Melissa George makes her returns to acting

Benita Kolovos

Australian actress Melissa George has returned to acting as she tries to find the "light in the dark" after her messy custody battle.

George has been cast opposite Sean Penn in The First, a new series from House of Cards creator Beau Willimon.

"I flew from New Orleans to here and then I leave tomorrow morning to go back to set," George told reporters as she attended Flemington's Derby Day.

"I've taken a big break for personal reason and I'm taking a step back in with someone I really admire and have been such a fan of," she said of Sean Penn.

George says she's trying to look for the "light in the dark" following her split from French entrepreneur Jean-David Blanc and a bitter custody battle, which has left her unable to take the pair's two children out of France.

"I look for the light in the dark, it's so important to wake up in the morning and choose to be happy," she said.

"I fly from France to New Orleans and back again so I can spend the maximum time I can with my kids."

A guest of the Kennedy marquee, George wore a custom Schiaparelli couture dress, cheekily breaking the Derby Day black and white dress code by including a splash of purple.

She said it was a coincidental nod to the race day's official flower, the cornflower.

"There's a bit of purple in the dress, I know I'm not supposed to ... it's a little secret!'