Asher Keddie looks good. She’s layered and luxuriating, a plush white robe draped over her designer dress as she sits perched on a couch inside a tiny cottage nestled into the headlands of Sydney’s Palm Beach. The actress is staring ahead at an endless expanse of ocean. It’s beautiful out there.
It’s also bitingly cold, a powerful wind whipping away at the diminutive star, who’s here for an all-day madison
cover shoot that began when she was shuttled from her central Sydney hotel in the wintry pre-dawn darkness. Proper heat is in short supply, so a makeshift solution has been found: a couple of crew members take turns blasting her bare feet with a blow dryer. Welcome to the glamorous life of Australia’s most popular television star.
(See the behind the scenes video of our cover story here)
It’s been a big couple of years for Asher Keddie – certainly bigger than anything this veteran of Australian stage and screen
, much less the public that’s grown to adore her, might have anticipated. Despite three decades of steady, solid work in a slew of productions, Keddie was still surprised by the warm public embrace afforded Nina Proudman, the exasperating-but-lovable Ob/Gyn she plays on Ten’s Offspring
, not to mention the accolades that accompanied her award-winning turn as Ita Buttrose in last year’s delicious telemovie Paper Giants:
The Birth of Cleo.
Indeed, if Asher Keddie never worked again – highly doubtful, and more on that in a moment – those two achievements would remain a career-defining one-two punch
to make any actor beam with pride. Still, they put her in the eye of a storm she’d never quite expected to weather. So how is she feeling now it’s passed?
“I feel a bit of distance now from that initial reaction to Offspring
,” she says, “and Paper Giants
in particular. Now I can enjoy it a bit and take a breath. You know, it’s just the nicest feeling when you come out the other side of a project and you get that really lovely surprise: that people appreciate it.” She exaggerates for effect. “Yeah! They’ve responded to it!”
I’ve interviewed Keddie before, but this is the first time we’ve talked in person. She’s still in that robe, though we’ve moved downstairs to a wine cellar-turned-dressing room, surrounded by glass cupboards, one of which is tantalisingly filled with bottles of Veuve Clicquot. (Unfortunately, we note with a laugh, it’s locked.) Throughout our discussion, her responses are uniformly thoughtful, the kind that force an interviewer to respond to what she’s saying, rather than simply rush to the next question. She’s funny without being silly, warm
without being insipid.
At one point, I ask her to describe her ideal day. The response is revealing: “Rising early. I don’t sleep in. I’m wasting time if I sleep in
. I like a really good, strong coffee and I would spend an hour outdoors with my horses. Doesn’t happen every day. Then my ideal day is filled with ideas and communication with people that inspire me. And I’m lucky – I am
constantly surrounded by really inspiring, creative people who want to collaborate. So it doesn’t get much better than where I am at the moment.” A pause. “And look, you know – to top it off, a couple of glasses of really good red wine and a bowl of pasta
and I’m good. And bed early!”
People like to gripe actors have it too easy – coffee-fetching lackeys, seats in business class and five-star hotel suites, racks of free designer clothes at a snap – but the truth is most of them spend entire careers waiting around on sets and stages, logging mind-numbing hours and only dreaming of achieving Keddie’s level of fame.
This only makes her more thankful for what’s transpired: “I don’t think I’d want it any other way
. You spend your life as a young actor wanting this kind of involvement, and when you get it, you feel grateful because you have the input you’ve always wanted. You’re working hard! There’s nothing worse
than hanging around and being idle with your time. It’s not in my nature to be like that.”
It’s also not in her nature to just, you know, go talking about herself on end. Along with the past few years’ sudden successes came the blinding glare of a media spotlight
newly focused upon her off-screen life; as such, her effusiveness about the craft of acting – that is, the work
– is tempered by a deep aversion to “opening up”.
“My life is public in a way that is deeply uncomfortable
for me and not enjoyable sometimes,” she says, offering an example. “I feel deeply self-conscious going to the airport.” Why’s that? “I know it’s a small thing, and it’s something I’ve done all my life, just like everybody else. But now, it’s different. Sometimes, when you’re leaving home for a month and you don’t want to, you might be feeling vulnerable. You might be about to burst into tears and prefer not to be looked at
or asked to take a photo. I always want to be embracing of the public because I’m pleased they like my show, but at the same time… you can feel under pressure and get kind of pissed off about it now and then
“I completely understand the fascination with celebrities – I have it as well. But if I speak about my life in the country or my family and it’s out there, part of me doesn’t really want to go over old ground and speak about it again and again. Because then I feel like a broken record. There’s only so much you feel comfortable putting out there.
And that’s not because you want to be a diva or an arsehole, or be aloof. It’s simply because your private life is precious, and tricky enough to navigate as it is. To talk about it openly like everybody wants is challenging.”
That’s not to say she’s a dull or even closed-off interview subject – at one point, she mentions the death of her dog last year (“I had him for 16 years, so that’s the biggest loss I’ve ever felt in my life”), and it’s clear the memories are still raw. But husband, family, personal decisions or opinions that ultimately have no bearing on her abilities as an actress – well, she asks, “What ever happened to a little mystery?
Think about actors: we’re telling you stories, as characters. If everybody knows everything about me or Kat Stewart or any other actor, then the wonderful illusion you’re watching onscreen will get muddied. I want to keep that a little sacred.” To read the full cover story buy the July issue of madison magazine, on sale June 20.