Come fly with me

Rodger Corser wasn’t much the type for date nights, un­til The Weekly got in­volved. Rodger and his wife, Re­nae, speak with Sa­man­tha Trenoweth about emerg­ing from the shadow of can­cer, fam­ily and spon­ta­neous ro­mance.

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Inspiration -

Rodger Corser and his wife, Re­nae Berry, look for all the world like 007 and one of the more glam­orous Bond girls, dash­ing along a pier to­wards a sea­plane which is set to whisk them away on a fic­tional night out. At least, it be­gan as fic­tion. When The Weekly pro­posed a date night­themed photo shoot to the debonair Doc­tor Doc­tor star and his ac­tor/ dancer wife, they both laughed.

“For us, a date night re­ally is fic­tional,” says Rodger. “I know we should go out more of­ten, but with four kids, we don’t get the chance. We re­cently went to a French res­tau­rant, but that was only be­cause we’d been given a gift voucher that we had to use be­fore it ex­pired.”

“There was the Lo­gies,” Re­nae adds. “Rodger was nom­i­nated for a Gold Lo­gie this year, so we went to the awards and had a week­end away in Mel­bourne.”

Those events aside, nei­ther of them can re­mem­ber go­ing on a ro­man­tic night out for years. “I’ve told Rodger that he’d bet­ter get a Gold Lo­gie nom­i­na­tion again next year,” says Re­nae with a wink.

Both agree that Re­nae bears the brunt of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties at home. “She cops most of it,” Rodger ad­mits.

“He’s a won­der­ful dad,” says Re­nae. “He’s very hands-on. He’s happy to do any chore, but I hold the fort be­cause Rodger has been pretty suc­cess­ful in this last decade. It’s been amaz­ing, but it’s meant he’s been away a lot.”

In an in­dus­try where ac­tors of­ten com­plain of lean times be­tween roles, at 44, Rodger has been on a decade­long win­ning streak, mov­ing seam­lessly from one small-screen hit to the next: Un­der­belly, Rush, Pa­per Giants, Pu­berty Blues, The Doc­tor Blake Mys­ter­ies,

The Beau­ti­ful Lie and now a sec­ond sea­son as rak­ish Dr Hugh Knight in Doc­tor Doc­tor. He’s also had roles in two US se­ries, Camp and the Emmy Award-nom­i­nated The Starter Wife, with De­bra Mess­ing and Judy Davis.

Re­nae, mean­while, has put her ca­reer on hold to care for their three lit­tle ones: Budd, seven, Cilla, five, and Dustin, two. Some­times, Rodger’s 15-year-old daugh­ter, Zip­po­rah (Zippy), comes to stay. Her mum is Rodger’s for­mer

part­ner, singer Chris­tine Anu. Zippy’s older brother, Kuiam, Chris­tine’s son from a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship, drops by reg­u­larly, too. It’s a rambling and af­fec­tion­ate fam­ily and nei­ther Rodger nor Re­nae would have it any other way.

“Kui was the first kid whose nappy I changed,” says Rodger, smil­ing, “and he still calls my mum and dad Grandma and Grandad. He’s six-foot-three now and plays footy not far from our place, so he’ll of­ten come over for a feed af­ter train­ing.”

“For a while there,” says Re­nae, “I thought Zippy would be my only lit­tle per­son to raise and love and look af­ter.”

It’s been more than 11 years since Re­nae was di­ag­nosed with cer­vi­cal can­cer and doc­tors told her she would never have chil­dren. “For quite a while, it haunted me,” she ad­mits. “I wor­ried that [the can­cer] might re­turn. I was told I had four years to live and that did play on my mind, but it’s not some­thing I think about any more. I feel re­ally blessed that I’m healthy and I have three beau­ti­ful chil­dren, and a beau­ti­ful step­daugh­ter and a won­der­ful life.”

Zippy has been there through it all. “She is the most amaz­ing girl and I feel so lucky to have her in my life,” says Re­nae. “She is the most lov­ing, gen­er­ous, warm-hearted, kind per­son.

“She came to live with us for eight months or so when her mum was tour­ing and while I was preg­nant with Budd, so we re­ally got to know each other and have a special re­la­tion­ship. And she’s su­per-tal­ented. You should hear that voice on her. Like her mum, she’s des­tined for a life on the stage.”

A mu­si­cal bent runs through the fam­ily. Rodger started out play­ing gui­tar in Mel­bourne rock bands and got his big break in 1998, when he blitzed an au­di­tion and scored the lead role in the Aus­tralian pro­duc­tion of the Broad­way mu­si­cal, Rent.

Now the lit­tle ones are fol­low­ing in their par­ents’ foot­steps. Budd and Cilla both take pi­ano les­sons and Cilla loves to dance. “As for Dusty, he’s a bit dif­fer­ent,” says Rodger, laugh­ing. “We reckon he’s go­ing to be the tear­away.”

He and Re­nae met at a party, where they were match-made by their mu­tual

“We should go out more of­ten, but with four kids, we don’t get the chance.”

agent. “I re­alised af­ter­wards,” says Rodger, “that I’d ac­tu­ally seen Re­nae be­fore, danc­ing in a show. I’d nudged one of the guys I went with and said, ‘Check out the sec­ond dancer there.’ He’d turned to me and said, ‘You’ve got no chance, mate.’ But it was her.”

“We were liv­ing in Mel­bourne at the time,” Re­nae re­calls. “I was work­ing on Satur­day Night Fever and he was work­ing on Last Man Stand­ing. To be hon­est, my first im­pres­sion was that he might be a nice dis­trac­tion. I’d just come out of a long re­la­tion­ship and I thought this young ac­tor might be fun for the mo­ment. I didn’t see mar­riage and ba­bies on the hori­zon, but it grew into all of that. Now, I can’t imag­ine it any other way.”

Rodger and Re­nae are com­ing up to their 10th wed­ding an­niver­sary in Oc­to­ber and, he says, “I can’t picture my life with­out her. Ev­ery cou­ple has ar­gu­ments, but they could never be so big that it would make me think it was bet­ter not to be here ... She can still turn my head as well. When we went to the Lo­gies, Re­nae just looked smokin’ hot.”

They both dis­miss the no­tion that Rodger is de­vel­op­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as a think­ing woman’s sex sym­bol and he won’t own up to van­ity, in spite of los­ing eight ki­los for his nude scene in Glitch. “I think of sex sym­bols as much younger and hav­ing more abs and bi­ceps,” he says, laugh­ing. “If you play a ro­man­tic lead with mul­ti­ple love in­ter­ests, like Hugh Knight, you do get tarred with that brush, but the re­al­ity couldn’t be fur­ther from that.”

There’s a lot of laugh­ter and flirting at The Weekly’s har­bour­side photo shoot, but Re­nae says she wouldn’t de­scribe her spouse as an “ev­ery­day ro­man­tic”. “He can turn it on at the right time,” she says, “but once you have kids, it can be hard to find those mo­ments.”

Does he have any traits in com­mon with Dr Hugh? “There are parts of Hugh that are a lit­tle bit like me and I just am­plify them – turn them up to 11,” Rodger says. “Mostly, they’re parts of my 25-year-old self, as op­posed to my 40-some­thing self. Hugh’s got a bit of Peter Pan Syn­drome.”

Rodger says that his ex­pe­ri­ence with the med­i­cal sys­tem dur­ing Re­nae’s ill­ness hasn’t so much in­formed his ap­proach to his on-screen char­ac­ter as it has his off-screen life.

“Like any in­dus­try, there are so many dif­fer­ent peo­ple with dif­fer­ent skills, knowl­edge and per­spec­tives,” he says. “I do feel like that field [medicine] is more sub­jec­tive than I once did. Both Re­nae and I re­spect all the [med­i­cal] opin­ions we hear, but we self-man­age a lit­tle bit. We ap­ply the in­for­ma­tion be­cause you get dif­fer­ing points of view. We take more of an ac­tive role.

“It’s also led Re­nae to de­velop a strong in­ter­est in nat­u­ral reme­dies and or­ganic pro­duce. If our kids get to a nor­mal birthday party, you see them run for the lolly bowl be­cause it’s for­eign to them. I’m the one per­son in the fam­ily who doesn’t al­ways stick to that. I wash my Pa­leo meal down with a glass of red wine.”

With seven years of sleep­less nights al­most be­hind her, Re­nae says she’s just start­ing to feel ready to get back to her ca­reer.

“I’ve cer­tainly got itchy feet,” she ad­mits. “I re­ally do en­joy act­ing and I think that might be an eas­ier thing to do as a mother. Mu­si­cal the­atre and tour­ing and be­ing away from home wouldn’t be easy, but to be hon­est, at this point in time, I’m feel­ing ready for any­thing. Just get me out of the house!”

Rodger’s also keen to mix things up. He has long been dab­bling in screen­writ­ing and reck­ons that “it’s about time I got off my butt and started cre­at­ing things. There are some sto­ries that I want to tell.

“There’s one historical Aus­tralian event that I don’t feel has ever been touched on in a dra­matic way and there’ll be a po­lit­i­cal role in there that, by the time I get this thing up, I’ll prob­a­bly be old enough to play.”

An­other big change, Re­nae and Rodger in­sist, is that they’re plan­ning more date nights. In fact, he says, “We just might call the babysit­ter and say this shoot has run over time.”

The sun is set­ting be­hind the Har­bour Bridge as the pho­tog­ra­pher packs up and the crew trails out onto the street. Glanc­ing be­hind us, we spot Rodger and Re­nae, hand-in-hand, sneak­ing into a rather ro­man­tic res­tau­rant.

ABOVE: Rodger and Budd. LEFT: Rodger and his kids, Dustin, Cilla and Budd, ex­plor­ing rock pools.

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