Asher Keddie as Alexandra in a scene from the movie The Cry.
Asher Keddie as Alexandra in a scene from the movie The Cry. LACHLAN MOORE

The TV role that kept Asher Keddie up at night

AS A mother, Asher Keddie's worst fears were brought to the page when she read The Cry.

The idea of losing a child, or having one forcibly taken away from you to live on the other side of the world, was terrifying. She knew it would make for compelling TV, and something completely different from her best-known role as lovably neurotic obstetrician Nina Proudman in Offspring.

"When Glendyn (Ivin, the director) offered it to me, I made the choice to read the book. I just couldn't help myself," she says.

"Sometimes it's great to just read a screenplay but for some reason I felt compelled to read it. I spent three nights completely and utterly disturbed. I was horrified and panicked about my own children. The things it brings up in you are just diabolical, but I couldn't stop because I was so compelled by the material."

Keddie stars opposite fellow Aussie Ewen Leslie and Victoria's Jenna Coleman in the Film Victoria and BBC co-produced adaptation of Australian author Helen FitzGerald's award-winning novel.

Jenna Coleman and Ewen Leslie, centre, star in the mini-series The Cry.
Jenna Coleman and Ewen Leslie, centre, star in the mini-series The Cry. Supplied

The four-part drama Joanna (Coleman) and Alistair (Leslie), a young couple who travel with their baby Noah from Scotland to Australia to see Alistair's mother and fight for custody of his daughter Chloe with ex-wife Alexandra (Keddie).

When Noah goes missing shortly after their arrival, it is the catalyst for a journey into the disintegrating psychology of the couple as they deal with an unthinkable tragedy under both the white light of public scrutiny and behind closed doors.

"As harrowing as the material was, I knew Glendyn would make it a really gentle and thoughtful process. Although the material was stuff I wanted to shy away from initially - I didn't know if I could cope with it and what it brought up in me as a mother and a woman - I also wanted to have the courage to do it," Keddie says.

"It's also timely. It's really important to look through drama at the ways in which women and men are persecuted or judged at that time of the loss of a newborn, and to go through that grief and be persecuted in the public eye.

"It's really dangerous territory when a case is in the media that we all become obsessed with."

Alexandra soon becomes a suspect in the case, further threatening her custody of Chloe.

Stella Gonet and Asher Keddie in a scene from the mini-series The Cry.
Stella Gonet and Asher Keddie in a scene from the mini-series The Cry. LACHLAN MOORE

"When I began the project I had to make a really conscious choice about firstly her energy, I guess, and why she makes the choices she does and behaves the way she does," she says.

"Once I'd decided on that I made no apologies for the way she actually behaved. She may look like a highly troubled, erratic woman but I don't think she is at all. She's holding on really tight, and I think we all do that when we are afraid...I just played her emotional truth moment by moment.

"The wonderful thing about Alex is she finds an empathy and compassion for Joanna, which I was really drawn to as well. I felt that was really necessary in the show, for them to be able to see each other for who they are as women."

The Cry premieres on Sunday, February 3 at 8.30pm on ABC-TV.


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