Another Rafters cast member to fly the coop

Another Packed to the Rafters cast member, James Stewart (Jake Barton) is set to leave the series.

The Herald Sun reports he will join former cast member and partner Jessica Marais in the US to take care of their new child.

A Seven spokesperson said, “It’s all about the baby for James and we back his decision with all our love and support.

“We don’t know whether he’ll be back at this stage. That’s still being worked out.”

The news follows Hugh Sheridan defecting to TEN and on-going concern about the core cast exiting the hit series.

Recently creator Bevan Lee addressed the issue in Encore:

“When creating a long-running series, you establish a core set of characters and, if you are successful, you make the nation fall in love with them. And for a long-running love affair, that character mix should remain relatively stable from season to season. In the past you signed your cast to three-year contracts, hoping success would make them remain even after that period. One relied on the motto, ‘when you’re on a good thing, stick to it’. Not now. Just try and get a charismatic newby with embryonic star potential to commit for more than a year these days. Overall, you’re whistling Dixie,” he wrote.

“And should you manage to do so, forget any life for the character after three years. It’s thanks for the experience and see you later. This is not an accusation or a complaint, simply a statement of fact.

“Were I creating Packed to the Rafters now, I doubt I would have used the word ‘packed’ in the title. It certainly exacerbates the current problem created by the actors playing the Rafters children heading for La La Land en masse.

“As I don’t see the overall problem going away any time soon, I am adjusting my way of constructing new shows at the core, buffering up front against this ‘desertion’ factor to ensure series longevity.”

While it’s true to say that young actors might be reluctant to sign long-term contracts, I think it is also fair to say networks rarely offer ‘network’ contracts, ie. year-long salaries. When shooting ends so does the income. With most actors only being signed from series to series it is necessary for them to keep their options open for other work opportunities.

The Seven spokesperson confirmed Rafters would return next year, with new stars being announced in coming weeks.


  1. @ Carringbush most of the young cast are Gen Y. As for not being satisfied, I would say looking to further their career
    @sb130 bitter? Maybe, but he acknowledges the transient nature of younger casts!
    @ Ronnie I think a returning drama adds stability to a networks line up, but they do have new dramas in the pipeline. It is just hard to replicate success!
    @ all the negative comments, it does appear the show has a limited life, but only one sibling had officially left at the end of Season 4.
    One of the longest running dramas in recent years! It appears the life span is getting shorter…

  2. I’ve never liked his character, so his loss is pretty minimal. Can Coby please take a hike as well? I cannot stand him, he gives me the heebies. I agree that once the core cast starts departing, family drams like this tend to fall in a heap. There are only so many long last Rafter relatives that can be introduced into the series and still allow it to retain credibility, so if they are planning on plugging cast holes by introducing ever more missing Rafter relatives, such as cousins, brothers, sisters, etc, – well, I’d think again, as the number of relatives that Dave has had turn up out of the blue is utterly ridiculous and straining credibility to breaking point already.

    One way around it may be to do a time jump over 5 – 7 years or so like DH did, allowing Ruby to age to late primary school age and introduce a new family onto the street to co-exist with the Rafters. This would also give them the opportunity to recast new actors into established roles, a practice US soap operas have done forever and which Home and Away has done as well.

  3. I don’t know if a time jump that big is the answer, I hate when they do things like that but 15 years you’d have to consider technology would come into it. They are hardly going to be running around in a 15yo car that looks brand new. And just look at how everyday things like TVs and PCs have changed in the last 15 years.

    Maybe they need to find another long lost relative?

  4. Networks love returning series – they’re safer and easier, however audiences need new drama offerings every year to keep them interested. It’s time to develop, pilot and take a few risks. 1st run Australian drama is pirate-proof and part of the unique offering that brands each network – time to stop being so lazy and so scared and get to work! Endless series of returning domestic dramas, police procedurals and hospital shows in prime time is a thing of the past. These kinds of dramas will work but each one has to have something different and special about it to make it connect with the constantly evolving audience. Maybe the execs need to evolve a little themselves and keep up?

  5. @Jennome I completely agree with you.

    I think maybe they should do a time jump so Ruby is maybe a teenager or something just to get more Rafters story.

  6. Of all people Bevan should have seen this coming well before Rafters – it’s been happening with the cast of Home and Away for years.

  7. I gave up on Rafters a while ago, I think it’s really jumped the shark. Once the core group starts leaving and all these long lost rellies start appearing, you can forget it. Much as I like John Howard, he doesn’t seem right in this, the characters of Jake and his brother are weak, and the other guy – is he a nephew? – gives me the creeps. And the woman playing Dave’s mother was such a bad actor.

    And annoying as Carbo was originally, he’s now just a shadow of his former shelf.

    I presume there are other new characters, but I haven’t watched it in a long time.

  8. Carringbush

    Not like the old days with the Sullivans who largely remained in tact, whether out of loyalty and dearth of opportunity. But the world is a lot more connected these days or maybe it’s Gen X never being satisfied.

    That’s why the Simpsons has survived – just don’t let them age (except in dream sequences).

  9. It’s dead, Seven. Don’t watch the show but by the looks of the cast departures, ratings will continue to drop as the writers continue to bring in ridiculous characters to plug the holes. Please, Seven, end it on a high note.

  10. Probably best to end the series and cancel season 6. With Ben Rafter only appearing in random episodes, that would be difficult to write and trying to explain his whereabouts in the missing weeks.
    This is the trouble with drama like this, having a family drama leads to finding long lost family as the cast members leave. Shows like A Country Practice had families, friends, work colleagues and patient of the week characters. So if one or many were to leave, there is still enough of the existing cast to keep the viewers in and begin to accept the new people and still be believable.

    • Bert is not touring with Wicked post-Singapore. But there are just some people you treat with respect for their years of service. I can’t specifically answer his case, but suspect he is looked after as he should be.

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