by Seanna Cronnin
A LOCAL actress is about to make her global TV debut in what could be the next Game of Thrones.
Mullumbimby-born, Byron Bay-raised actor Liana Cornell plays a Celtic warrior in the British historical drama Britannia.
Set in 43AD, when the Romans return to conquer the British Isles, the drama - penned by award-winning writer Jez Butterworth - has already drawn comparisons to HBO's global hit.
Cornell, the daughter of long-time Northern Rivers residents, director/actor/writer John Cornell and actress Delvene Delaney, graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in 2012 and had guest roles in Love Child, House of Hancock and Wolf Creek before moving to the US to chase bigger roles.
"It's very exciting. I keep pinching myself,” she said over the phone from Los Angeles.
"We've been getting sent things about what we can post (on social media) and prepping for interviews. It hasn't really hit me yet. When I first got the job my friend was like 'this is a big change' and that's just dawning on me two years later.”
Filmed on location in Wales and the Czech Republic, Britannia is the first co-production between Sky and Amazon Prime Video.
A "farm girl” at heart, having grown up in the Northern Rivers, Cornell relished the chance to work outdoors.
"I was stoked to not be in a studio all the time,” she said.
"The Czech people are so nice. It's one of the most beautiful places I've been in my life.
"I was pretty happy out in the outdoors, working with animals.
"There were some particularly cold night shoots though, and I was doing scenes where I had a hot water bottle shoved underneath me.”
In Britannia, Cornell plays Ania, the niece of Queen Antedia, a key figure in the Celtic resistance movement.
"Celtic women were on par with male warriors - there was no differentiation,” she said.
"It was a matriarchal society.
"They had the strength, knowledge and power, and that was really confronting for the Roman soldiers.
"The thing that convinced me to do it was the strong female characters.”
Cornell, who splits her time between Byron Shire and LA, hopes to return home to the Northern Rivers in March.
"I'm not the biggest city girl, so I had to find ways to reconnect to nature here (in LA) to not become depressed,” she said.
"If I stay in a city and I'm not touching back with the earth then I can get pretty sad.”
Cornell is also currently working on her first album after a chance encounter with voice coach Gary Catona uncovered the hidden talent.
"When I first moved here (to LA), a man walked past every day with the same dog my dad has - a little Italian greyhound - and I said to him 'We have the same dog'. He turned out to be a really prestigious singing teacher,” she said.
"I said 'I want to have a go at singing with you' and I started to go to him.
"He told me 'this is your gift' and I said 'well, I also like acting'.
"He has worked with Whitney Houston and Muhammad Ali, so I said 'I should probably listen to you'.
"You have lulls with acting, so singing is something else to feed my creativity into.”
Britannia premieres on Foxtel's Showcase channel on January 22 at 8.30pm ADST.