When SBS Guide spoke with actress Asher Keddie earlier this year, there was a glow in her voice. On the line from the Adelaide set of bold new SBS drama The Hunting, Keddie was revelling in being part of such a thought-provoking production. The Hunting deals with the fallout of a high school sexting scandal involving the son (newcomer Alex Cusack) of Keddie’s character, small business owner Simone Luke, and her lawyer husband Nick (Richard Roxburgh).
The actress shared with us her thoughts on striving to raise well-adjusted boys with her partner, artist Vincent Fantauzzo, playing a woman finding her voice in a toxic marriage, and how Offspring taught her to “clock off” from emotionally draining roles.
What have you been talking about with the cast in terms of the themes of the show?
There’s a bigger picture and there’s sort of a more intimate picture when you’re shooting something like this. The bigger picture is obviously the kind of major themes of the show which are privacy, trust, misogyny, the way technology and that sort of constant connectedness are part of life now, and that’s part of life for children and ourselves now but certainly not the way I grew up.
So people were talking about those larger themes and how different generations are really trying to navigate new territory, to try and stay on the front foot with our children and try and help them navigate a very complex world at the moment, and raise them with respect and integrity and trust also.
The more intimate conversation as we were shooting it and with our specific scenes is really about our family [in the series]. There’s Simone and Nick, myself and Richard Roxburgh, playing the parents of two children, a sixteen-year-old boy who has been accused of sharing nude pictures on a website without the consent of the young woman; and our daughter Rosie, 12. So it’s really interesting playing parents of a teenage boy and an almost-teenage girl.
There are a variety of questions for my character: how far will Simone go to protect her son? Which is a completely valid and natural kind of ferocious, protective, maternal thing to want to do.
But at the same time, she’s hit very hard with the reality that her marriage is quite toxic at this point and she’s beginning to feel very controlled. She’s pushed out of any decision making, she’s undermined constantly and there forms a disconnectedness from her son, basically. She begins to find her voice with her husband and lets him know quite strongly toward the end of the journey that it’s not okay with her the way their son’s being raised. She believes it’s misogynistic and she needs to play a larger role in his life and not be forced out.
Did it give you pause to think about how you’d approach the issues the series deals with, with your own sons when the time comes?
Oh God, of course! It’s just so thought-provoking. This is why I like the project and why I didn’t want to shy away from it in any way because I’m raising two sons and it’s incredibly important to me. It’s vital that my partner and I are in constant discussion with each other and with our sons about how they’re developing emotionally and physically within their peer groups. My little one’s only four but I’m already thinking about it, that’s just part of parenting I guess, and responsible parenting.
But because the landscape’s shifting so much, or already has shifted, of course it’s something that’s on my mind all of the time and something that certainly Vincent and I are in constant discussion about. How they’re viewing our partnership is so important because they’re absorbing everything from us at this point. They’re not being influenced by much else really.
With your recent project, The Cry you said you felt traumatised by that and it was hard to leave the confronting subject matter behind. Are you that kind of actor, and has that been the case with The Hunting as well?
It’s a really interesting question and I never quite know what I will feel myself. Because of the experience of a long-running series like Offspring, the beauty of that was that I was working on that so rigorously for seven to eight years that I got to a point where I literally had to clock off at the end of the day and go and invest in my family and my own life.
I think before that I didn’t do that so successfully but I learnt to do it on Offspring and that was a great gift because I’m pretty good at doing it now. But the exception was The Cry, I was truly traumatised by that. I found it extremely difficult, I think perhaps [being] in the early stages of having my younger son Valentino, my emotions and my vulnerabilities were quite raw. I was just really affected by the subject matter. The loss of a child, or the thought of the loss of a child, was just harrowing as I’m sure most people felt when they watched it.
But this project is more thought-provoking I guess, in a way that I really enjoy and that I kind of crave, so it’s a different experience. I’m not coming home carrying it, I’m enjoying sort of sitting in it and shooting it and my mind’s really, really stimulated by it in a good way.
Toxic masculinity has been a really controversial and loaded term and the series is dealing with how Nick’s attitude towards women is actually influencing Andy and how that could play a role in this unfolding scandal.
Yes, it’s tricky territory isn’t it? Within this project, and what we’re exploring within it, my feeling is that the women are just as responsible for enabling behaviour as the men in this project. Or should be, rather, should be held as accountable. Although my character is really reaching for integrity and she starts to find her voice within the marriage and the family throughout these four episodes, and really starts demanding the truth and trust and integrity and respect for privacy, these are all things that are difficult for her to confront too because there’s hardwired behaviour in her also, and the way she’s behaved within her marriage and what she’s allowed or accepted.
So it’s very complex territory and there’s nothing black and white about it, that’s why I guess it’s so stimulating to work on. I don’t know the answer to that, I just know that it’s something that feels good to explore and I think we must bravely explore so we can help our children to navigate a world where these kinds of things are actually being demanded – respect and equality.
It seems like such an unfurling thing this issue, from schools to teachers to lawmakers and parents. How do you find that balance between giving young people the chance to explore their sexuality online when it can be a safe way to do so, but also so fraught?
It’s about reaching for a safe way for them to exist within this world, but with respect and acknowledging privacy and forming relationships based on trust.
It’s very, very hard because of course if you think about teenagers, then God, they just haven’t got impulse control for example. I’ve been thinking about that at the moment. We develop that as adults probably well in to our late 30s, early 40s I would have thought [laughs]. It takes a while, don’t you reckon? So it’s that issue as well.
The approach of the show seems to be not so much about punishing or admonishing kids, but trying to find a road to consent and trust.
I think that’s exactly right, that’s what the show is trying to explore and also really having a good look at how families are being affected by behaviour like this, like my son [in the show] is displaying. How much responsibility we need to take and how much we need to change our hard-wired ideas and beliefs. It’s just all the stuff that we’re exploring in life at the moment, and that we have to.
New episodes of The Hunting air Thursdays at 8.30pm on SBS and are available to stream at SBS On Demand.