RAFTERS SAYS A SAD GOODBYE AFTER SIX SEASONS
Tuesday 8.45pm, Seven
CALL it the longest goodbye, one that required those at its centre to maintain a year-long facade.
Confirmation, finally, that Packed To The Rafters was to 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 Rafters’ central cast, had known since early last year that season six would be the last of the show as they knew it. It made shooting the final scenes, just before Christmas 2012, especially poignant.
As they wrapped on-set, they had to stay noncommittal publicly, as rumours flew about the show’s end. In January, the duo carefully chose their words as Rafters came back to screens after the summer non-ratings period.
If it was to be the end, they said, the season six finale was a fitting one.
On Tuesday night, the family drama leaves our screens with a two-hour finale that features all the humour and heartbreak which made the heartwarming show so loved.
It’s a poignant farewell, which ties up loose ends, takes a trip down memory lane and offers promise of new adventures.
Gibney, who played Julie Rafter alongside Thomson’s Dave for more than five years, says she’ll watch it and be in floods of tears all over again.
‘‘I cried filming it, I cried watching it and I’ll cry watching it again,’’ she says.
Rafters may have come to its natural conclusion, after all, Gibney laughs, ‘‘if the kids were still in the house at 35, there’s something a bit wrong’’, but the goodbye was heart-wrenching.
‘‘At the end when you’re hanging up Julie’s outfit and saying goodbye to the people you love, basically I spent the week before Christmas in tears,’’ she says.
‘‘Especially when I’d look at Erik, or I’d look at Michael Caton. They’d just start to flow.’’
Gibney and Catons’ heartbreaking finale performance is one of the most memorable of the
Rafters goodbye. All season the pair has showcased an emotional storyline as Caton’s Ted slips into dementia.
‘‘Michael and I have almost a real-life father and daughter relationship,’’ Gibney says.
‘‘So losing him in character and knowing I was losing him off screen as well was hugely emotional.’’
‘‘Erik and I had such a shorthand. It made a job I loved so much more,’’ Gibney says.
‘‘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 is similarly adamant. ‘‘We’re friends for life,’’ he says. ‘‘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.
‘‘I got to play the spectrum: the cheeky rapport; Dave meeting his birth mother for the first time, the story arc which explored him suffering depression, the gritty stuff and the real stuff.
‘‘The peak was probably the death of Melissa (Zoe Ventoura’s character, killed in a car accident in a closely guarded show secret).
‘‘To me that was when the show crossed to a new level, when Rafters came off the screen and into reality. We realised then the power and the traction the show had and how it was getting into the social fabric.’’
Thomson and Gibney treasure the smaller scenes and moments that made the Dave-Julie dynamic 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 laughs. ‘‘That was incredibly funny and Erik is a very funny man.
‘‘Another storyline 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 jokes when they found out the show was ending, he wanted it to be 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 laughs.
‘‘This one’s for us.’’
MEMORY LANE: Julie (Rebecca Gibney) and Dave (Erik Thomson) pack up the household memories.
FAMILY FAREWELL: The Rafters have had a strong impact on Australia’s social fabric.