New Zealand’s most Wanted

With the Emmy-nom­i­nated Wanted re­turn­ing to Three this week, Re­becca Gib­ney tells what it takes to cre­ate an in­ter­na­tional suc­cess story. Kerry Har­vey re­ports.

The TV Guide - - NEWS - Above: Re­becca Gib­ney and Geral­dine Hakewill

When I tell Re­becca Gib­ney that a tele­vi­sion critic de­scribed her as a big­ger ac­tion hero than Liam Nee­son, she laughs.

“I’m not sure I’d go that far,” she says of Lola, the mid­dle-aged su­per­mar­ket check­out op­er­a­tor she plays in the hit drama Wanted.

How­ever, she is ex­tremely proud of the se­ries she cre­ated with hus­band Richard Bell – and with good rea­son.

The sec­ond sea­son be­gins in New Zealand this week – on the same night that Gib­ney will be walk­ing the red car­pet at the In­ter­na­tional Em­mys in New York where Wanted is one of the nom­i­nees in the best drama cat­e­gory.

It is also screen­ing on Net­flix and, to cap it off, Aus­tralia’s Chan­nel Seven has com­mis­sioned a third sea­son.

“It’s sort of sur­real. From the mo­ment we found out about the Emmy nom­i­na­tion, we have been float­ing on a bit of a cloud,” Gib­ney says, adding nei­ther she nor Bell takes suc­cess for granted.

“We work hard so it’s not like it’s luck be­cause we’ve de­voted the last two years of our lives fully to the show. You can’t just put it out there and go, ‘Oh gee, I want to go global’. You have to re­ally work at it.

“It’s a team ef­fort. We couldn’t have done it with­out the hun­dreds of peo­ple who came on board be­cause ev­ery­one loved the show, ev­ery­one knew what we wanted to make, and I think ev­ery­one re­ally got in be­hind it. I think that’s why it’s been so spe­cial.”

Gib­ney, who is con­sid­ered one of the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in the Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion in­dus­try, is

no stranger to fame. She be­came a house­hold name in Aus­tralia and New Zealand play­ing me­chanic Emma Plimp­ton in The Fly­ing Doc­tors and went on to star in

Hal­i­fax fp and sev­eral other se­ries, in­clud­ing Packed To The Rafters.

Now 52, she is break­ing new ground. She and Bell have their own pro­duc­tion com­pany and Wanted is their baby.

“We ba­si­cally said we want to turn the genre on its head. We want to take the ac­tion-ad­ven­ture road movie that is nor­mally the male do­main and put women in those roles, but not ac­tion hero women, just or­di­nary women,” Gib­ney says.

She has rel­ished the chance to play the far from glam­orous, but very re­source­ful, Lola.

“For me, par­tic­u­larly, be­ing over 50 now, I think there’s such a great free­dom in al­low­ing your­self to be who you re­ally are be­cause I spent so long in my life – par­tic­u­larly in my 20s and into my 30s – feeling so in­se­cure about my phys­i­cal­ity,” she says, adding, like many women, she never felt good enough or pretty enough.

“Then you get to a point where you go, ‘I don’t have to be that. I just have to be me.’

“I want to play a strong woman who doesn’t give a rat’s about what she looks like, so it’s been re­ally lib­er­at­ing in that re­spect.

“It is good to do a show where you don’t have to worry about your phys­i­cal­ity other than, ‘Can I run that fast in hik­ing boots that have got lifts in them so I’m not the short-arse next to my glama­zo­nian co-star?’.”

That first sea­son fol­lowed two strangers – Lola (Gib­ney) and

Chelsea (Geral­dine Hakewill) – who in­ter­vened in a fa­tal car­jack­ing while wait­ing at a sub­ur­ban bus stop and found them­selves be­ing pur­sued across Aus­tralia by crim­i­nals and po­lice. Wanted is fre­quently likened to Thelma And Louise but Gib­ney thinks it is more Butch Cas­sidy And The Sun­dance Kid. “Maybe, Butch Cas­sidy And The

Sun­dance Kid meets The Odd Cou­ple,” Gib­ney says, “be­cause Thelma and Louise were great friends go­ing away on a va­ca­tion but these are two women who have noth­ing in com­mon, who are poles apart, who ac­tu­ally didn’t like each other from the start, who ba­si­cally have to learn to de­velop a friend­ship.

“The most lovely thing any­one has said (about the show) is, ‘I want to be in the car with those women’.”

That first sea­son ended with a phone call from one of the vil­lains snarling, “Did you think this was over? We have your son.”

The sec­ond sea­son starts with Lola and Chelsea trav­el­ling to Bangkok to res­cue Lola’s son David (Home And Away’s Charles Cot­tier) and what hap­pens there takes them to New Zealand where the women change from the hunted to the hunters.

“It’s been amaz­ing. Sea­son one was awe­some but sea­son two just steps it up a notch. It’s so epic. We’re film­ing chases on the Dunedin rail­way, go­ing through gorges and up snow-cov­ered peaks. It’s quite phe­nom­e­nal,” Gib­ney says, adding she and her hus­band en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence so much they have now set up home in Queen­stown. “Our goal is to bring more pro­duc­tions here, to bring as many as we can.”

“We want to take the ac­tion-ad­ven­ture road movie that is nor­mally the male do­main and put women in those roles.” – Re­becca Gib­ney

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