INSIDE: Seven days of TV viewing
REBECCA Gibney has always had a larger- than- life personality.
But the woman most Australians know and love as Julie Rafter started filming season five of Packed to the Rafters physically bigger than she’d ever been.
Gibney ( pictured) gained 15kg – and some body padding – last year for her first film role. In the P. J. Hogan film Mental, due for release later this year, she plays a depressed mother who is committed to a psychiatric ward.
‘‘ It was my first chance to be on the big screen and boy am I big – 50 chins, no make- up and greasy, flat, red hair,’’ Gibney says of her Mental role.
‘‘ There’s nothing glamorous about it, but that’s great.’’
Since filming wrapped in September, Gibney has been slowly shedding the weight to return to the shape of her alter ego Julie in Packed to the Rafters, which returns on Tuesday.
But viewers won’t see a larger Julie just yet. The show returns with about nine episodes left over from season four.
Seven programmed Rafters in three stints last year as it was used as a launching pad for new drama Winners & Losers at the start of 2011, returned mid- year for a brief time, then made viewers wait until late last year for the final scenes from Jessica Marais, who left the role of Rachel.
‘‘ It’s flattering in the sense the network has so much faith in the show that they can do that. But I think it was frustrating for fans.
‘‘ The good news is we’ve been working flat out, so there’s plenty in the bank.’’
Gibney returned to the role of Julie a week after Mental wrapped.
‘‘ I was already losing the chins then,’’ she says with a laugh.
‘‘ I came back heavier, and bless Rafters for letting me come back like that.’’
Shedding the kilos has been a slow process, but a diet overhaul, healthy eating, exercise, and Spanx underwear have all helped.
‘‘ I have lost about 9kg and have about four or five to go. At 47 years of age, it’s not that easy,’’ she says.
Refined sugar, alcohol, processed food and ‘‘ anything that doesn’t come in its natural state’’ are out. Pastries, cakes, bread and pasta are now reserved for one ‘‘ cheat day’’ a week.
Gibney has never been super skinny or overweight but steered clear of the mirror as she piled on the kilos.
‘‘ Weight’s never been something I’ve really cared about. Who cares, as long as you’re healthy, but we make so much of an issue of it as a society,’’ she says.
‘‘ I bought clothes that were layers and comfortable and fashionable and I just didn’t look in the mirror.
‘‘ Then one day I did, and I went to burst into tears but instead I just laughed.
‘‘ My husband never commented once, other than to say: ‘ I love you darling, however big or small you are’. As long as he thinks I’m gorgeous, it just doesn’t matter.
‘‘ And the Mental role is so incredible and I was so immersed in doing a good job that I really didn’t care.’’
Gibney feels the same about the role of Julie – her longest- running television gig.
‘‘ I didn’t imagine five seasons when I met Julie,’’ she says.
‘‘ I had a feeling the show would do well, but I’d always believed three seasons was enough for me.
‘‘ Even with Flying Doctors all those years ago and All Together Now, I stayed three years and I kind of went ‘ that’s enough’ because you get typecast and bored.
‘‘ But I’ve had such a lovely time and it’s such a wonderful show that it’s an easy decision to stay.
‘‘ Besides, my mum loves the show. She’d kill me if I left.’’ PACKED TO THE RAFTERS, Southern Cross, Tuesday, 8.30pm