There’s a quiet peacefulness in Rebecca Gibney’s life.
Despite choosing a busy and illustrious career as an actress, it’s something she’s been longing for since her early 20s – although she didn’t know it at the time.
Perhaps it’s learnings, acceptance or simply circumstance, but Australia’s “golden girl” has come to realise what life is all about… and it starts within.
Speaking to TV WEEK from her home in Dunedin, New Zealand, the 55-year-old is overlooking her 30-acre property where she lives with her husband, Richard Bell, son Zachary and their dogs.
While Rebecca, who was born in Levin [on the North Island of NZ] before moving to Australia, says she “hadn’t intended to move” back across the ditch, particularly when most of her work is abroad, it seems to fit her like an old character she used to play.
“We live on a small acreage outside of town and live a hermit-life existence. When I’m working, I’m incredibly busy, so it’s nice to come home to this space,” she says.
“When New Zealand went into full lockdown in March [as a precaution due to the COVID-19 pandemic], my family and I had about 8 weeks at home together. I quite enjoyed it; I was forced to go back to basics. I started baking, we played boardgames and spent quality time together.”
Although she’s pleased with the relocation, we wonder if the idea of remote living would’ve been as appealing to her as a young rising star?
“No, probably not!” she answers with a big laugh.
“And it’s funny because it was actually my son Zach who fell in love with the place and asked us to move. We had been filming season two of Wanted at the time, and we’ve really dragged him around due to my type of work so it made sense to give him a base as a teenager. But I’ve always tried to live a quieter life. It’s the life I’ve always loved.”
It hasn’t always been an easy path to this idealist lifestyle, though. Rebecca has had plenty of learning to do, which meant facing her demons in the midst of a public trajectory.
Throughout her career, which has seen Rebecca win four TV WEEK Logie Awards including the coveted Gold, the media often touted her as “The Next Big Thing” or as previously mentioned, “Australia’s golden girl” of TV.
Yet, her inner doubts contradicted her success.
Rebecca, who spoke openly to TV WEEK in 2018 about her past struggles with anxiety and depression, said the more successful she became, the less she felt worthy.
“That’s the thing about mental health: often we can’t explain it. You don’t know why you’re depressed or how things got so bad, which is why so many people spiral out of control – and I was heading that way,” she said of her turbulent 20s.
Now, two years on from that reflective interview, Rebecca has further insight and understanding about those dark days. In fact, she believes her growth is forever evolving.
“At the time, I kept thinking, ‘I’ll have a use-by date. I’ll stop working around 40. It won’t last’. But as I’ve gotten older, I realised how much I have to offer. And now in my 50s, I love that we’re embracing the older woman.
“We’re finally being portrayed on screen as something other than a wife or a mother. I have more experience and I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin now.”
Her first Logie win came about in 1991 for her role in Come In Spinner.
However, it was 2009 when Rebecca had her shining moment.
Packed To The Rafters, which aired from 2008-2013, was a huge success and for her role as Julie Rafter, the TV star took home the Gold Logie for Most Popular Personality on TV. Rebecca describes the moment as “something I never thought would happen”.
“It was incredibly special, but you’re only as good as the people you work with,” she says humbly.
“The reason I won the Gold was because of everyone involved in Packed To The Rafters. I knew we had something special the moment we had our first script read and I adore everyone who was involved.”
The Aussie drama which involved the likes of Erik Thomson, Hugh Sheridan and Jessica Marias lasted six seasons before the Rafter family flew the nest.
However, in the recent era of reboots, there was always hope that it would return.
Then in 2019, Amazon Prime Video announced the rebooted series, Back To The Rafters.
Rebecca was in the throes of filming the show before the global pandemic caused the production to halt.
“Hopefully we can get back soon and have it wrapped by the end of the year,” she says.
“I’m excited to see everyone. We’re a very close bunch; a lot has changed and yet, nothing. I adore every single one of them and having this experience together is amazing.”
Sadly, the joyous announcement was further dampened when Jessica Marais pulled out due to health reasons.
Rebecca and Jess, who also won the silver Logie for Best New Talent in 2009, have always shared a very close bond, on and off screen.
“I absolutely love Jess. She’s got her struggles, but she’ll surprise us all,” Rebecca says of her former co-star.
“She’s doing really well and I’m in constant contact with her. She is truly one of those unique talents.”
While her support for her colleagues has never wavered, neither has her fight for female diversity on TV.
As well as her strong performances, Rebecca is pushing boundaries as a writer, creator and producer on multiple productions including Wanted and the upcoming reboot of Halifax F.P.
While her characters may be experiencing a swell of resurgence, Rebecca is too.
Nothing is slowing her down.
“I’m loving the fact that I’m still working in an industry that is being more dominated by females and I’m playing strong women in my fifties,” she says.
“I want to keep pushing the boundaries for women and I’m very happy to do that.”
As for her own mental health, the doubts of self-worth have been replaced by content.
Rebecca has goals, of course, but she isn’t plagued by them.
The peacefulness she strived for had to come from within – and when she found it, perhaps, she also found a sense of fulfilment in who she is and the future she hopes for.
“I always try to live in the moment, because really, that’s all we have. We don’t have next week or next month – and it’s great to have goals – but I want to revel in the present moment,” she says.
“I’ve had to learn that there’s only one Rebecca Gibney so I’m trying to celebrate my uniqueness and not to be anybody else. During my 20s, I struggled to fit in because I wasn’t happy with myself.
“But today, I am finally comfortable with who I am; I’m getting older, I’m celebrating that – flaws and all – and the sooner we can accept ourselves, the sooner we accept and love others.”
WATCH: See Rebecca Gibney at the 2019 Logies: