‘I DON’T DO THINGS TO PLEASE PEOPLE’ Rebecca Gibney is on a career high and loving life in her 50s
Nothing can slow Rebecca Gibney down. Not on TV, where she’s on the run again in Wanted, and especially not in real life, where the 53-yearold actress/producer/creator is just hitting her stride. “I love getting older. I’m more confident in my 50s than I have ever been,” Gibney says emphatically. “I’m more inclined to take risks. I’m more inclined to not really care what other people think. I know I’m a good person.” A good person – who has done some bad things. Part of Gibney’s winning appeal is she’s very relatable. The Gold Logie winner is the first to admit she’s as flawed as the next person. “Have I done bad things in my life? Like we all have? Yes,” she tells WHO. “As the saying [from the Bible] goes, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ It’s not my place to judge anybody, therefore I don’t want anyone to judge me.” But they do. Gibney acknowledges there are online trolls and others out there who want to criticise her. “Good luck to them, but I’m not going to take anything they say on board,” she says. “It’s not my business what you think of me. It’s my business what I think of me.”
Make no mistake, Gibney is fiercely determined to do things her way. She’s survived more than 30 years in the TV industry, first finding fame as mechanic Emma Plimpton in The Flying Doctors. She went on to land roles in the sitcom All Together Now, crime show Halifax f.p. and later, dramedy Packed to the Rafters. She’s tough, brutally honest (especially about herself ) and one of the warmest people you’ll ever meet. “I’m a big cream puff,” she laughs. “I’ve been around so long that I’m comfortable with myself and the public is comfortable with me. I’m the kid next door you’ve grown up with. And I love that. But ultimately, I don’t do things anymore to please people. I do things because I want to do them.”
The actress credits her Rafters character Julie Rafter for allowing people to feel they can approach her. “I’m an open book and I’ll always be an open book. And I like that it means people can go on my journey with me.”
In Season 3 of Wanted, Gibney’s character Lola is once again on the lam with her partner in crime, Chelsea (Geraldine Hakewill). First, they must find their way out of prison, after they were arrested at the end of Season 2. It’s another edge-of-yourseat adventure with South Australia’s Flinders Ranges this time providing the picturesque backdrop. There are flashbacks to Lola’s painful childhood, when her mother locked her in a cupboard.
These are certainly powerful moments as we understand the forces that have shaped Gibney’s character.
“Everything that happens to you as child has an impact on you as an adult,” she says. Gibney – who created the series with husband Richard Bell, with whom she has a son, Zac – has been up front about her own difficult experiences growing up. She was born the youngest of six children and her alcoholic father Austin would beat her mother Shirley. “My father had a period of violence and it was always through alcoholism,” Gibney explains. “Beyond that, he was a kind, very good human. As a child, I witnessed violence, but it was never directed at me. In that respect, I’ve been very fortunate.”
Unfortunate in other ways, as a young adult, Gibney was gripped by crippling depression and anxiety. She felt like she was losing her identity. “I probably developed a mask I would wear,” she recalls. “I kept pretending to be someone I wasn’t. And I wasn’t sure I liked that person and I didn’t really understand why. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it – not my family nor my friends – because I couldn’t name it [depression].” There were panic attacks from as young as 14. And then in her 30s, in her darkest days when she suffered severe
depression, Gibney contemplated taking her own life. She needed help. Someone to talk to. To listen and understand. There was a giant knot inside her.
“I just needed to find someone who could help me untangle it,” Gibney says. Ultimately, she received the professional help she needed and those terrifying days are behind her. Even now, she has off days. “But I know if I have a good cry for an hour it’s going to make me feel better,” she says. “Or just to tell someone I’m having a crap day. For me, it’s imperative that I share my experiences. And if that helps one person then I’ve done my job. People might look at my life and go, ‘ Wow, your life is awesome.’ And it is awesome. But I’ve had lots of times in my life that have been really dark.” Right now, it’s an empowering time for women in the entertainment industry. Shocking revelations about film producer Harvey Weinstein and other famous people have helped galvanise the #Metoo movement. Gibney admits she has been in “uncomfortable situations” outside of the industry, but nothing related to her work. “When I first arrived in Australia [from New Zealand], I had [production companies] Grundy and Crawford vying for me,” she says. “I was up for two jobs and two high-profile shows from the get-go. I went on to Flying Doctors and had a profile which afforded me the luxury of other work. I never really had to worry. I just kept working. So I’ve never felt pressure from anybody.” She did, however, have awkward encounters when she went to America to seek out work opportunities there. “I had agents asking me out for dinner all the time and I was like, ‘Can we not just have a meeting?’ ” she says.
Gibney insists it’s important we support woman who have come forward with their own #Metoo stories. “We need to believe these women because people have stayed silent for too long,” she says. “In the same breath, we also have to realise that not all men are bastards.” She points to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s recent speech to the UN, in which she called for #Metoo to become “Wetoo” as a way forward. “She said, we have to realise there are problems that we all need to fix together. I think that’s a great way of looking at this.”
Earlier this year, Gibney was WHO’S Most Beautiful People cover star, appearing without makeup. And she says she’s had an amazing reaction to the cover from people in the street. The actress acknowledges it’s a leap forward for someone who, in her 20s, wouldn’t step out the door without a face full of makeup.
“Now, I just feel, ‘ What were you thinking?’” she says, smiling. “I am gorgeous with or without makeup because no-one looks like me. I am who I am.”
Gibney is close to her son Zac, 14. Gibney as Lola in Season 3 of Wanted.“It’s not my place to judge anybody”
Husband Richard Bell and their son Zac. Gibney won a Gold Logie in 2009 for her work in Packed to the Rafters.
Lola and Chelsea were locked up at the end of season 2 of Wanted. ” We have great chemistry on screen,” Gibney says of her and Hakewill.“I have had times that have been really dark”