Asher Keddie opens up about the emotional challenge of starring in Nine Perfect Strangers

ON THE EDGE: Asher Keddie, centre, in Nine Perfect Strangers with co-stars Tiffany Boone and Michael Shannon.
ON THE EDGE: Asher Keddie, centre, in Nine Perfect Strangers with co-stars Tiffany Boone and Michael Shannon.

IN episode two of Nine Perfect Strangers, Asher Keddie's character Heather is literally talked back from a cliff top overlooking the ocean.

It's a harrowing scene. Made more so because her husband Napoleon and daughter Zoe, played by US actors Michael Shannon and Grace Van Patten, are looking on in helplessness.

Nine Perfect Strangers is a TV drama mini-series that doesn't hide from addressing the traumas of life and the psychological impact.

Based on Australian Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty's 2018 novel of the same name, the show follows a group of nine stressed city-dwellers who come to wellness retreat Tranquillum House for a 10-day program in search of a better way of living.

The retreat is run by mysterious Russian-American wellness guru Masha Dmitrichenko, played by Nicole Kidman with an awkward Russian accent.

It's American TV hit-maker David E. Kelly's (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal) second adaption of Moriarty's work following the critical success of HBO's Big Little Lies.

Kelly assembled a stellar cast for the production, which was shot in the Byron Bay hinterland last year, due to COVID-19, despite being set in California.

Joining Kidman is fellow Hollywood A-lister Melissa McCarthy, alongside Bobby Cannavale, Regina Hall, Luke Evans and Australian Samara Weaving.

Each character comes to Tranquillum House for their own reasons, ranging from prescription drug dependence to anger management to heartbreak. However, Keddie's Heather is suffering the most acutely.

IN A HOLE: Keddie's character Heather is broken after her son's suicide.

IN A HOLE: Keddie's character Heather is broken after her son's suicide.

Heather arrives at Tranquillum House with her husband and 21-year-old daughter, three years after her son committed suicide. She's described as "broken" and completely disconnected from her practical husband, whose taken a sniff-upper-lip approach to his grief.

As a mother-of-two - step-son Luca and son Valentino, 6 - Keddie says getting inside the grief-stricken Heather was emotionally demanding.

"That was the most important thing for me taking on the role," Keddie says. "Can I do this authentically? Can I deliver this in a way that's relatable and true?

"That was a big responsibility, but one that I wanted. I was drawn to the complexity of her experience and also challenged by what I had to imagine, which to me is unimaginable.

"I did that to the best of my ability. I gave it everything I had. It was a big investment emotionally and physically, actually, for myself and the wonderful Michael Shannon and Grace Van Patten."

Over the past 15 years Keddie has arguably become one of Australian TV's leading stars, through her celebrated roles on Love My Way, Offspring, Hawke and Paper Giants.

Nine Perfect Strangers trailer

It's led to seven Logie Awards, including the Gold Logie in 2013, and made the 47-year-old a household name.

But Keddie's work outside Australia has been limited. With Nine Perfect Strangers being released globally, Heather could arguably be Keddie's biggest role.

"It's not something I've been actively trying to do, it's not really been my path," Keddie says of US roles. "Thankfully the work I've been offered in Australia, my own country, has been great and I've wanted to do it.

"Having that said, absolutely I'd love to work anywhere in the world as well as the US. So this opportunity, I'm very excited about it and it takes it to another level.

"We all want a big audience with our creative work and for it to be this big an audience is really exciting."

The wellness industry has grown exponentially in recent years, particularly in Byron Bay and in Hollywood circles.

It's also become a popular topic in TV land. Earlier this year Stan's Eden, which was also shot in Byron Bay, explored the dark underbelly of the wellness community.

IMPRESSED: Asher Keddie says Nicole Kidman brought a tremendous work ethic to Nine Perfect Strangers.

IMPRESSED: Asher Keddie says Nicole Kidman brought a tremendous work ethic to Nine Perfect Strangers.

Keddie says COVID-19 and the lockdowns have exacerbated our search for wellness.

"This exploration of wellness, which if we're all honest, we're kind of thinking about that at the moment because we're feeling unstable and discombobulated and not sure what tomorrow holds," she says.

"If there ever was a moment to dig deep and think about wellness and emotional, physical and mental stability I feel like it's now. So I feel like the project is really timely."

Nine Perfect Strangers streams on Amazon Prime from August 20.

This story Asher Keddie faces unimaginable grief in US drama first appeared on Newcastle Herald.