Halifax fp: articles

Halifax a cut above

THE first thing you hear on any set on which Rebecca Gibney is filming is her laugh. It's one of the greatest laughs in showbusiness.

These days Gibney's got plenty to laugh about. The career continues to tick along oh so nicely, her marriage to set designer Richard Bell draws closer and forensic psychiatrist Jane Halifax is about to return to television in a further three telemovies.

Jane has been very good for Rebecca Gibney, but then again the talented blonde actor has been very good for the cool forensic psychiatrist.

For seven years they have walked a shared path through an unprecedented 21 movies.

While much of the success of Halifax is because of the basic essentials—quality scripts, excellent production values and first-class production company in Beyond Simpson Le Mesurier, it's been the talents of the New Zealand-born Gibney that have ensured Jane Halifax has become Australian television's most enduring crime heroine.

"Rebecca has really made the role of Jane Halifax her own," says Roger Le Mesurier, one half of the impressive Halifax Simpson Le Mesurier production stable. "She has an uncanny ability to let the audience see her vulnerabilities, but in a way which actually strengthens the tension.

"There are very few actors around who can build a character over time like Rebecca."

Brisbane-based Tony Cavanaugh, who produced two of Gibney's most recent successes, The Day of the Roses and Finding Hope, says she is without doubt Australia's most bankable female television star.

"She always delivers and the camera just loves her and she's only going to get better," he says.

But despite the constant words of praise and impressive television, movie and stage credits spanning 15 years, Gibney remains unable to cast aside a measure of self-doubt.

"You never dare to believe it's going to keep going," she says.

"I recall talking to you about approaching my use-by date when we were discussing the first Halifax seven years ago.

"I was 28 then and Jane's become like a pair of comfortable slippers for me. I've been very lucky."

Gibney talks a lot about being lucky, but luck has had little to do with taking her to the top of her profession. It may have played a part in presenting the opportunity, but it's what you make of that opportunity that defines your status. Gibney has made the most of the opportunities presented to her.

Halifax is now one of the longest-running female-led movie series of all time. Nine has so much faith in Halifax it is keen to turn it into a one-hour series next year.

"We're talking about it and I'm not against it," concedes Gibney.

"We'd have to look at Jane not being in almost every scene and bringing in a few other regular characters.

"But like all programs it gets down to being able to maintain the quality of writing, performance and production.

"Doing just three telemovies a year we've been able to do that. If I was sure that would continue, I'd certainly be a part of a Halifax series."

On Friday, Nine screens the 19th in the Halifax f.p. series. A chilling thriller, The Scorpion's Kiss, it centres on Jane Halifax's evidence that a man accused of stalking is little more than a pest.

As a result, the judge brings down a non-custodial sentence. But when the "stalked" woman is shot dead, Jane questions her beliefs. Meanwhile the woman's husband (William McInnes) is determined to punish Jane.

The familiar Gibney laugh fills the room when she is asked if she sees a time when she will lose interest in playing Jane Halifax.

"Never," she says. "Jane and I will grow old together, like Angela Lansbury in Murder She Wrote—Rebecca Lansbury, that'll be me."

Halifax f.p.: The Scorpion's Kiss, Channel 9, Friday, 8.30pm.

The Halifax file

SCORPION'S KISS is the first in the sixth series of the Beyond Simpson Le Mesurier's Halifax f.p. telemovies and is the 19th in the series.

• Rebecca Gibney has just finished filming the 21st Halifax telemovie.

• Now sold into more than 100 countries, including the US, Canada, Germany and Britain, Halifax is undoubtedly Australia's most successful telemovie series.

• The first Halifax, titled Acts of Betrayal, premiered in October, 1994.

• Below is the list of Halifax telemovies:

1. Acts of Betrayal

2. Words Without Music

3. The Feeding

4. My Lovely Girl

5. Hard Cops

6. Lies of the Mind

7. Without Consent

8. Cradle and All

9. Sweet Dreams

10. Deja Vu

11. Isn't It Romantic

12. Afraid of the Dark

13. Someone You Know

14. Swimming With Sharks

15. A Murder of Crows

16. A Person of Interest

17. Poison

18. A Hate Worse Than Death

19. Scorpion's Kiss


20. Playing God

21. Takes Two

• Halifax f.p., starring Rebecca Gibney as forensic psychiatrist Jane Halifax, is now one of the longest-running female-led telemovie series of all time.

• Jane Halifax has appeared in far more shows than her nearest modern counterpart, Helen Mirren's Jane Tennyson in Prime Suspect.

• Jane Halifax now rivals Agatha Christie's Miss Marple as the most successful fictional female film sleuth.

• Halifax has also attracted some of Australia's finest acting names for guest roles, including Guy Pearce, Colin Friels, Jacqueline McKenzie, Hugh Jackman, Steve Bisley, Hugo Weaving, William McInnes, Frances O'Connor and Garry McDonald.

By Robert Fidgeon
October 17, 2001
The Herald Sun