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Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Front Page -

eclin­ing in a leather chair with a cream trench coat slip­ping off her shoul­ders, Re­becca Gib­ney hoots with laugh­ter at the no­tion that any­one would find her volup­tuous fig­ure ap­peal­ing.

“I hate my breasts, I’m not a fan,” she re­veals as she hap­pily ad­justs po­si­tion to meet the in­struc­tion that she show off more cleav­age. “They’re very out there, very undis­ci­plined,” she notes, point­ing out that she had a breast re­duc­tion in her 30s, but they grew back when she fell preg­nant with her son and are now a 36DD.

In any case, she thinks her hus­band – who she hasn’t seen for sev­eral weeks – might like to see the im­age. “He texted me ear­lier with a pic­ture of the ba­nana cake he’d made,” she smiles co­quet­tishly. “It’s only fair I send him a pic­ture back.”

Gib­ney, at 53, is still ev­ery­thing we’ve come to ex­pect – can­did, in­sight­ful, gen­er­ous, funny and re­laxed. Noth­ing is off the ta­ble when she sits down to talk to Stel­lar. Breasts, muf­fin tops, age­ing, Bo­tox, friend­ships, mar­riage, moth­er­hood, men­tal health, pol­i­tics, san­i­tary pro­tec­tion, sex­ual as­sault, menopause, panic at­tacks, danc­ing, dag­gi­ness (hers) and, of course, work, are all up for dis­cus­sion. “I was once told I was too open and needed to learn to be a bit more mys­te­ri­ous if I was go­ing to be a suc­cess­ful ac­tor,” she con­fides. “It’s not me; I’m un­fil­tered and au­then­tic. Be­sides, I’d much rather be a good per­son than a great ac­tor.”

For­tu­nately, her ca­reer is proof she’s also the lat­ter. And with edit­ing on the third sea­son of her Seven Net­work drama Wanted al­most com­plete, she’s hap­pily skew­er­ing the no­tion that work dries up for ac­tresses once they reach mid­dle age. Granted, she cre­ated the series and its cen­tral char­ac­ter Lola her­self, but she’s been flush with work ever since she hung up Julie Rafter’s mumsy but­ton-up shirts when the hit series Packed To The Rafters con­cluded its dream run five years ago.

In an era when scripted series strug­gle to rate against the re­al­ity jug­ger­nauts, Wanted is a crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess, earn­ing an In­ter­na­tional Emmy Award nom­i­na­tion and es­tab­lish­ing it­self as the high­est-rat­ing Aus­tralian drama series when it launched in 2016. That the story piv­ots around two women oc­cu­py­ing the tra­di­tional male ac­tion/ad­ven­ture genre is fur­ther proof of Gib­ney’s nose for the busi­ness.

Af­ter Rafters, Gib­ney wanted to do some­thing gutsy. “Lola was sit­ting in my head just wait­ing, so when Julie Mc­gau­ran from Chan­nel 7 [the net­work’s head of drama] called to say she wanted me to play a rough, tough char­ac­ter I got off the phone and typed up half a page about two women who share the same bus stop and then some­thing hap­pens that forces them on the run in a car full of drugs and money. The story never changed from that.”

Wanted has been hailed as in­ven­tive and pro­gres­sive, an em­bod­i­ment of Geena Davis’s no­tion that if you just changed

the names of lead char­ac­ters from male to fe­male, you’d re­duce sex­ism and make fe­male char­ac­ters more in­ter­est­ing.

“Most of the com­ments I’m get­ting back are from women say­ing that they want to be in the car and on the run with us be­cause we’re so alive,” says Gib­ney. “It’s a rol­lick­ing ride of a show, but we don’t take our­selves too se­ri­ously and we’re not try­ing to be James Bond or Ja­son Bourne.” Like­wise, the pair aren’t look­ing for love. More im­por­tant is the un­likely friend­ship that springs from two women hav­ing to rely on each other. Rob Carl­ton, Kerry Fox and Kate Box are due to join Lola and Chelsea, played by Geral­dine Hakewill, for Sea­son 3, and the series is gain­ing trac­tion in­ter­na­tion­ally via Net­flix. Gib­ney laughs: “We’ve got a huge fan base in Brazil and I’m get­ting wed­ding pro­pos­als from Colom­bian and Brazil­ian women. Here I am, 53 and a les­bian heart­throb! They love me. I’m like, ‘Wow, Richard, look out!’”

Just as Reese Wither­spoon and Nicole Kid­man are pro­duc­ing shows that show­case women, Gib­ney and her hus­band Richard Bell are do­ing like­wise with their com­pany R&R Pro­duc­tions. “In the past the roles were al­ways mother or grand­mother or wife – it was like we im­plied that women weren’t that in­ter­est­ing be­tween the age of 40 and 60,” sighs Gib­ney. “If any­thing, we’ve be­come more vi­tal. I feel more dy­namic and com­fort­able in my own skin, and I have so much more to of­fer be­cause of that.”

er con­tent­ment, she says, is an­chored on two re­al­i­sa­tions: women have to take care of them­selves if they’re go­ing to take care of any­one else, and they have to stop wor­ry­ing about how they’re viewed by oth­ers.

“I don’t give a toss what any­one else thinks,” she says, back in her jeans and sneak­ers and sip­ping a cup of tea. “I’ll dance round my lounge room if I want and I’ll put it up on In­sta­gram if I want and if I want to do some­thing to my face or hair or get fat or thin then it’s no-one else’s busi­ness. I don’t judge any­one else for their choices and I ex­pect the same in re­turn for my­self. There’s such free­dom in that.”

RE­BECCA WEARS (op­po­site) Alexis jacket and pants, myer.com.au; Christies bra, im­lin­gerie.com.au (from top) Re­becca Gib­ney as me­chanic Emma Plimp­ton in an early role on ’80s TV series The Fly­ing Doc­tors; Lo­gie wins in 2009 with Packed To The Rafters Sheri­dan and Jes­sica Marais; shar­ing a snap with her son Zac, 14, on In­sta­gram in Au­gust; in her high-rat­ing fe­male-cen­tric drama Wanted with Geral­dine Hakewill.

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