‘I DON’T DO THINGS TO PLEASE PEO­PLE’ Re­becca Gibney is on a ca­reer high and lov­ing life in her 50s

WHO - - Content - By Stephen Downie

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.”

Pho­tographed for WHO by PE­TER BREW-BE­VAN

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”

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