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.