Asher Keddie is in her element. In a sunburnt paddock on Warramba, a farm west of Sydney, a small herd of docile Scottish Highland cows is trailing behind as she is photographed. Far from being intimidated, Keddie is calm and content as she walks through the red dirt, her blue eyes shining. Keddie clearly feels at home in the country.
In fact, it was the seven-time Logie winner’s idea to trade a city studio for a rural backdrop for this story. “I was totally, totally selfish about it,” she says, laughing. “I was angling to get myself back into some mud, albeit in [Christian] Dior dresses and gumboots.”
For a number of years, the Offspring star and her husband, acclaimed artist Vincent Fantauzzo, owned a property in rural Victoria. But Keddie’s latest role took her, and her family, far from her country – all the way to Scotland.
Audiences will soon see the actress in The Cry, a psychological thriller co-produced by the ABC and the BBC. With a heavy-hitting Australian cast that includes Alex Dimitriades, Jenna Coleman and Ewen Leslie, The Cry is adapted from the bestselling novel by Helen FitzGerald. Shot in both Melbourne and the UK, the four-part television series follows the disappearance of a baby from a rural town.
Keddie stars as Alex, a mother facing a custody battle for her daughter – a shift from the warm, funny roles she’s known for. “It’s such a departure for me in terms of character,” Keddie says. “It had been a while since I’d explored much darker territory and I was just up for it. It’s a strange thing to say that I enjoyed it, but I did.”
For Keddie, who shares son Valentino, three, and stepson Luca, nine, with Fantauzzo, the role meant tapping into her own worst fears as a parent. “At times I had to try and push down emotions so that I wasn’t a mess,” she says. “I felt primal about it. You only have to think about the loss of your child and it’s excruciating.”
As well as allowing Keddie to tap into her primal instincts, motherhood has “ignited” a spark that is propelling the next chapter in her career. “I feel quite ambitious in a way that I didn’t before I had kids,” Keddie explains. “[And] I feel less apologetic for what I might have to offer. I feel more capable of achieving things.”
Read more in the November issue of marie claire starring Asher Keddie – out Thursday.