Carrie Schroeder is living her wildest dreams.
Having grown up in Shepparton, the actress has traded Wyndham St for Hollywood Boulevard, and now calls Los Angeles home.
Her CV brims with one impressive role after another, from guest roles in Neighbours and H2O: Just add water, to a lead role in Nickelodeon’s hit show I am Frankie.
To top it off, she’s toured with Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame, singing duets with him while accompanied by the immense power of the Boston Pops Orchestra.
But great highs often come with crushing lows, and Carrie has had her fair share.
Working in the arts is not for the faint hearted – enduring rejection after rejection comes part and parcel with the job.
Add a career-ending injury and a career-halting pandemic to the mix, and it could push anyone to breaking point.
But Carrie has never had any doubt about her life path, driven by her passion for performing, and realised because of her resilience and relentless work ethic.
These traits were undoubtedly developed from the start, growing up as Carrie Stainsby - a publican’s daughter and granddaughter.
The pub was Shepparton’s Terminus Hotel, owned by her dad Robert.
Carrie was raised within the pub’s four walls, spending nights there after school, helping as a dish-hand as a teenager, and eventually working at the bar for pocket money when she got older.
“I remember as a small child I would roll the cutlery with Debbie who was behind the main bar,” she said fondly.
“And then I’d get shuffled out because there was language there that ‘was not appropriate for little children'.”
This work ethic extended out to her involvement with the Shepparton Theatre Arts Group (STAG), where her mum Irene was the rehearsal pianist in the years prior to her joining.
Carrie spent all her free time there, not only basking in the stage lights, but helping to set them up.
“I just loved the community of STAG and spent as much time there as I could,” she said.
“I would go in and paint the sets or I tried to hammer things,” she said.
“But then I was like, oh, this is not my strong point.”
It didn’t matter because she had plenty going for her.
“I loved being on stage,” she said.
“I felt like I was home.”
A student at Goulburn Valley Grammar School, Carrie transferred to Wanganui Park for her final years to study theatre and take roles in school plays and musicals.
Then she studied theatre in Wagga Wagga, and moved to Sydney at 21, which was her base as she chased gig after gig, mainly as a dancer.
A career highlight soon after graduation was touring the play And then they came for me by American author James Still, where Carrie portrayed Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss.
The story is heart-wrenching: Eva was the same age as Anne Frank and lived in the same apartment building in Amsterdam, and escaped the hands of the Nazis.
And Carrie was privileged enough to meet Eva and perform in front of her - an incredible, life-affirming experience.
“I asked Eva, ‘How do you sit there and watch this every time?'” Carrie said.
“And Eva said, ‘You bring my family back to life every time I watch this show'.”
Years later, when touring a Christmas show in Singapore, Carrie experienced another life-altering event.
But with an entirely different outcome.
She landed on her feet awkwardly in the midst of a dance move, and tore "everything" from her ankle up to her knee.
“The adrenaline was pumping and I didn’t realise until after the show,” Carrie said.
“I went up to walk it off, but I couldn’t because it was so severe.”
She wasn’t able to live by herself anymore, and had to move back with her mum who had then moved to Queensland.
The years that followed were, at the very least, tough. She searched for a diagnosis, and after finding a doctor who would help her (the late Dr June Canavan), Carrie endured surgery and months of rehab.
She never danced again.
“When I recovered, there was some disconnect between my brain and my body and I just couldn’t follow choreography anymore,” she said.
“It made me very depressed as you can imagine.”
But after some time, she channeled her angst into action.
“I thought, instead of being depressed about the whole thing, maybe I can just focus on screen.
“That’s how I came to that, because I had to find another avenue for my creativity if it wasn’t dancing.”
It started slowly. She enrolled into acting classes again, and diligently practiced her accents.
Things gained momentum. Love took Carrie to the the US, she got a visa, and started working as an actress in the entertainment capital of the world.
It all began with a modest hair commercial, and has grown into a successful eight years of stage and screen work.
“The opportunities here (in the US) are so much bigger, there’s just always something going on,” she said.
“But landing the Nickelodeon gig (I Am Frankie) was the highlight for sure.
“It was shot in Miami in Florida, and on my days off I would travel, and working with the kids was great.”
Another highlight has been performing in front of the Boston Pops Orchestra with Jason Alexander, who was an accomplished singer and dancer on Broadway before being eternalised as George on Seinfeld.
“On my bucket list was to sing in front of an orchestra,” Carrie said.
“And it’s more spectacular every time I do it.”
She now calls Jason a close friend, among a larger group of people she trusts.
And Carrie said finding a community was integral to surviving a cut-throat city like LA.
“LA can absolutely eat you up and spit you back out again,” she said.
“There’s so much more opportunity, but there’s also a lot more opportunity to be rejected.
“You have to find your community and tribe - you collect the people you connect with.”
Spending time with her German Shepherd Dusty and volunteering at the German Shepherd rescue has also kept her grounded.
“Something that has helped me was to find something that has nothing to do with the industry because it can be all-consuming,” she said.
“So that’s why I started volunteering.”
And as work dries up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s been clocking in lots of quality time with Dusty.
The entire entertainment industry has ground to a screeching halt, and Carrie, along with performers across the globe, saw work evaporate before their eyes.
In true Carrie style, she kept pushing forward, preparing tape after tape for casting agents to keep her skills sharp.
And now auditions are starting again, she's landed a role in a film – but she can’t say much more.
It means she’ll be busier than usual towards the end of the year (if COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed), which is normally around the time she comes home to visit family in Shepparton.
With international flights being scarce for the foreseeable future, it might be a while until she can come back anyway.
She has great memories to hold on to in the meantime - last year she came for her cousin's wedding, and before that, to celebrate her family selling the Terminus after close to 80 years.
And she has all those memories from childhood, which she holds dear to this day.
“I’m very grateful not to be brought up in the city,” she said with a smile.
“I just love coming back (to Shepparton) and everything just being so familiar.
“I have extremely fond memories.”
To keep up with Carrie and all her adventures, follow her on Instagram @cschroederact