As Network Ten’s Offspring returns for its seventh season this year, we continue to fall further in love with TV’s Golden Girl, Asher Keddie. With seven logies under her belt and a slew of recent acting nods, including her stand out role as Ita Buttrose in Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo, she’s forever paving her way as an inspirational Aussie actress, role model and powerhouse in the industry. We can’t get Asher out of our heads… nor do we want to!
Have you had the chance to visit South Australia recently? Not recently no… It’s been a long time! I’ve just been talking about that actually. I would like to visit Kangaroo Island again, I did a film there about 10 years ago and I really loved it. My partner has never travelled to South Australia before so I’m keen to take him down there too.
Congrats on Offspring returning to Network Ten for its seventh season. How was last year’s homecoming following the show’s two-year hiatus? It felt really good… like it always had. There were extra challenges because I had a young baby at the time. Anybody returning to work with a little one knows it’s always a shock to the system, but because it was so familiar, such a good place to be and to work, and a great character to play, I just loved it.
How do you find a healthy work/life balance now that you’re a mother? I get lots of help [laughs], so when I come home my time is spent with the boys, as opposed to doing a million chores around the house. As a single actor, you have that pleasure to come home with a glass of wine on the couch and learn your script for the next day’s work. Gone are the days I can do that. Finishing off as much work as I can during the day means I can come home and play, have dinner and put them to bed. You know, the normal things people do when they have kids. It’s not easy to balance, but we make it work pretty well now.
You’ve been a TV actress since the 80s. Do you have any pre-work day rituals to get you in the zone? I’m a morning person so the early starts suit me. I get there, have my vegemite toast, a couple of coffees and I’m good to go. I always really look forward to the day. Every day of shooting is different, not like going to the same office and same desk each morning. There’s a sense of relaxation playing Nina, as soon as I pull the boots on, the scarf on, and all the jewellery, I immediately feel like her. I don’t particularly do anything to morph into her, she’s such a part of me now.
The Proudman family on the show are clearly a dysfunctional lot. How would you compare this to your own family life? The comparisons I can make is that my family are equally as passionate and certainly in conversation as much as the Proudmans are. There is just as much love and we have each other’s backs as much as the Proudmans do. I don’t think we squabble as much [laughs].
Your character Nina is labelled as an on-screen fashion icon for her carefree, boho style. Would you say your personal style is similar? My personal style is definitely relaxed and not fussy in any way. It’s not as layered as Ninas. I don’t wear as many clothes, or jewellery, except for my wedding rings. I’m also not a scarf person. My style is very pared back and relaxed.
What has been one of your most intense or memorable Offspring scenes to date? An obvious one would be with Patrick. I would have to say it’s the moment on the couch when she is letting him go, finally, and she says thank you to him. That was in no way difficult to do, it was so deep and I found it as moving as anybody else would because you have to imagine what that would feel like. That was probably the most intense moment I filmed.
It seems only fitting to mention your role as the Editor of Cleo Magazine in the telemovie Paper Giants: the Birth of Cleo. What did you learn about fashion and politics from that era? It was so rich with change in that time. In my generation I would overhear a lot from my mum and her friends about how different things were for women then. We heard about feminism and that movement, but I don’t think I understood it until I had to, in order it to play [Ita Buttrose]. How a woman in her position must have felt, the lengths she had to go to and the robustness she had to have to hold her position. I learnt a lot! It was a game changing time for women, and for men in business. With fashion, there was a similar parallel at that time where women were finding the confidence to dress in a much stronger way as opposed to feeling the need to appear demure… I loved the suits I wore. It was the beginning of the power suit.
You certainly nailed the Ita Buttrose tone and slight lisp. What do you do to study a person’s traits before you play them? The best thing to do is to spend time with the person, observe her, hear her and work out what her impulses are and how her rhythm came from that. Also what she was passionate about, she spoke in a different tone when she felt she really needed to push something or she felt very strongly about something. I really had to connect to observing who she was and how she sounded. She is such a commanding woman with a commanding presence, that it wasn’t difficult to be captivated. When you’re enthralled by something you pick it up quickly.
We all know you as Australia’s TV Golden Girl, but do you have any plans to do more in film or theatre? Yes certainly, I’ve just completed ‘Flammable Children’ – Stephan Elliot’s new film [also starring Kylie Minogue, Guy Pearce and Radha Mitchell]. I finished that late last year. I’m really excited about it, it’s going to be lots of fun and it was such a joy to make that with [Stephan]. He’s a really special person and it’s a great Australian story. It was good to have a different experience than being on a TV set. Not sure about theatre, it comes knocking each year, but for the last five years I’ve been tied up with other commitments and haven’t found the right moment to jump back on stage. It’s such a big part of who I am as an actor.
What’s your dream character/role to play? Every character I have played has felt like a dream character. I hope it keeps going down that path… It would be fun to play someone that is not relatable or not particularly liked, that’s always a challenge for an actor.
What’s been the biggest surprise or challenge about working as an actress? When you’re a young actor or actress you have to find the courage to expose yourself emotionally and that can be really difficult. Some people just can’t get to that point where they can expose themselves emotionally and psychologically and I feel that was a big learning curve for me [when I was younger]. It was an achievement but also a big challenge.
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
If I wasn’t an actress, I’d be… at a loss!
Latest fashion purchase? A black silk long line blazer.
An actor/actress you admire? I admire several, but if I had to say – Toni Collette.
What’s on your nightstand? Several books that I never get to.
Favourite beauty product? Ultraceuticals Ultra A Skin Perfecting Serum.
Your favourite movie ending? The Bridges of Madison County. It’s truly heart breaking, but brilliant.
Best advice you’ve been given? Be brave, and back yourself.
What’s on your bucket list? Italy with my family.
Greatest indulgence? Escaping to our country home.
as told to | Laura Prior
photos | Network Ten