While many might be quick to define Natasha Liu Bordizzo as a model turned actress, she actually has a clarification to make. “I was in law school,” she explained. “Whenever people are like, ‘You’re a model turned actress,’ I’m like, ‘I’m a lawyer turned actress!’ Just because I’ve taken a few photos!”

She’s saying it all with an edge of self-deprecation, but before the 24-year-old became a rising star in Hollywood—she will star in Netflix’s buzzy teen series The Society, out Friday—she was, in fact, an aspiring lawyer in Sydney, Australia. “I was a straight-up nerd for all of my life,” she said. “I’ve always been academically focused. I went to a selective high school in Sydney, and my whole life was, ‘Okay, I’m going to do one of three professions.’ I’ve always been into writing and photography and even script writing, but those were just hobbies. Also, being mixed race and growing up in Australia, I didn’t have any examples at all in the media. It wasn’t incepted in my brain that that was a thing that I could do.”

Eight months into law school, she was scouted, and soon after encouraged to audition for the female lead in the 2016 sequel Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny. It was her first audition experience. “I had no idea what I was doing,” she recalled. “I googled female monologues and set up an iPhone. I taped myself reading the scene from Brokeback Mountain—with no reading partner, because I didn’t know anything—where Michelle Williams is accusing Heath Ledger’s character of cheating on her. To this day, I don’t know why I chose this scene. And they wanted a British accent, but I couldn’t, so I just did it with my Australian one.”

Still, she got it, which she realizes is almost laughable now. “It’s ridiculous. I just don’t talk about it with actors. They’re like, ‘I hate you,’ and now I see why. I’ve had to pay my dues a little bit now, but at the time it was like, ‘I just got this giant film, I guess.’”

Released in February 2016, the sequel propelled Bordizzo’s career into what she calls a “weird trajectory.” The film was released on Netflix Stateside, but was given a major theatrical release in Hong Kong and China, making the actress a very recognizable face in the region. From there, she starred in the Chinese film Detective Chinatown 2, which is, to date, the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time in China. “No one here has ever heard of it,” she noted.

Natasha Liu Bordizzo, photographed by Maridelis Morales Rosado for W magazine.

Maridelis Morales

After finding such success in the East, Bordizzo decided to focus on growing her career in Hollywood. Her first big role came in 2017, in The Greatest Showman—a serendipitous move, unbeknownst to her. “Fun fact: I got the same degree, law and media, at the same university that Hugh Jackman did. Then I worked with him on The Greatest Showman. And my first entertainment job was as a body double on The Wolverine. I have some seriously cyclical stuff going on with Hugh Jackman. This glitch is happening with us, and it’s crazy.”

In her new show, the core teen audience will be something new to her. Bordizzo, Kristine Froseth, Kathryn Newtown, and Gideon Adlon star in The Society as a group of teenagers who return from a school trip to discover everyone else in their town has disappeared. “I was fascinated by the whole concept,” she said. “It’s a huge ensemble, and everyone is really fucking talented. I’m not just saying that. The acting on the show is so amazing, and everyone has their own storylines, and they are all important. That was a great experience to hold each other’s hands throughout.”

The series was shot on the outskirts of Boston last fall, creating a bubble not unlike the world of the show itself—albeit much more enjoyable. “It was the funnest experience of my life, but so intense,” she said. “They had to use visual effects to get rid of the redness off of our faces and noses. At one point, our [assistant director], in solidarity, would take his own jacket off whenever we had to take our warming coats off. It was like we were in the trenches together.”

With the release of the series, Bordizzo will have one of her first breaks since she was discovered, giving her time to finally sit back and reflect on this wild ride in her new home in Los Angeles. “I think this if the first time where I feel comfortable not having a clear, clear vision of my next stage,” she said. “Now that I’m actually based in L.A. and in the eye of the storm, there is so much to be done. I have a journal app, and every time something crazy happens, I jot it down. I have so much in there.”