Packed To The Rafters: articles

Jessica Marais and James Stewart from the Channel 7 drama series Packed To The Rafters.

Dad-to-be James quits Rafters to mind the baby

PACKED To The Rafters is to be dealt another devastating blow with the news James Stewart is also ready to leave the series.

Hot on the heels of Hugh Sheridan's defection to rival network Channel 10 comes the revelation Stewart is moving to the US to be a stay-at-home dad to his first child with former Rafters co-star Jessica Marais.

A Seven spokeswoman insisted Rafters was still "performing superbly" and would survive the exits of its young stars for as long as Rebecca Gibney and Erik Thomson remain with the show.

She confirmed it would return in 2013, with new stars being announced in coming weeks.

"It's all about the baby for James and we back his decision with all our love and support," she said.

"The production is about to wind up for two to three months.

"We don't know whether he'll be back at this stage. That's still being worked out. This show is like any family. The kids will come and go.

"When young people are at a certain stage of their careers, you have to be flexible. Rafters is performing superbly -- especially when you consider it's up against a phenomenon (The Voice)," she said. "It's like Ayers Rock. It's strong and it's got heart."

But this year, Rafters storylines have fallen flat and the audience has halved against Nine's ratings powerhouse The Voice.

Attempts to regenerate the cast with newcomers Ryan Corr, Hannah Marshall, Zoe Cramond and Camille Keenan have not filled the void left by the hugely popular stars Marais, Zoe Ventoura and Jessica McNamee. Last week, Seven went into damage control when it was announced Sheridan was to host Ten's new reality series I Will Survive.

Both Sheridan and Seven initially assured Rafters fans that he would continue to "appear" in the series next year despite inking the deal with Ten.

In reality, the three-time silver Logie-winner's "appearance" will be limited to as little as two episodes, under the conditions of his new contract with Ten.

Outgoing star Sheridan now admits the series has gone stale.

"I wasn't jaded but I was feeling that I had stopped doing my best work," Sheridan said of his decision to bow out.

"That was the last thing I wanted anyone to have to pay for me to do something average.

"I guess that is a sign. I knew then that it was time to spread my wings."

Stewart plans to put his own acting career on hold so that fiancee Marais can return to work on her US drama series Magic City.

The couple's baby is due any day.

"The show will go into a sixth season, but I've done a few years, so I might be ready to hang up my boots," Stewart told TV Week magazine.

"I just can't wait to be a dad and that's my priority right now. We're moving to America not long after the baby is born - probably three or four weeks.

"It's a pretty massive deal, but we have to do it.

"It's Jess's turn to work and I'm going to do the primary care thing and keep the house going."

May 07, 2012
The Daily Telegraph