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Rebecca Gibney

Actor, Producer

Levin-born Rebecca Gibney began modelling part-time while working as a receptionist at a Wellington jeweller. Modelling led to television advertisements, then — after worries she had saturated the commercials market — to bit parts in TV shows Pioneer Women and Inside Straight.

Gibney’s first big acting part proved challenging, partly because her director spoke little English. German-Kiwi co-production Among the Cinders, based on the Maurice Shadbolt novel, saw her playing romantic interest to the troubled main character. Gibney later described the experience as "absolutely terrible". The film largely bypassed cinemas. By the time it screened on New Zealand television in 1987 — four years after it was shot — Gibney had begun a new life in Australia.

Before leaving town Gibney spent two months in Picton, as the new addition to the team of teen adventurers on TV series Sea Urchins. By 1985 she had traded busting Marlborough Sounds' wildlife smugglers for playing a Melbourne vet in kidult series The Zoo Family. She was a social worker in big-screen drama I Live With Me Dad, one of many Kiwis in miniseries The Great Bookie Robbery, and in 1986 got an ongoing role as Cooper’s Creek’s only female mechanic on hit series The Flying Doctors.

But it was in the 90s that Gibney would win fame, and an increasingly busy run of acting roles. In 1990 she starred in big-screen thriller Jigsaw, playing a business woman who becomes prime suspect in the death of her husband. The film was soon forgotten, but Gibney’s career was about to take off, thanks to miniseries Come in Spinner.

Based on the classic World War II-era novel, Spinner involves a week in the lives of three women (including fellow Kiwi actor Lisa Harrow) who work at a Sydney beauty salon. Gibney took away Logie and Australian Film Institute Awards for her acting, and the series scored twice for Outstanding Miniseries or TV movie.

The following year Gibney won further attention when she joined rocker Jon English for the first of three seasons of TV comedy All Together Now. Although her role in 50s ensemble drama Snowy would be shortlived, Australia's Channel 9 were sufficiently impressed by her work to ask Snowy creator Roger Simpson if he had anything else for her. Simpson mentioned a "cop without a gun" tale about a forensic pathologist. By 2002 the planned six Halifax f.p. tele-movies had extended to 21 (after an 18 year break, eight-parter Halifax: Retribution debuted in 2020).

Over the next eight years, Gibney built up an impressive set of award nominations playing Jane Halifax. In 1994 she was nominated for another AFI award, after playing Anthony LaPaglia’s bitchy fiancee in big screen comedy Lucky Break (aka Paperback Romance).

In 2008 she returned to New Zealand to act in —  and help produce — Harold Brodie's low budget feature The Map Reader. Gibney co-starred as the alcoholic mother of an introverted teenager, who is obsessed with maps. The film won a number of awards at indie festivals worldwide, and was nominated at home for best feature made for under $1 million. Gibney's other Kiwi projects include Sensing Murder (as narrator) and the Wella Fashion Show (as host).

Gibney took a step back from ongoing acting roles after the birth of her child, then joined fellow Kiwi export Erik Thomson on hit family drama Packed to the Rafters, playing matriarch Julie Packer: "the sort of person everyone wants to be their mother or sister or next-door neighbour". She either won or was nominated for most popular actress in the Logie Awards public vote, over each of Rafters' six seasons; she also won the more prestigious Gold Logie for Most Popular Personality on Australian television. Sequel show Back to the Rafters is due in 2021.

Gibney's long run of television movies includes many starring roles: award-nominated tele-movie Small Claims; the title role in the based on a true story Wicked Love: The Maria Korp Story; and a by-the-books cop opposite Temuera Morrison in Ihaka: Blunt Instrument.

Keen to open up more roles where women over 30 could actually "play their age", Gibney also moved into developing and producing. She helped produce tele-movie Finding Hope, describing it as a "good old-fashioned family drama". In 2015 her tele-movie The Killing Field spawned six-part TV series Winter, with Gibney starring (and producing) once again as Detective Sergeant Eve Winter.

Gibney and her partner Richard Bell created and produced Wanted, which debuted to strong ratings in 2016. Gibney and Australian Geraldine Hakewill played two women on the run, after getting caught up in murder. Remarking on how rare it was for a show to be built around "two complex female leads", Guardian writer Sinead Stubbins called the result "one of Australia's most inventive and progressive dramas in years". Nominated for an International Emmy, the show ran for three seasons; parts of the second season were shot and set in New Zealand.

Outside of her own productions, Gibney gained 13 kilograms for PJ Hogan (Muriel's Wedding) movie Mental (2012). The film included a memorable scene of her housewife character recreating the opening of The Sound of Music in her backyard. Gibney shed the extra kilos in time for her return to Packed to the Rafters. Gibney was nominated for three awards for Mental, and was named Best Supporting Actress by the Film Critics Circle of Australia.

In 2014 she returned to New Zealand for an episode of SBS series Who Do You Think You Are? Investigating her own family history, she discovered that her great great grandfather was part of the military invasion of Parihaka. In 2019 she played crime boss The Upholster in Kiwi crime caper Lowdown Dirty Criminals. The role proved a nice change from always playing "the mum or the therapist". 

Profile updated on 30 November 2020 

Sources include
Roger Simpson
Stacey Gregg, "Gibney calls fashion bluff' (Interview) - The Sunday Star-Times, 21 February 1999, page F7
Bethany Reitsma, 'Rebecca Gibney finally gets to play the villain in Lowdown Dirty Criminals' (Interview) - The NZ Herald, 19 August 2020 
Sinead Stubbins, 'Why Rebecca Gibney's Wanted is one of Australia's most progressive dramas' The Guardian website. Loaded 13 March 2016. Accessed 9 July 2016
Joanna Tovia, 'Shining Star' (Interview - broken link). Mindfood  website, April 2011. Accessed 11 April 2012
Unknown writer 'Rebecca Gibney apologises for ancestor's Parihaka role' - The NZ Herald, 9 July 2014
'Rebecca Gibney' IMDB website. Accessed 30 November 2020
'Rebecca Gibney' (Interview) New Zealand Woman's Weekly. Date unknown
Sea Urchins 3 Press kit