Small Claims: articles

Rebecca Gibney

Feel like a natural woman

FOR female viewers, there’s something deeply satisfying about seeing usually glam actresses portraying “real women” on screen.

Call it a sense of sisterhood or perhaps, if we’re being honest, it’s just smug satisfaction in knowing they can occasionally look as dishevelled as us mere mortals.

First we watched in delight as a fulsome Patricia Arquette padded around in T-shirts and baggy pyjama pants during Medium, now Rebecca Gibney is going all “soccer mum” on us.

On Sunday Gibney will star alongside Claudia Karvan in White Wedding, the second in a series of three Small Claims  telemovies about a pair of harried suburban mums who turn super sleuths to solve a local murder.

According to Gibney, the role of Chrissy Hindmarsh ­ a busy mother of three who drives a second-hand Volvo ­ comes as a welcome change.

“It’s kind of nice to play a woman who gets around in a chambray shirt and doesn’t care what her hair looks like.”

Well, it’s nice to a point. But surely watching yourself play “suburban” in close-up isn’t all that pleasant?

“Oh God. Absolutely,” laughs Gibney before letting loose with a more honest appraisal.

“There’s a scene in The Reunion (the third of the telemovies), with Lisa Chapell, where we go to the gym because Chrissy, my character, decides she needs to lose weight. There’s one shot of Lisa running on a jogging machine in skin-tight black designer jogging gear with her hair pulled back and a full face of make-up looking fantastic.”

“Then you pan across to me in this oversized men’s T-shirt with baggy tracky daks and runners. My hair is dripping with sweat and I have no make-up on and I look every bit of my 40 years.

“The only thing I could take comfort from was that there’s going to be so many women around Australia who will say ‘Hallelujah, thank God you’re portraying a normal woman’.”

But for Gibney ­ as any woman ­ there’s normal, then there’s “TV normal”. And when the time came to film the second of the Small Claims  movies she admits: “I was like ­ ‘I’d love a little bit of a back light and a little bit of a filter if and whenever possible’.”

And although the actress rates her 40th birthday party last December as “the best night of my life next to giving birth and marrying my husband”, she feels the industry pressure to banish wrinkles.

“I’m battling that To Botox or Not to Botox; do you or don’t you,” she says candidly.

“Georgie Parker and I had a chat at the Logies where she said ‘Don’t do anything’, and I said ‘Well if you don’t and Kerry Armstrong doesn’t’.

“There are a few of us out there hanging on to the belief that maybe we can age gracefully.

“And as Richard (Bell, Gibney’s husband) said, he said, ‘Honey if you just hang in there a bit longer you’re going to be the only actress on television who actually looks her age so maybe you’ll get all the work and you’ll be the only one that can actually move your forehead’.”

Not that Gibney has any qualms about surgery when she feels the need. She admits to trying a little Botox in the forehead but found it strange.

“I think it’s good for women to know you can get it done or not get it done. Either way it’s OK, but let’s not bullshit, let’s be honest about it. So many of my colleagues out there that are all of a sudden showing up with these shiny fresh faces and they’re saying that they’ve just had nice holidays.”

At 40, Gibney says she is more content than she has ever been, moving to Tasmania’s Tamar Valley two years ago and giving birth to her first child, Zachary, in Launceston Hospital about four months later.

“Both my husband and I are New Zealanders,” Gibney says. “And there’s something about the mentality of people who have grown up on an island. We felt right at home in Tassie straight away. People actually wave to each other.”

Since wrapping filming on Small Claims  in Sydney in February, Gibney has been playing mum in the Apple Isle ­ shopping, cooking and cleaning while her husband pursues his love of painting.

But despite revelling in her bliss, Gibney says she hopes Small Claims  will evolve into a series. “I’m ready to go back on telly full time. I’ve had a big break.”

Small Claims ­ White Wedding, Ten, Sunday, 8.30pm

By Catriona Mathewson
August 11, 2005
The Courier Mail