After a long day of filming, Asher Keddie came home to the loving arms of her two children and husband. It was a day just like any other, but this time, something felt different. She couldn't stop thinking about work – the weight of her last scene on her shoulders.
This, as she describes, is what it feels like to work on ABC drama, Stateless. The "all-encompassing" series that isn't afraid to ask the big questions saw Asher, for her own sake, contemplate the issues.
It's a situation she's been in before while filming The Cry, which follows the disappearance of a newborn baby, and again in The Hunting, a topical drama about the consequences of teens and social media.
It might seem exhausting to be wrapped up in these worlds. But for the TV WEEK Gold Logie winner, it means rediscovering what she yearns for in her career, and in part, for her family.
"Stateless isn't something I could put down when I got home," she tells TV WEEK during a busy morning of preparing her stepson Luca, 10, and son Valentino, five, for school.
"These sorts of projects are incredibly rare and they're exactly what I want to do as an actress. I'm becoming more aligned with who I am and the projects I take on. I want to explore roles that are challenging and meaningful, rather than the kitchen-sink drama."
However, the former Offspring star does miss bringing out her playful side from time to time.
"I did a rom-com for eight years and loved every minute of it!" she says of her role as Nina Proudman. "Offspring was a fantastic experience; it was a true gift, and I do miss Nina, but I'm moving towards work that's moving towards me; I'm hungry for knowledge about global issues."
Stateless has more than fulfilled that wish. The emotional six-part series, which follows intersecting stories about four strangers, is a powerful insight into the human complexities of life in an Australian immigration centre.
The acclaimed cast includes Cate Blanchett, Yvonne Strahovski, Dominic West, Jai Courtney and Marta Dusseldorp.
"It's pretty incredible, isn't it?" Asher says of the line-up of talent. "Even though we have separate stories, we were on set with each other most of the time and it was wonderful.
"We're very like-minded people, and the care factor was very high. It [the subject matter] was confronting, but we supported each other.
"Stateless isn't taking any particular stand on the issues either, present or past. We're just exploring all sides of a complex issue.
"When I first joined the show, I had to acknowledge that I knew next to nothing about the issues we were about to explore and present, and I felt some shame about that. But I also felt galvanised to educate myself about the issue
Throughout the filming process – and in fact, her past three projects – family has been a recurring theme. It has caused the actress to reflect on her own life with husband and artist Vincent Fantauzzo and their two growing boys.
"My family situation is utterly different, of course, but I have children and my main goal in life is to fiercely protect them and to nurture them to feel safe, free and happy," she explains.
"Stateless really make me think about refugees and their plight, which is hard to understand unless you've faced what they have. But through this, my empathy and emotions became quite overwhelming. I was holding on to my children a little tighter at night."
One day in the future, Asher hopes to show Luca and Valentino the productions of which she's so proud. But for now, the satisfaction of exploring a new chapter is enough.
"When the time is right and they're of an appropriate age, I can show my sons and say, 'This was a pressing issue at that time and the world was changing,'" she says. "I hope they're proud of me and my choices, which always comes into play when I'm choosing roles and projects."
Life outside of the screen is just as sweet for the seven-time TV WEEK Logie Award winner. Luca is enjoying grade five, while Valentino has waded into kindergarten.
The momentous occasion has been exciting for the family and has continued to ask more questions of Asher.
"Sometimes Vincent and I will wonder about it all: What will they do? Who will they become?" she says of her sons. "It's the same for all parents. I wouldn't have a clue yet what they'll do.
"They're expressive and creative boys – very robust! They have wonderful imaginations, so we'll see. But who they are right now is wonderful."
While she waits to see what sort of young men her sons will become, Asher continues to look at herself and actively push her own boundaries.
"There's plenty more I want to do, but that's life isn't it?" she says with a laugh. "I've been incredibly lucky in my life and I'm in a wonderful place. I always want to challenge myself, so hopefully I'm an actress for many more years to come!"
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