Rafters bid farewell

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - DEB­BIE SCHIPP

CALL it the long­est good­bye – one which re­quired those at its cen­tre to main­tain a year- long fa­cade. Con­fir­ma­tion Packed to the

Rafters would end with its sixth sea­son came just weeks ago, fi­nally let­ting ac­tors Rebecca Gib­ney and Erik Thom­son off the hook. They, and the rest of the cen­tral cast, had known since early last year sea­son six would be the last of Rafters as they

knew it.

Which made shoot­ing the last scenes, just be­fore Christ­mas, es­pe­cially poignant.

They had to stay non- com­mit­tal pub­licly, as ru­mours flew about the show’s end.

If it was to be the end, Gib­ney and Thom­son said the sea­son six fi­nale was a fit­ting one.

On Tues­day, Rafters ends with a twohour fi­nale which boasts all the hu­mour and heart­break that made the show so loved. Gib­ney, who starred as Julie Rafter, said the fi­nale would have her in tears all over again. “I cried film­ing it, I cried watch­ing it and I’ll cry watch­ing it again,” she said.

Rafters may have come to a nat­u­ral con­clu­sion – “If the kids were still in the house at 35, there’s some­thing a bit wrong,” Gib­ney laughed – but the farewell was heartwrench­ing for the cast.

“At the end, when you’re hang­ing up Julie’s out­fit and say­ing good­bye to the peo­ple you love … I spent the week be­fore Christ­mas in tears,” she said.

“Es­pe­cially when I’d look at Erik, or I’d look at Michael Ca­ton, [ the tears would] just start to flow.”

The fi­nal per­for­mances of Gib­ney and Ca­ton are two of the most mem­o­rable.

The pair have show­cased an emo­tional sto­ry­line all year as Ca­ton’s Ted has slipped into de­men­tia.

“Michael and I have al­most a real- life fa­ther- and- daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship,” Gib­ney said.

“So los­ing him in char­ac­ter and know­ing I was los­ing him off screen as well was hugely emo­tional.”

Both Gib­ney and Thom­son said farewelling their on- screen mar­riage was the big wrench.

“We’re hus­band and wife on screen, but our re­la­tion­ship off is more brother- sis­ter, or friends with­out ben­e­fits,” Gib­ney said.

“Erik and I had such a short­hand. It made a job I loved so much more. We still catch up reg­u­larly. I’ve done a lot of drama in 30 years but never had the close­ness with the cast and crew that de­vel­oped on this show.” Thom­son was sim­i­larly grate­ful. “We’re friends for life,” he said. “We had a very easy rap­port. Work­ing so well with some­one, so nat­u­rally, for so long, al­lows you both com­fort and vul­ner­a­bil­ity in your work. It was a gift.

“The peak was prob­a­bly the death of Melissa [ Zoe Ven­toura’s char­ac­ter, killed in a car ac­ci­dent in a closely guarded show se­cret which left view­ers reel­ing]. To me that was when the show crossed to a new level, when

Rafters came off the screen and into re­al­ity.” Both Thom­son and Gib­ney trea­sure the sub­tle mo­ments that made their on- screen dy­namic ap­pear so real.

“It was lit­tle things, like when Dave went out and got drunk and came home, flopped on the lounge slur­ring, and they sub­ti­tled him rav­ing drunk,” Gib­ney said. “That was in­cred­i­bly funny and Erik is a very funny man.

“An­other story line I loved was when Julie was menopausal and she asked if he still thought she was beau­ti­ful – they were the very real and small mo­ments I trea­sure.”

Thom­son joked when they found out Rafters as they knew it was end­ing, he wanted it to be all about Julie and Dave.

“Of course all the kids were back, but I kept say­ing to them, ‘ You’ve all had your fan­tas­tic farewell episodes – back off’,” he said.

“This one’s for us.”

PACKED TO THE RAFTERS FI­NALE

South­ern Cross, Tues­day, 8.45pm

THANKS FOR THE MEM­O­RIES: Rebecca Gib­ney and Erik Thom­son pull at your heart strings in the fi­nal episode of Packed to the Rafters.

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