INSIDE: Seven days of TV viewing
AS desperate- to- fit in teenager Debbie Vickers in Puberty Blues, actor Ashleigh Cummings has personified life on the cusp of adulthood.
Cummings and cast- mate Brenna Harding, who plays on- screen best friend Sue in the series, have delivered a performance full of chemistry and believability.
It’s that which has placed them on another cusp – that of seriously good breakthrough actors.
Cummings’ alter- ego Debbie may still be wavering between uncertainty and sureness as she negotiates her teens, but the actor herself is full of optimism on her chosen path.
‘‘ This role has been one of the best experiences of my life,’’ says the 19- yearold, who is enjoying her most prominent television role to date.
‘‘ I decided to act at 15 and I haven’t wavered from that.
‘‘ Before that I wanted to be a ballerina, but at 15 that idea was flipped on its head.
‘‘ I just didn’t want to dance any more, which was a little absurd.
‘‘ I was doing 27 hours a week of dancing and that had been my ambition since I was three years old, then suddenly the acting bug took over.’’
That bug propelled Cummings into a series of parts, including the leading role on the hit adventure movie Tomorrow When the War Began in 2010.
As Robyn in that film, Cummings earnt an AFI nomination for best young actor.
She caught the eye as devoted companion and some- time sleuth Dot Williams last year in the ABC’s first series of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, before blowing away Puberty Blues creators John Edwards and Imogen Banks at her screen test.
It meant a complete change of pace for Cummings, who donned bikinis and beach wear for the role of Debbie, a far cry from her own early life.
Cummings was born in Saudi Arabia, where her father worked as a radiographer and her mother as a stenographer.
The family moved back to Australia when Cummings was 12 years old.
Cummings says she’s far from the quintessential ‘‘ beach girl’’.
‘‘ Totally not. I’m an albino at heart, so there was lots of fake tanning going on for this role,’’ she says.
One thing that is far from fake is the chemistry between Cummings and Harding who ‘‘ clicked instantly’’ when put together as Debbie and Sue.
The pair has since become the closest of friends off- screen as well.
‘‘ They talk about Sue and Debbie having a, kind of, one mind. Brenna and I are a bit like that,’’ she says.
Their friendship and its trials are the centrepiece of Puberty Blues, and Banks says when she and Edwards put the pair together, after screen testing them separately, ‘‘ it was clear they were an on- screen couple to die for’’.
‘‘ The laughter, the secret glances and exuberance between friends is impossible to fake, these two are believable,’’ Banks says.
With plans for a second series of Puberty Blues in train, Edwards hopes to see the pair repeat the dose.