ASHER KEDDIE, UNDERBELLY: A TALE OF TWO CITIES
After four long months of shooting (with cameras, that is), Nine’s ambitious crime drama Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities wrapped filming a couple of weeks ago. However, the 13-part series still has a way to go in telling its tale of organised crime and police corruption in Australia during the 1970s and ’80s.
One of the most compelling characters, and a character who becomes more prominent in upcoming episodes, is Detective Liz Cruickshank, played by acclaimed actor Asher Keddie, perhaps best known for playing Julia on the muchadmired pay-TV series Love My Way. Asher, I read somewhere that you were lobbying for a role in A Tale of Two Cities as soon as the project was announced because you were such a fan of the first Underbelly. I’m not sure how that got around. [Laughs] I saw the first couple of episodes of the first series but I couldn’t catch the rest because I was doing a play. But I knew it was quality work and I really liked the people involved – I’d previously worked with some of them on The Society Murders and I wanted to work with them again. So when it came up that they were interested in me for the role of Liz Cruickshank, I was keen. And I was even more keen when I was told that the character was loosely based on Australia’s first female detective. I didn’t need much more than to get a fire going in my belly – she must have been quite extraordinary. Did you get a chance to meet her and talk to her about the events depicted in A Tale of Two Cities? No, she didn’t want to be involved. So I don’t even know who she is. All I know is that Liz is based on a real person. I had to go with what was on the page, and that’s all I ever go with anyway. I like to take what’s on the page and fly with that. And in the second half of the series, the character evolves considerably and it was really exciting to play that.
What qualities came through on the page that you responded to?
The main thing was that she was tenacious – that certainly leapt off the page. She had a lot of inner strength; she must have to have worked in such a man’s world at that time. And I really liked that she was bold and courageous, that she was direct and not rattled and determined to hold her own.
At the same time, something that comes through is that Liz can see the human element in the case she takes on without it weakening her resolve.
That’s absolutely right, and you’ve hit on something that I was attracted to – she’s not someone who sits in judgment. You see that with her treatment of Judi Kane. And you see it with Allison Dine in later episodes, when that character starts to take responsibility for her past actions. Liz becomes very protective of her because she can see that Terry Clark’s seduction of Allison blinded this young woman to anything else. Liz lets her heart become involved without losing sight of the big picture – that becomes apparent in later episodes. What else lies ahead for Liz in future episodes of A Tale of Two Cities? Her journey leads her out of a little bit of naivety, perhaps, and into the reality of police corruption at that time, the 1980s. That’s what the story begins to explore – how the good cops were beating their heads against a brick wall as they tried to get criminals like Terry Clark and Bob Trimbole. The cops knew who these guys were but they were blocked by this wall of police corruption. And the second half of the series delves into that. But Liz never, ever loses her drive. She wants to achieve what she wants to achieve. I found her to be very real, and I enjoyed playing her for that reason.
Is this one of the biggest TV jobs you’ve taken on in a while?
I’ve done a couple of telemovies and miniseries recently but this is the first piece of series television I’ve done since Love My Way. That was such a tremendous experience for us all, such great characters and amazing stories, and I knew that if I was going to go back to series TV I would want it to be on something really good and really strong. So I was thrilled to join Underbelly.
Strong resolve: Asher Keddie holds her own as tenacious female detective Liz Cruickshank in the
among an all-male team of colleagues.