NOT that long ago, an actor from Down Under looking to break into TV would hop on the next flight to Los Angeles, find an agent and wait for the phone to ring.
Should their careers take off, we might be lucky to see his or her name buried deep in the credits of an undistinguished TV series playing some forgettable part as, say, the estranged sibling of a murder victim.
By contrast, Anna McGahan has been too busy establishing her career at home to do the LA drill.
Earlier this year, the co-star of Underbelly: Razor was in LA to accept a $10,000 scholarship for an up-and-coming actor, established in honour of the late Heath Ledger.
But instead of enrolling at an acting school and doing the rounds of LA casting agents, McGahan headed straight home for the filming of House Husbands.
And with a leading role in the Brisbane production of David Williamson's stage play Managing Carmen, and a second season of Channel Nine's successful ensemble drama House Husbands starting next year, her hopes of returning to LA in the immediate future have been dashed.
For now, work is the 24-year-old's priority. ''If the time is right, I have this open door to go over there and enter that system a lot more smoothly than had I done it earlier,'' McGahan says on the phone from Brisbane, her home town. ''It's just a question about the right time to do it.''
Writing rather than acting was McGahan's secret, unfulfilled passion when she swapped university psychology studies for acting school. ''I love science, but I knew when I stopped turning up to lectures to go to short-film shoots that something was eating away at me and I really needed to give it a shot. I auditioned for acting school as a test run and got in.''
This year, the first of three full-length plays she has written was produced in Brisbane.
''You could say yes,'' McGahan replies hesitatingly to the question of ambition. ''I do this ebb and flow with writing. If I'm acting I'm usually writing as well, because I'm a bit ADHD and it helps balance it. I have a lot of aspirations when it comes to combining my writing and acting; when it comes to telling important stories and representing women and young people. You're holding the flag for your generation.''
While her Logie-nominated turn as young prostitute Nellie Cameron in Underbelly: Razor was regarded as her arrival on the scene, McGahan credits Claudia Karvan and the Foxtel drama she co-created and starred in, Spirited, for breaking her into TV. It was, she says, the first job ''that really shook me up''.
''There were things we did in Spirited that you'd never do in any other show. Someone's talking in your ear and you have to ignore they're there and keep acting. It took it out of this domestic or acting-school idea of what screen acting is for me.''
It was also a chance to overcome her nervousness. ''By the time we got to Underbelly, which was only a couple of weeks after, I still felt very new. I still am,'' she says. ''But I had this confidence, I had this enthusiasm and excitement for Underbelly, which I think would have been overshadowed if I hadn't done Spirited.''
Nudity and violence are hallmarks of the Underbelly franchise, but McGahan insists her decision to appear in Razor, arguably the most graphic of the series to date, wasn't taken lightly.
''I think to have played Nellie Cameron without [appearing nude] would have been a misrepresentation,'' she says. ''I have no qualms about that role or that shoot at all.''
She hasn't been asked to strip for roles since, and says her values would be tested were she asked to.
''I question when nudity is written into a fictional story and why and how it represents women … There's an interesting line where an audience sees the actor as the character or as you. Anyone that means anything to me looks at [Underbelly: Razor] and sees Nellie Cameron. They don't see me. I feel very protected by the character and the era. People can comment [on the nudity] as they wish and, to be honest, it's none of my business.''
The appeal of House Husbands is its complete departure from what she has done before. She plays grounded, practical and sweet-natured Lucy, in her 20s, one of several daughters of serial dad Lewis (Gary Sweet) and the girlfriend of reformed bad-boy sports star Justin (Firass Dirani).
Unlike many up-and-coming actors who would prefer to keep their options open than commit to a multiple-season show, McGahan finds the prospect of playing a recurring character appealing.
''What happens to your character affects other characters, and they affect you. There's an organic quality to it; it lives and breathes.
''I'm not sure what it will be like to go back to a second season of anything, but I've a feeling it's this completely new creation, like the idea that the cells in the body replace themselves every few years.''
Before then, McGahan appears, albeit briefly, in the feature-length The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, a period murder-mystery with a biting perspective on Victorian-era values. She had been in line for one of two big young female roles in the production. Having signed up for a job overseas, she let it pass. By the time that job fell over, the other roles on Hansom Cab were cast, but a smaller one was available. It required hours of burlesque training, as well as prosthetics.
Oddly, given her string of recent roles, McGahan professes to have no radar for successful shows.
''I take those jobs day by day. I love my job, I go in with a good attitude, but I react entirely to that day's shooting, to my character's progression in the scene. Later I think, 'How did everyone else go?''' Anyway, McGahan says, it's not about predicting how well a show will do.
''It's about what you're giving out to an audience and what that creative process does to help you grow. If you get a lot out of what you do, you can't really fail.''
The Mystery of a Hansom Cab airs Sunday at 8.30pm on ABC1.