She might be rubbing shoulders with Hollywood superstars Nicole Kidman and Sarah Paulson in her new movie, but Ashleigh Cummings says it couldn't have happened without the support of her Kiwi castmates from Westside.
The rising star has a key role in the hotly anticipated film The Goldfinch, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name.
But it was a bittersweet surprise when Ashleigh found out she'd scored the coveted part of Pippa, as it meant leaving her life in New Zealand and her beloved role as Cheryl West in the hit Three drama.
"What the Westside team did for me was amazing," says the 26-year-old when she catches up with the Weekly.
"I loved being part of the show but they knew about my audition for the film. They said, 'On the off chance you get the role, what we'll do is turn your three months of shooting into five weeks to wrap before filming for The Goldfinch starts.'
"That was such a huge task for them and the most touching thing anyone's ever done for me in my career."
Though the support was amazing, Ashleigh, who took on another iconic Kiwi classic when she starred in the remake of Goodbye Pork Pie, admits it did add some pressure to win the part.
But she needn't have worried because it wasn't long before she got asked to attend a callback with the leading man, The Fault in Our Stars actor Ansel Elgort.
She recalls, "I was in New Zealand and I got a call to say they wanted to test me with Ansel. Then while all the organisation was happening to meet up in New York in the weekend and do the test, they kind of went, 'Actually, you know what? Just have the role, you don't have to come out.'
"It's the most extraordinary novel and character, but also just the amount of work that everyone from Westside put in to get me to this movie – I would've felt mortified if they did it all for nothing!"
Ashleigh's character is the love interest of Ansel's Theo and the film saw the actors working together closely.
"Ansel was just a joy," says Ashleigh.
"I got along really well with him. He was so present and caring. He had a whole film on his plate, yet he was still able to take care of me and really make me feel comfortable."
A highlight of working on the movie was getting to meet her acting idol Nicole Kidman, who plays the mother of Theo's friend and is forced to take him in following the death of his own mum in a bomb explosion.
Though they didn't have any scenes together, Ashleigh did get the chance to introduce herself on set.
"When I met Nicole, I was literally like, 'Wow, you are, kind of, this ethereal, magical being.' You meet her and her presence just draws you in – her heart kind of reaches out and surrounds you in love. She was so warm and kind to me.
"I share a few things in common with her, like I briefly attended the same high school she went to and her father was my first ever psychologist when I was 14. Her trajectory as an Aussie actress is something I would love to follow."
Ashleigh, who was born in Saudi Arabia and has lived across the world, credits her nomadic lifestyle for inspiring a career in acting.
"You meet all kinds of cultures and people, and that exposure lends itself to the acting craft," she explains.
"Living inside compounds in Saudi Arabia was a kind of a Petri dish in which children have no other option but to create worlds of their own. I had a lot of imaginative experiences and adventures there."
But no matter where she goes, whether it be across the ditch in Australia or the bright lights of Hollywood, Aotearoa is never far from her heart.
"I love New Zealand, I really do. I adored working and living there. It's so beautiful and I'm constantly telling people to go there. I have bits of myself all over the world – I'm a bit of Saudi, I'm a bit of an Australian and I'm a bit Kiwi. So I have the Aussie accent, but I'm happy to be a citizen of the world!"
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