PINNING down Kyle Shilling for an interview, let alone a photoshoot, is challenging.
The rising star, who could easily be known as a triple threat, is busy and barely home. He's currently touring Australia with a theatre show, he's busy dreaming up lyrics and beats for his music, and just the other day he committed to his biggest project yet.
The man from Mona Vale on Sydney's Northern Beaches has just signed up to be on an Australian-made television show. While he can't reveal exactly what show it is just yet, word is that it's "high profile" and he'll be playing an ongoing character in the series.
But, before all that gets started, the 28-year-old Widjabul man from the Bundjalung nation, is playing one of the lead parts in a production called Black Cockatoo.
Written by Geoffrey Atherden and directed by Wesley Enoch, Black Cockatoo tells a story 150 years in the making. In 1868, 13 Aboriginal men from Harrow in western Victoria picked up their cricket bats and travelled to England to become Australia's first international cricket team.
Risking illness and persecution, the team, which included Australia's first Indigenous sporting hero Johnny Mullagh, amazed the English crowds with astonishing talent, personality and grit. They should have returned to Australia as celebrated heroes. Instead they came back only to be sent to Aboriginal missions and reserves.
The chance to play two characters - a museum curator and Constable Kennedy - was too good for Shilling to pass up when he was offered the role without even having to audition.
"The story itself was what really got me hooked on wanting to be a part of this production," he said.
Shilling said the men were wrongfully denied their promised payment, and - to earn money - were forced to throw spears at each other on the streets of England and paraded as "the Australian natives on show".
"There's a lot of heartache, there's a lot of sadness, and there's a lot of shock to the truth of it all," he said.
Growing up as an Indigenous kid in Taree in northern NSW was hard for Shilling. There was entrenched racism, poverty and violence, and it was easy to get caught up in it all.
"We still had the mission in Taree and housing commission," Shilling said. "You grow up around all these people who are struggling in their own way. They use violence and racism and disrespect on anyone in an outlet to help them get through their day so they don't feel like they're the one who's down in the dumps."
Shilling is the first to admit he was a naughty teenager.
"I grew up with that mentality that if you can't beat them, join them. I grew up as a kind of angry, young Indigenous person," he said. "I felt like fighting to be a different person would have been a waste of my time, so I just thought 'I'll just become that stereotype'.
"Growing up around Taree, it's very black and white in terms of race, and [it was difficult] growing up being racially abused throughout my whole life and people saying 'you're only good for this' or 'you're only good for that' or 'you're just a thief, you're a drunk, you get free schooling' and all this crap that came along with it.
Even when you're not the bad kid, you are the bad kid, and that's the type of place I grew up in.
"Even when you're not the bad kid, you are the bad kid, and that's the type of place I grew up in.
"I wasn't the bad kid when I was younger, but I was still the bad kid because I was slightly darker than someone else."
Aged 17, he realised the dead-end path he was on and became determined to change everything.
A career in performing was always on the cards for Shilling. He and his four siblings, including an identical twin, along with a foster child or two (his parents fostered kids for many years), were always performing.
There's old videos of him and his brothers lip-syncing and making stop-start videos with Lego. If they were near a pool, that's when they "became" Steve Irwin.
"We were always in front of a camera doing our own little Steve Irwin videos," he said.
Encouraged by his family, Shilling joined NAISDA, a performing arts college for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. He then went on to dance with Bangarra Dance Theatre, but was forced to leave just 12 months later.
"It was great to tell story through contemporary Indigenous dance and also traditional dance, but I had to leave due to [a lower back] injury. I was shattered, I thought 'that's my career, I'm done'," he said.
Realising that "dance company life" wasn't for him, he pushed towards other goals.
His lead role in the production Man With The Iron Neck still haunts Shilling to this day. The emotionally-charged physical theatre tells the tale of love, loss and the growing rate of suicide among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
While Shilling had often spoken out mental health issues before this, this production had a personal connection for him.
"I had to put myself as the main character who not one, not twice, but multiple times throughout the show had to repeat himself stepping off a tree and hanging himself," he said.
"It was tough because I had to put myself in the shoes of friends I had lost to suicide.
"At our premier in Brisbane, literally one hour before the show, I got the news one of my best mates had committed suicide. I didn't allow that to destroy me and I went onto the show, and I just went 'you know what, this is exactly who I'm doing it for, people who haven't got anyone'."
You don't have to look too far back in Australia's history to see the trauma inflicted on Indigenous people.
"My grandmother was still [classified as] flora/fauna up until her early 20s, she wasn't even classified as a human," Shilling said.
"My great great grandmother was a South Sea Islander woman from the Tanna Islands, brought over here as a slave on sugar cane during the blackbirding times [when Pacific Islanders were kidnapped and used as forced labour, in particular on sugar and cotton plantations in Australia].
"That's just the truth people need to know in order to be able to come to the realisation that we do need to work together."
When Shilling was young, he remembers Aboriginal studies classes regularly cancelled when minimum class numbers weren't met, while other subjects with just as few students went ahead.
For a kid growing up in a town where Indigenous people counted for 50 per cent of the population, learning about your own culture was vital.
My grandmother was still [classified as] flora/fauna up until her early 20s, she wasn't even classified as a human.
"Why is the history of Australia, of the first peoples of Australia, why is that any less important than other subjects that we learn in school?"
Thankfully, he said, these days it's changed.
"I know of a school back in Taree where I used to do support work, they've taken out French and Japanese for the first two years, and for Year 7 and 8 all students learn the local Biripi language," he said.
"I watched a demonstration class and they literally spoke Biripi language for 15 minutes on stage. I had goosebumps, there were Indigenous, non-Indigenous, white, Indian, Chinese and I was just sitting there watching them going 'this is amazing'."
For this self-confessed "saltwater boy", the coast is where he always feels at home, and 12 months ago he moved to the northern beaches to further his career, but, he admits, it's a very different life.
"What I found really odd, which was a big culture shock for me, moving to the northern beaches, is actually the lack of Indigenous people here," he said.
I watched a demonstration class and they literally spoke Biripi language for 15 minutes on stage. I had goosebumps.
"I know off the top of my head three on the northern beaches, and I come from a town where it's literally 50-50. It's tough in terms of I'm not surrounded by my culture anymore, and I'm not surrounded by people where I can speak the way I speak when I'm with my people. I don't have those outlets anymore.
"But I've moved here because I want to better my career and I want to better who I am as a person, and then I can speak up and spread the knowledge of my people to people who don't have an understanding of it.
"That's what I've found incredibly rewarding since I've moved here: people are actually asking me, they want to know more about culture and where I'm from and why I'm here. People listen here, whereas a lot of other places they don't listen."
When he's not acting or dancing, Shilling writes, records and sings rap music under the name Blacx.
"I mostly write about real things that I've been through, I like to tell my story, but I also write about where I want to be in the future and how I want to feel in the future. Then sometimes I write absolute bullcrap just for the sake of rhyming and having fun," he laughs.
He's released an EP and singles and his own YouTube channel.
On the day he spoke to the Northern Beaches Review, Shilling had signed a contract for what will be his biggest career move, the Aussie TV show he's still sworn to secrecy not to reveal, just yet.
"It's not long now until Australia knows exactly who I am," he said.
Long term, he has his sights firmly set on Hollywood.
"My goal is to be representing myself, my family, my culture and my people and Australia, over in Hollywood. I want to be in the next Avengers film or I want to be on some blockbuster film," he said.
"I don't want to just be restricted to here, I want to be known worldwide I want to be living that lifestyle of red carpet, I want to be able to afford to buy my parents a house and land."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.