For more stories like this, pick up the February issue of InStyle Australia, available January 11th.
Asher Keddie is very good at her job. Consider the first thing that came to mind when you saw her on the cover of this magazine. If you were a fan of cult early-2000s drama Love My Way, it was probably her cool portrayal of easy-to-dislike Julia. If you’re a living, breathing, TV-watching Australian resident, you’d have been forgiven for audibly exclaiming, “Nina!” (her beloved, award-winning role on seven seasons of Network Ten’s Offspring). Yet as recognisable as Keddie is for the characters she plays, it’s tough to conjure a clear image of the woman herself—an anomaly among successful actors these days, and entirely by design.
“I have mild anxiety about the wall between character and [the real me] being broken,” she says, when I ask where Nina or Julia end and Asher Keddie begins. “I want people to be able to escape into a show or movie that I’ve done—to experience it with me rather than watching me and thinking about who I am and what I’m like. Perhaps that’s why I’ve held quite a lot of myself back over the years.”
“I was never comfortable with the celebrity part of my job, the role I was expected to play. And it would be fair enough if people felt that was a little cold and a little unreachable,” she says. “But perhaps I myself painted that picture, because it’s self-protective in a way.”
It really wasn’t until her marriage to Archibald Prize-winning painter Vincent Fantauzzo (who makes a cameo in our shoot) in 2014, and the birth of their son Valentino the following year, that Keddie’s public image started to soften.
“Maybe when I had a baby [it] gave people more access to me, to see me as a warmer person. Is that what we think of women when they have a baby? That they’re nurturing and warm, but if they haven’t got children they aren’t? I find that really offensive.”
When I point out how women are often demonised as career focused or selfish until they “settle down”, she’s emphatic: “I was a happy woman before I was married with children in my life, and had many great challenges. [I enjoyed] success and it didn’t feel selfish to me.”
“Life when I’m not shooting is always about the kids, there’s no doubt. We really just fit our work in and around the family’s needs."
Keddie feels more organised when she’s working and confesses that the wheels come off between projects. “When I’m not shooting there’s just an enormous amount of chaos and so many balls in the air, I seem to be busier than when I’m shooting and really structured. Does that make sense?”
The conversation turns to the myth that women, particularly working mothers, can and should Have It All. Keddie admits “I’m not juggling it all brilliantly, I’m doing my best,” and adds that “no respect [is] given to the complexity of [a woman’s life]”.
“I know people always wanted me to be the ‘Golden Girl’, and maybe even more so when motherhood came along, but I’m not that person,” she says. “It’s just bulls***. We shouldn’t expect women to have it all and manage it all and I certainly don’t want to be portrayed in that way—I think it’s a very negative message to send women.”
"We shouldn’t expect women to have it all and manage it all and I certainly don’t want to be portrayed in that way."
“It’s a shame that [women] should feel afraid of being vulnerable for fear of being judged,” she says. “I think it’s beneficial for people to be accessible and vulnerable and I think it shows great strength.”
For more of our interview with the amazing Asher Keddie, pick up a copy of the February issue on sale now.