Back to the Rafters is “not all happy, happy.”
6 years on, it looks like the Rafters are perfectly happy, but Rebecca Gibney warns things soon go south.
Rebecca Gibney didn’t need much time to say ‘Yes’ to returning to a favourite TV family.
Back to Rafters, a six part revival of Packed to the Rafters, picks up the family six years on.
Produced by Seven Studio for for Amazon Prime Video (no, there are no plans for Free to Air), the commission brings back together Gibney and Erik Thomson with former cast Hugh Sheridan, Angus McLaren, Michael Caton, George Houvardas and Merridy Eastman.
“I knew as soon as the call came through that I was going to be in. Basically, because I think enough time passed. Everyone had gone off to do their own thing. We’d all had a go at being someone else. I got to do Wanted and Halifax again. Erik’s done AfterTaste,” she tells TV Tonight.
“I’ve missed everyone so terribly”
“The time was right to come back and I’ve missed everyone so terribly. The thing is, we are really great mates, and I love working with them. They’re just such a lovely bunch of people. To be given the opportunity to go and do a show that you love, playing a character that you love, with people that you love. It’s kind of a no-brainer, really.”
Any thoughts that a revival might not live up to the original material was addressed by creator Bevan Lee.
“I think Bevan needed convincing first. He was kind of hesitant to do it because, as he said, ‘We went out on a high.’ We went out when it was still one of the highest rating shows, and everyone loved it.
“Not that we wanted it to finish, but at the time, you can’t keep having a show called Packed to the Rafters if the kids all want to go off and do other things. It’s not the essence of the show.
“If you can convince the creator and the writer to bring the show back, it’s pretty easy to convince the rest of us because he’s the person that brought us all together. So it was an easy decision.”
Since they drove off from their suburban home on a road trip, Julie & Dave have almost become ‘grey nomads’ but, together with 10 year old daughter Ruby, have resettled in the fictional regional town of Buradeena. Joining the cast are Aaron McGrath, Libby Tanner, Willow Speers, Haiha Le and Kaspar Frost.
“From the outside looking in, it looks like they’re happy”
“From the outside looking in, it looks like they’re happy. They’ve moved into this idyllic country town that Dave absolutely loves. He’s got his new apprentice, new friends, she’s got a new job and new friends. Ruby seems to be quite happy at school even though she is a budding ‘Greta Thunberg,'” she continues.
“But then you’ve got all these other issues that start happening with the family back in Sydney. That’s where Jules’ heart is, because even though your children may not live with you anymore, they’re still your children. When they’re going through trials and tribulations, you want to be there for them.
Gibney warns that while sentiment kicks off the series, things soon ‘goes south.’
“By the end of the second episode you’ll think ‘This is not what I was expecting!’ When I showed my husband, he was going to start throwing things at the TV screen. Because it’s not all happy, happy. I think that’s the thing.
“You kind of get lulled into this false sense of Dave & Julie in this lovely country town”
“You kind of get lulled into this false sense of Dave & Julie in this lovely country town and everything’s great and it’s kind of cutesy. But then things start happening back in the city and you realise that actually, Julie isn’t as happy as we thought she was…
“The end of episode 2 is quite a pivotal moment where you actually think, ‘Oh God!’, I filmed it but even watching it I was in tears.”
Amongst the plot lines is Ted’s (Michael Caton) ongoing battle with dementia.
“That’s progressing quite rapidly, and the effect that has on the whole family. That’s something you don’t see often in drama, people dealing with that. It’s heartbreaking, because, as you can imagine, seeing Michael Caton having to be in that position. His performance is just breathtaking, it’s beautiful. So we’re dealing with that all the way through the series too.
“All of them end up having their own personal struggles that impact the family in some way, shape, or form. And of course, the issues of David and Julie …maybe it’s not that they don’t necessarily love each other, but what happens when your adult children grow up and you’ve spent your life raising children and doing things together? Do you stay the same? Are you still wanting the same things when you get to a certain point in your life?
“That’s what happens with a lot of marriages. The children leave and then it’s just the two of you.
“That’s one of the biggest questions for Julie Rafter”
“I think that’s one of the biggest questions for Julie Rafter in this whole series: who am I if I’m not a mother? I don’t have that role anymore. I’m not a daughter, because my father doesn’t really know me anymore.
“I love that Bevan’s done that with this series. He’s not afraid to ask those big questions.”
Also new to the series is actress Georgina Haig (Secret Bridesmaid’s Business) taking up the role of ‘Rachel Rafter’ after Jessica Marais was unavailable.
“She’s amazing. They’re pretty big shoes to fill. It’s a tricky role to play because Rachel’s obviously an incredibly loved character. Georgina was incredible. She just walked on set, as a very big hearted, warm, open woman but she’s also an incredible actress.
“She does look like our daughter!”
“Bizarrely, if you put her in the middle of Erik and I she does look like our daughter! The resemblance is already there.
“I think people forget is that Jess had kind of left the show by Season 4 or 5. She would dip back in every so often. I think the last time we saw her, she had black hair and was doing something in America.”
She adds, “Some people will struggle a little bit with it. But I think once she’s there, she’s there.”
Back to the Rafters screens Friday September 17 on Amazon Prime Video.