For Alcock, accepting the role of Meg, a fractious teenager who joins Minchin’s disillusioned musician, Lucky, on his homecoming journey across the Nullarbor with an old piano was a no-brainer.
“School’s never been for me,” says Alcock. “I’ve never been somebody who’s thrived in the school environment.
“There’s a stigmatisation of people who drop out of high school. But I couldn’t turn down Upright for a piece of paper. That just seemed ridiculous to me and infuriating.”
With credits including A Place to Call Home, Fighting Season, Pine Gap and Les Norton, Alcock isn’t a complete novice. Shortly before Upright, she filmed Sony Pictures thriller The Reckoning and Stan series, The Gloaming (both due for release in the new year).
But the role of Meg, a fractious, impulsive and resourceful 13-year-old from a troubled home in an outback town, is the kind that can launch a career.
“I was extraordinarily lucky to be given the opportunity to play such a vast and complex role really early on. I did feel a lot of pressure with that.
“Meg is a lot smarter than we might initially think. She’s quite selfless and she does the wrong thing to do the right thing a lot of the time. I think with Meg, misconception brings assumptions about people within a certain economic bracket. Her story exposes people to the reality of those issues and how it can become someone’s normal, and it’s not always looming and dark and scary.”
Working opposite Minchin was “a daunting experience” but Alcock says they clicked at the first “chemistry read”.
“Tim is exactly how you see him on screen. He’s completely genuine. I was the scared little kid on this big adult set with all these professionals and experts in their field, but he always made me feel comfortable and we became quite close.”
Filming in outback conditions brought its challenges.
“There were times when it was too hot and there were too many flies and they’d just want to sit on your face. We had a couple of gnarly storms. I was exposed to a completely different Australia. It was strange.”
Cast and crew received a warm reception from curious townspeople, a number of whom appear as extras in one memorable pub scene.
“All the extras were locals, which is why they look so fantastic. The bikies were all real bikies. They all rode home. They weren’t intimidating at all. They were like, ‘Oh this is fun’.”
Unlike many a rising star, Alcock does not come from an entertainment family.
“Quite the opposite. I pushed my parents away with it, which is bad. This is my thing. I’m very private about it and I don’t like the attention for my family.”
At 19, she is accepting of the fact that her appearance makes her a valuable commodity – an actor who can work adult hours portraying a child.
“I am aware that for me to continue working, I have to play young, because I don’t look my age. I’m just going to have to do it just to be employed. It’s bitter now but I’m sure it will be sweet later.”
Bridget McManus is a television writer and critic for Green Guide. She was deputy editor of Green Guide from 2006 to 2010 and now also writes features and interviews for Life & Style in The Saturday Age and M magazine in The Sunday Age.