The West

Offspring in the air ...
Offspring in the air ...

From the 14th floor of the Crown Metropol Hotel, the entertainment mecca of Southbank is laid out like a meticulous relief map.

But Melbourne's city lights can't compete for too long with the stellar gathering set to toast Ten's new comedy drama, Offspring.

Set in trendy Fitzroy, Offspring has highly successful TV siblings to live up to. It comes from the producers of The Secret Life of Us, Love My Way and Tangle.

And the early signs are that the 14-part series, which begins with a dramatic 90-minute pilot, is set to stand up to them.

At the show's centre is Nina Proudman, played by Asher Keddie. The petite blonde actress comes fresh from her success as Blanche d'Alpuget in Ten's telemovie Hawke.

"I was lying totally naked in bed with Richard Roxburgh talking about politics and policy and all sorts of things and I thought 'well, this is the life isn't it? This is a terrific job'," she said.

Keddie's big break prior to rubbing up against Hawke was the fabulously neurotic Julia in Love My Way, a role in which she outshone Claudia Karvan.

Nina is Keddie's first lead role in TV. Even before writer Debra Oswald penned the Offspring plot, Keddie was tossing around future options with Love My Way producer John Edwards. Nina was made for her.

On the top floor of the Metropol, Keddie looks elegant in a black pant suit chatting to her fictional family - younger brother Jimmy (Richard Davies who is set to take out TV's best smile award), older sister Billie (the fine-featured Kat Stewart who's frocked up in a classic black lace number) and dad Darcy (the ever- cool, jeans-clad John Waters.

Eddie Perfect's white blond shock of hair can be seen too - he's Billie's long-suffering boyfriend - and there's Deborah Mailman whose warmth spills from her like a physical presence.

In Offspring, she's Cherie, a mate of Nina - and her dad, as it turns out.

Earlier in the day in Ten's South Yarra offices, it's a forthright Keddie who explains her new character. Nina is an obstetrician whose IQ is as high as her emotional intelligence is low.

"I said to John I wanted to play someone a little more like myself. I'd always played characters that hide behind this terrific mask - like Julia in Love My Way," she said.

"Nina has enormous issues with intimacy and she doesn't know why. As a result she makes ridiculous choices in men. But the thing I love about her is that she incapable of hiding who she is and she never stops trying."

The 35-year-old Keddie, who married actor-musician Jay Bowen nearly four years ago, admits she has made "shocking" past partnership choices. However, Nina is still bashing her head against a romantic brick wall and a lot of the show's comedy hangs on the tragic-comic situations created by her emotional myopia.

Being funny on TV is perilously easy to stuff up, says Keddie, and romantic comedy with tragic overtones is about as easy to sell on the small screen as teaching barnyard animals Latin.

And, by the way, the traditionally rugged Don Hany as Dr Chris Havel is the romantic interest, so perhaps her pain is worth it.

"Offspring is a fine balancing act between truthfulness and being humorous but hopefully we strike a new sort of eccentric chord," says Keddie. "Every day on set feels like walking a tightrope."

Keddie didn't get her start in the business in soaps, saying that she was rejected over and over again because she "didn't fit the mould".

Instead, her acting apprenticeship was served with the Melbourne Theatre Company earning her critical attention.

"Now I think producers are getting bolder about the choices they are making in terms of the type of actors they are putting on commercial networks," she says.

Today the actor, who has earned several AFI and Logie nominations, commutes from her Mt Macedon horse property about 75km north west of Melbourne. "I'm totally at peace when I am with my animals on my farm," she says.

Keddie's character suffers from a morbid social ineptness matched only by the idiocy of her ex-husband and the chaos of her family's dysfunction.

Offspring premieres Sunday at 8.30pm on Ten.

The West Australian

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