IN­SIDE: Seven days of TV viewing

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - DEB­BIE SCHIPP

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

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