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EXCLUSIVE: Rebecca Gibney reveals how becoming an empty nester gave her a new lease on life

''I feel more alive at 57 than I did when I was in my forties.''

By Cynthia Wang
The proof is right there on her phone.
While Rebecca Gibney chats happily with TV WEEK about her new series, the light-hearted fish-out-of-water romp Under The Vines, the Gold Logie winner shows off her rather advanced use of social media filters through clips of her and her outwardly serious British co-star Charles Edwards making grand pronouncements with fun-mirror faces.
Yes, a giggling Rebecca will have you know that Charles, the actor who has been on stage with Dame Judi Dench and appeared in The Crown and Downton Abbey, has spent his downtime trading Instagram videos with her, much to their mutual delight.
"It's a rare thing when you can meet someone that, when you walk on a set with them, it's almost like you have this unspoken chemistry thing," Rebecca, 57, explains.
"I feel very blessed that we were able to make something so joyous, heartfelt and light in a time when the world is a bit sad." (TV WEEK)
"It's not a sexual chemistry, it's just that you are in sync with each other as actors, and Charlie and I have that."
That repartee comes through in Under The Vines, where the pair banter and bicker as Sydney socialite Daisy Munroe and London lawyer Louis Oakley, heirs to a struggling New Zealand vineyard.
While Daisy is flaky, Louis is fussy, and both certainly know nothing about wine, rural living, or each other.
But they make new friends, acquire fierce rivals, and become the home to an award-winning red, all things that persuade them to run a winery together.
"I feel very blessed that we were able to make something so joyous, heartfelt and light in a time when the world is a bit sad," Rebecca says of her and Charles' six-part Acorn TV series, shot on location in New Zealand's Central Otago region, a three-hour drive from her South Island home.
"You can pour yourself a glass of wine, sit down and be prepared to just have a bit of a laugh, relax and enjoy."
Throughout her 40-year television career, the actress has delivered savoury performances as the star of such varied series as The Flying Doctors, All Together Now, Halifax f.p., Packed To The Rafters and Wanted. Yet even she concedes she has never played anyone like Under the Vines' designer-label-loving Daisy.
"She's not stupid. She's just ditzy and a bit vacuous," Rebecca explains.
With Trae Te Wiki, who plays Tippy in Under The Vines. (Amazon Prime)
"She's certainly not lost her moral compass, but she's kind of stuck in her 25-year-old head. She just wants to stay 25, and unfortunately, that's not the reality."
Daisy is looking for a second act, much like Julie Rafter at the end of Amazon Prime Video's 2021 revival Back To The Rafters, where the beloved matriarch finds another calling late in life.
"It's a situation that a lot of women my age do face," Rebecca says, noting that her son, Zachary, will start drama school soon, leaving her an empty nester.
"I know my sister has been through it," she explains.
"[Women] get to a point where they've raised the children, and then the children leave, and then they go, 'Now what? What is my purpose? What do I do if I'm not a wife, I'm not a mother? I'm not whatever. What am I?'"
Rebecca said she has never played anyone like Under the Vines' designer-label-loving Daisy. (Amazon Prime)
Rebecca adds, "I want to keep being someone who hopes to shine a light on that.
"As women, we are incredibly vital after a certain age, in fact, more so. I feel more alive at 57 than I did when I was in my forties."
That renewed spirit last year led her to compete on Celebrity MasterChef, where she admits she's an improved cook as a result ("I made a fantastic spinach flan the other day"), and to say "yes" to vastly different upcoming roles.
"One of them, I get to play two people, very different people," she teases, "and the other one, I get to play a character who's kind of Dexter-ish in a way."
She's even hoping for more Back To The Rafters.
Rebecca competed on Celebrity MasterChef, where she admits she's an improved cook as a result. (Instagram)
"Who would have thought that they would have come back eight years later?" she asks. "So I don't think the curtain's closed on that, for sure."
The future of Rafters, however, is now up in the air, with Amazon Prime deciding not to move ahead with more episodes.
Meanwhile, Rebecca has relished becoming a producer on series such as Wanted and Under The Vines.
"I have ideas, I know a good script, and I know what works and what doesn't," she says.
And although she likes having a bit more creative control, she adds, "I'm not a diva at all. It's not my way or the highway by any stretch of the imagination. I just love being around creative people."
To that end, she's also developing a film with a New Zealand writer that springs from an idea she had that she describes as a mix of Steel Magnolias and Little Miss Sunshine.
It's all part of her campaign of contentment, whether in the form of reality shows, Instagram videos or invigorating projects.
"I want to encourage people, particularly as they get older, to find their purpose for something creative they love to do," she says.
"It might just be arranging flowers, or writing. We all need to tap into that side of ourselves."
As for herself, "I've got more to offer now," Rebecca insists, "because I'm more willing to take risks."

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