At home with Karl Stefanovic

Friday, May 6, 2011
At home with Karl Stefanovic

The Gold Logie winner discusses love, family and how he nearly ended up in the Australian cricket team.

It's the darndest thing. You wake up with someone every morning and you think you know them. Then BAM! Out of the blue, you discover something that changes everything — and explains so much.

Related: Lisa Wilkinson on being Lisa

Karl Stefanovic, the genial bloke who fronts the Today show, is for many of us the first face we see when we get out of bed.

For the past four months, we've been letting him into our living rooms so he can inform us about the tsunami devastation in Japan, the cyclone and flood havoc in Queensland and the earthquake disaster in Christchurch.

For the past six years, he's been fronting Today, gravely conducting interviews with prime ministers before crossing to a segment on next season's summer fashion must-haves. Yet how well do we really know this man?

Did you know, for example, that instead of voting for "Karl Stefanovic: Journalist and Today Show Presenter" at this year's Logie Awards, we could all just as easily have been voting for "Karl Stefanovic — Most Popular Actor"? Or if fate had skewed differently, we might have spent the summer watching him face down the English bowling attack as opening batsman for Australia in The Ashes series?

Before he threw his professional lot in with this TV journalism caper, a young Karl Stefanovic auditioned for and was very nearly accepted into the country's most prestigious acting course at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA).

At around the same time, he was playing representative schoolboy cricket for Queensland, opening the state's batting order and sharing the wicket with the likes of Michael Kasprowicz and Andrew Symonds.

His on-air colleague, Lisa Wilkinson, jokes that Karl has 24 different personalities and she never knows which one she is going to be sitting next to from one day to the next.

"There's more than a hint of showman in Karl," says Lisa. "More like a great big brush stroke. One of the great things about him is you never quite know what he is going to do next. I probably know him as well as anybody, but I'm often poised on the edge of my seat wondering what he's going to do or say."

And then there's Karl's wife Cassie — shrewd, smart, sassy Cassie. She has wit and charm the equal of her man and — perhaps most importantly — keeps his ego in check.

While posing together during The Weekly photo shoot, Cassie, 40, chides her husband for his vanity. "Look at, me Karl, not at the camera," she mocks as he stares down the lens like a Myer catalogue model.

For Cassie, an accomplished journalist in her own right, playing her part in the building of Brand Stefanovic has not always been easy. There have been sacrifices along the way.

"The first 12 months we were in LA, Karl was on the road for eight of them," Cassie remembers. "I was pregnant with Ava. I remember one morning waking up with awful morning sickness and barely being able to get out of bed. Jackson was four years old and could see his mummy was sick and said, 'If Daddy doesn't want to be the daddy anymore, I'll be the daddy'. It broke my heart."

Lisa Wilkinson says Cassie and her own husband, author and journalist Peter FitzSimons, constitute a "two-person club" effectively widowed by the Today show. Robin describes Cassie as "the steel that supports Karl" and Alan Jones ascribes a good part of Karl's success to her.

"She is a smart, straightforward woman," he says. "If Karl ever got tickets on himself, Cassie would bring him back down to earth straight away. I'm always telling Karl she's the one with the real strength and ability."

Related: Karl Stefanovic wins the Gold Logie

Now the proud mother of Jackson, 11, Ava, six, and River, four, Cassie has no regrets about the way things have turned out.

"I'd like to go back to work at some stage, but I'm not about to unravel the whole family," she says. "Karl is obviously really busy at the moment and I don't feel like I'm putting everything to one side at all. This is the right thing for our family at the moment.

"And so we are all playing our roles in that. If Karl is going to be away a lot, then it's my job to be here for the kids."

Read more of this story in the May issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.

Your say: Do you think Karl Stefanovic deserved to win the Gold Logie?

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