Strife’s Asher Keddie talks career, kids – and why she wouldn’t return to Offspring

‘I know the juggle.'
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Asher Keddie knows all about the juggle that comes with being a working parent. Her character in new eight-part dramedy Strife has to deal with it – and so does she. When Asher was filming Strife in Sydney, her “three boys” – artist husband Vincent Fantauzzo, stepson Luca and son Valentino – stayed home in Melbourne. With Valentino only eight years old, there was a lot of video chatting.

“FaceTime is wonderful,” Asher tells TV WEEK. “Usually it’s about three times a day in our family, especially with the little one! We do it pretty well.”

Strife is inspired by the memoir by Mia Freedman.

(Image: Supplied)

Strife is inspired by Work Strife Balance, the memoir by former Cosmopolitan editor Mia Freedman, who founded the hugely successful women’s website Mamamia. Asher plays Evelyn Jones, the character inspired by Mia.

At the beginning of the series, Evelyn has just been made redundant from her high-profile magazine job and is in the process of splitting up with her husband, Jon (Matt Day), the father of her two teenagers, Alex (Darcy Tadich) and Addy (Willow Speers). It’s then that she decides to launch Australia’s first website for women.

Asher says she really relates to Evelyn trying to focus on her career while also being a parent.

“We watch her get it wrong many times,” she says. “That’s where the humour comes from in the show. But we don’t shy away from those tougher moments, where the cost is big for herself and her teenage children. She’s an oversharer, so I think she finds that tussle difficult. I guess I related to that.

Asher feels she relates to Evelyn.

(Image: Supplied)

“Also, the pressures of navigating those things – a job that requires a lot, as I feel mine does now, producing as well as performing, but also having one adolescent child and an eight-year-old. Trying to maintain both the personal and the professional is always going to be a challenge.”

Asher is a producer on Strife, which has meant putting some of her own ideas into the storylines.

“I’ve been working on it for about a year-and-a-half,” she explains. “We had a lot of Zoom meetings before we started shooting. You’re developing the scripts together.”

Having won praise for portraying Ita Buttrose in Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo, Asher says playing Evelyn in Strife is “quite a different experience”.

“It’s similar in some ways, because of the content of the story and because it’s set at the beginning of a big time in women’s media. But it’s also really different because Ita is a real person and I literally was playing her, as a character, whereas I’m not playing Mia.”

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TV WEEK Gold Logie winner Asher has starred in some of the most acclaimed dramas of recent years, including The Lost Flowers Of Alice Hart, Stateless, The Hunting and The Cry. But for a lot of fans, the 49-year-old actress will always be Nina Proudman, the character she played in seven seasons of Offspring.

Asher describes the show as “a wonderful moment in time for television and for female-driven storytelling”. Six years after the last season went to air, is there any chance she might be willing to return for one more season?

“No, I don’t think so,” she says. “I used to hesitate answering that question. I’d think, ‘Oh, I never say never.’ But [Nina] was in her thirties and what made it so tumultuous and entertaining, watching her navigate her thirties and try and find love, would be so utterly different now, with me almost 50, that I can’t see it.”

Still, she’s thrilled the show endures.

As much as she loves producing, there’s no chance of Asher giving up acting.

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“I still love hearing people’s thoughts about it and hearing that people are watching it for the third or fourth time. I think, ‘Wow, what an amazing thing to have been involved with.’ But I think we left it where we should have.”

When Asher isn’t busy shooting TV shows, she’s the typical “school mum” to Luca and Valentino.

“I’ve been home now for about three-and-a-half months after being away shooting Strife, and I’ve done every drop-off, every pick-up,” she says. “Vincent might do soccer for one boy and I’ll do footy for the other, and after-school swimming or whatever it might be.”

She says the four of them also cook together every night.

“That’s a family thing, and that started when the kids were young. Both Vincent and I love cooking. Vincent comes home from his studio around the finish of school, so we have the afternoons together and the evenings.

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“We do lots together and a normal day is just that – school and sport and all the different activities that come with being an eight-year-old and a 14-year-old.”

Coming up next for Asher is more producing and more acting. Having found being a producer on Strife “a joyous process”, she’s already into producing her second series, Fake, in which she’ll star opposite David Wenham as a magazine writer who falls for a grazier she meets on a dating app.

“I’m just enjoying it so much,” she says. “I haven’t felt this creative in my career before, I don’t think. This is the most creative I’ve ever felt.”

As much as she loves producing, there’s no chance of Asher giving up acting.

“Hopefully, I’ll do it for as long as I possibly can. It feels like the possibilities are getting more exciting than ever.”

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