I get to go through the gamut of emotions. Each episode starts to descend into a thriller, and into darkness, but it still has these comedy moments.
"That's what I like about the show - it doesn't try to be a genre piece. It's just how people feel and act in real life."
Clara also has her fair share of cringeworthy moments. I recall a well-executed scene where she invites three fellow jurors to dinner and they just "happen" to be at the restaurant at the same time as the woman they acquitted.
"Oh my, she gets herself into some strange situations," Michelle says, laughing.
"A set of circumstances combine to make her act a certain way and she decides the only way out is to keep moving forward, and that's fun to watch.
"That's what I hope people take away from this series. It's just so much fun. It's told from the perspective of a bunch of people with no skills as detectives. Not one of them have any skills that are useful for solving a crime, and that's what makes it relatable.
"We are constantly in their position - 'What would I do? Maybe I would follow him in the car?'. By the end of the series you've either figured it out yourself or there will be a nice reveal for you."
Ah yes, that reveal. I'm still waiting.
Michelle spent her childhood years in Charlestown, near Newcastle, and attended Hunter School of the Performing Arts at Broadmeadow. Her parents moved to Medowie when they retired and she visits often.
Sydney is home these days, and she travels interstate for work.
Michelle is also an emerging writer for television and stage and has written for the upcoming series Born to Spy for ABC ME. She is currently shooting season two of The Newsreader in Melbourne.
She says she feels fortunate to have been offered such a variety of roles throughout her career "across so many different disciplines".
"I have enjoyed mixing theatre with film and television. I feel more grounded as an actor, and it keeps things fresh.
"A major part of being an actor is whether you have the right temperament to live the lifestyle. A lot of people can act, a lot are talented, but acting is a whole other element from the job and the profession.
"That's the bit you don't learn at drama school.
"It's not a lifestyle for everyone, being a professional actor. I could get off the phone to you and things could just change very quickly. Or very slowly. It's not for people who like routine or any kind of consistency."
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