Tag Archives: Rebecca Gibney

Back with a vengeance

After a 20-year absence, Rebecca Gibney is reprising her role as forensic psychiatrist Jane Halifax in Australian crime drama Halifax: Retribution. The star and series creator Roger Simpson tell DQ how the show has evolved to meet modern TV viewing habits.

If it had been up to Australian broadcaster Network Nine, forensic psychiatrist Jane Halifax might never have disappeared from television. The lead character in Halifax FP, she was portrayed by Rebecca Gibney in 21 telemovies between 1994 and 2002.

But it was at that point that the show’s creator, Roger Simpson, decided to pull the plug on the franchise. He went on to produce series such as police drama Stingers and Satisfaction, which starred Jacqui Weaver and Liam Hemsworth.

However, almost two decades after Halifax FP last aired, the series has now been resurrected, with Gibney returning to the titular role in Halifax: Retribution. Like the TV industry itself in the intervening years, the series has evolved, with the reboot telling one serialised story across eight episodes rather than returning to the original telemovie format.

Roger Simpson

“It’s kind of the stupid thing you only do when you’re young,” Simpson says of turning down Nine’s offer to produce more episodes of the original series. “I wouldn’t do it now, but it was the arrogance of youth and we thought, ‘Let’s try something new.’ We went on and made other things. But now we have a second chance to do it again, so it all worked out.

“But streaming has completely changed the nature of television. There’s no slot for a telemovie, so we really had to reconfigure it in terms of the format that’s now current, which is the six-, eight- or 10-part serial.”

Jane is the only survivor from the original series, although as Simpson points out, she was the only regular character in each of the telemovies anyway. “Each episode was completely different and each setting was completely different apart from Jane,” he says. “She didn’t even have the same assistants in the office. We used different directors, different writers, different composers and designers – and by doing that, we attracted the best of Australian actors and practitioners, so it was really quite a successful format we came up with, more by accident than anything else.”

Set once again in Melbourne, Halifax: Retribution finds a sniper terrorising the city, with Jane approached by Inspector Tom Saracen (Anthony LaPaglia) to leave her university teaching position and help find the killer, 20 years after she last worked with the police. In a long-term relationship with Ben (Craig Hall) and a stepmother to Zoe (Mavournee Hazel), Jane is initially thrilled at the prospect of returning to the field. But when someone close to her is murdered, she must confront the possibility that the killing is related to the shooter and also linked to secrets from her past.

When DQ speaks to Gibney and Simpson, they are approaching the halfway point of filming the series. Four directors are each overseeing two episodes of the Beyond Lonehand Production show, which is distributed by Beyond Distribution. Six writers, including showrunner Simpson, were involved in penning the scripts, based on an initial storyline Simpson conceived. Though he would usually prefer to write a series by himself, the length of Halifax: Retribution demanded a “high-concept crime,” while the speed of production meant Simpson needed to open a writers room to accelerate the writing process.

Rebecca Gibney returns as Jane Halifax in Halifax: Retribution

The expanded storyline also means viewers will learn more about Jane’s private life, with the original telemovies rarely touching on her non-work relationships. Part of Jane’s backstory is the revelation that she left police work after succumbing to the pressures of the job, going into teaching instead. Halifax: Retribution reintroduces her as a professor of forensic psychiatry at Melbourne University, quite happily ensconced in her new role until a new case draws her back into a life she realises she misses.

“In the old days, we could have no continuing story at all because the network reserved the right to show [the films] in whatever order the programmers decided,” Simpson says. “They wanted total flexibility. That precluded us from any serial elements or going into her private life.

“Twenty years ago, when she was in her early 30s, she was someone who couldn’t keep a relationship. That had to be the nature of the telemovie. She would have a different relationship, if she had one, for each film. Now that she’s 20 years older, we could give her a family, a history and a backstory. It was really interesting to explore who Jane Halifax is today.”

Halifax FP originated off the back of Australian period drama Snowy, on which Simpson was a writer and Gibney part of the ensemble cast. When it ended after a single 13-episode season, Simpson designed a new vehicle for the actor, writing the pilot of Halifax FP with her in mind.

“The usual thing is to write the pilot and then cast it. But this time we actually cast it first and wrote it for her,” he recalls. “We haven’t done that too often over the years. So that was unique. It’s been a long friendship so it’s been great to come back and work together again after all that time.

“She’s just utterly convincing in the role. It’s like she’s a born sleuth and, in Australian terms, she’s one of our leading actors down here, so the combination is pretty good.”

For New Zealander Gibney, returning to the role of Jane Halifax was like putting on an old pair of slippers, or in this case, one of Jane’s trademark designer jackets. When asked by Nine if there was a show she would like to bring back, she immediately said Halifax. And when the network said they would be interested in a reboot, she called Simpson.

“It was just one of those things that took on a life of its own really,” she explains. “I love the fact that when we first came up with Jane Halifax, I was about 28 or 29, and even back then with the research that I was doing, I thought, ‘I don’t know if that’s a true depiction of a real forensic psychiatrist.’ The reality is they’re older than that, so now I’m actually a woman in my early 50s, I feel like I can bring a lot more to the character.”

The series also stars Anthony LaPaglia

Gibney describes Jane as “ahead of her time,” being the first female forensic psychiatrist on screen in a world dominated by men. “She was alone, she was flawed. She had a lot of emotional issues. We hadn’t really seen a lot of that,” says the actor, citing Prime Suspect star Helen Mirren as her hero. “We’ve now got [other series like] The Fall, The Killing, The Bridge and Marcella, so there are a lot of strong female characters out there. But back then, Jane was one of a few.”

Revisiting Jane, what Gibney has enjoyed most is learning that the character has a family. But just as she is enjoying domestic life, she is drawn back into criminal profiling. It’s not just the sniper who is in her sights, however, but also La Paglia’s Tom, with whom she clashes from the outset.

“He doesn’t hold a lot of play with forensic psychiatry but he’s at a loss at how to find this person, so he needs her,” Gibney says. “Over the course of the series, we uncover their relationship and find out he has his own demons and his own secrets and they form an unlikely friendship. I’ve known Anthony for 25 years – we first played fiancés in [1994 romantic comedy] Lucky Break and then husband and wife in the [2012] PJ Hogan film Mental. Now we’ve come back together again. Our chemistry is great; we’re good friends and we carry that on screen with us.”

Gibney’s role in Halifax: Retribution isn’t limited to the lead character, however, as she is also an executive producer, following similar dual roles on series such as miniseries Winter and Wanted, which she created with husband Richard Bell. As such, she has been across the dailies and looking at the rushes and various episode edits, as well as having input into the story.

Gibney in Halifax FP

“I’m probably bossy,” she jokes. “Roger’s getting used to the robust discussions we have. We don’t always agree on how things should be, and that’s been interesting. Twenty years ago, I was quite content to play Jane Halifax, but now, because I’ve been producing my own shows, I’m probably a little more vocal and he’s getting used to it! He’s also a dear friend. It’s a great collaboration. It’s been great to be back.”

Watching early cuts of the series has allowed Gibney to be objective about her own performance and take a view of the overall production. She admits that, more often than not, “I just think [I’m] crap,” but says she has learned to watch herself unemotionally.

“Particularly now I’m in my 50s and looking at my face ageing on screen, I’m kind of OK with it,” she says. “Weirdly enough, I would have struggled with it a lot more in my 30s than I do now. I’m a lot more accepting about who I am as a performer and as a producer in general. I don’t really care as much about the physicality of how I come across, which allows me the freedom to probably be a better actor because I’m OK with who I am. I don’t want to stop the clock, I just want to slow it down! I have no interest trying to look like I’m in my 30s or 40s. I want to portray a woman of my age.

“Sometimes as a producer I have to let performances go through that I don’t like because the other actor or the shot works better. Sometimes it’s frustrating but, generally, I’m OK with that. While I’m very passionate about what I do, it’s not who I am. We are making entertainment. As a mother of a 15-year-old, that’s way more important to me.”

Providing Halifax: Retribution is a hit, Gibney is hopeful the character could return for a new story next year. Similarly, having let the original show slip away, Simpson is not about to make the same mistake twice, revealing that he’s “learned to love Jane Halifax all over again.”

He adds: “The mature Jane Halifax is probably a more interesting character than the one in her early 30s who was just starting out in this world of crime. Now she’s wiser and smarter. It’s been really enjoyable to come back to her.”

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Women who walk the global stage

Gillian Anderson in The Fall
Gillian Anderson in The Fall

Ever since she first portrayed Agent Dana Scully in The X-Files, Gillian Anderson has been one of the world’s best-loved and most accomplished TV actresses.

Equally at home in costume dramas (Great Expectations, War & Peace) and contemporary thrillers (Hannibal), Anderson always turns in good performances and attracts strong ratings. Right now, she is winning yet more acclaim for her performance as DSI Stella Gibson in BBC drama The Fall. Next year, she will feature in Starz’ adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods.

One of the most notable characteristics of Anderson’s career is her appeal to audiences around the world. So this week, to celebrate Anderson’s latest outing, we look at a group of TV actresses who have broken through internationally – or are about to do so.

Maslany-orphan-black-orphan-blackTatiana Maslany is a Canadian actress who has came to prominence with clone drama Orphan Black, which will end in 2017 after five seasons. This year, she took home an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. One of the most exciting things about Maslany’s work in Orphan Black is that she has had to play multiple characters with distinctive personalities and traits – thus proving her versatility. Her next two projects are movies, one of which, Stronger, is about the Boston Marathon bombing. She has also expressed a desire to do more theatre. But when she returns to TV it will inevitably be something special.

perroni-la-gataMaite Perroni is a telenovela star with more than three million Twitter followers. She shot to stardom a decade ago when she featured in Rebelde, the Mexican remake of Argentine telenovela Rebelde Way. By 2009, she had been named the new queen of telenovelas by Univision and continues to perform at the top of her game. Perroni has now starred in seven telenovelas, including acclaimed series La Gata. More recently she has starred in Televisa’s hit series Antes Muerta Que Lichita (I’d Rather Be Dead than Plain), for which she won a high-profile Best Lead Actress Award.

sofiegrabolSofie Grabol’s breakthrough in Denmark came courtesy of series like Taxa and Nikolai and Julie. But her status as one of the world’s top TV actresses was confirmed when she played Detective Sarah Lund in The Killing (Forbrydelsen). Over the course of three seasons (2007-2012), she was a major factor in the success of Nordic noir around the world. Illness took her off TV in 2013 but she made a welcome return in 2014 as Hildur Odegard in English-language drama Fortitude. She will be back for season two of Fortitude, which is due to air on Sky Atlantic soon.

miriam-leone-non-uccidere-replicaMiriam Leone was crowned Miss Italia in 2008. But since then, the Sicilian actress has gone on to become one of Italy’s best-known TV actresses. Key credits include Distretto Di Polizia, The Veiled Lady, 1992 and Non Uccidere, in which she plays female detective Valeria Ferro. Leone also appears in one episode of the forthcoming drama epic Medici: Masters of Florence, a production that will introduce her to the wider world of TV.

Happy-ValleySarah Lancashire must surely qualify for the “national treasure” status that has previously been bestowed on British actresses such as Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. Her electrifying performance in the BBC crime drama Happy Valley is the crowning achievement in a career that stretches back to the 1980s. Her first big role was as Raquel Wolstenhulme in Coronation Street – a part that displayed her comic genius. Subsequently, she has appeared in dozens of shows including Clocking Off, Rose & Maloney, The Paradise and Last Tango in Halifax. Although Happy Valley wasn’t set up to be an international series, its success in distribution proves Lancashire has a fanbase that extends well beyond the UK.

hellin-the-bridgeSofia Helin’s performance as Saga Noren in The Bridge is one of the most admired pieces of TV acting of recent years. The Swedish-Danish coproduction, which has been aired around the world, currently runs to three seasons and Helin will be back for a fourth (and probably final) outing. Prior to The Bridge, Helin’s main credits were series such as Arn: The Knight Templar and Svaleskar. Even if The Bridge is over, the good news is that Helin will be seen again in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s new drama The Same Sky, which is set in Berlin in the 1970s. She will also be seen in The Snowman, a British movie adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s classic Harry Hole novel.

Scandal-pic-season-2-pic-7WashingtonKerry Washington carved out a superb movie career (Ray, The Last King of Scotland, Django Unchained) before coming to prominence as a TV actress in the ABC drama Scandal. As political fixer Olivia Pope, she has been nominated for two Primetime Emmys and a Golden Globe. Washington’s versatility as an actress was further demonstrated when she played Anita Hill in HBO’s 2016 TV movie Confirmation. Again, she received an Emmy nomination. In April 2016, her production company Simpson Street signed an overall deal with ABC Studios, though there is no news yet on projects. “Kerry Washington is not only a great actress but a smart, creative producer, and we’re thrilled to have her production company Simpson Street as part of ABC Studios,” said Patrick Moran, executive VP of ABC Studios. “We’re looking forward to making great TV with Kerry in front of and behind the camera.”

rebeccagibneyRebecca Gibney is a New Zealand-born actress who has carved out a successful career on Australian TV over the last three decades. Key credits include The Flying Doctors, Halifax f.p., Packed to the Rafters and, most recently, Wanted. In Wanted, Gibney and co-star Geraldine Hakewill play two strangers from very different backgrounds who are caught up in a deadly carjacking. They’re then forced to rely on each other as they go on the run. The six-part series rated pretty well in February/March 2016 and has been picked up for a second season (also six parts).

The-Tunnel-Intro-02-16x9-1Clemence Poesy is still known to many as a cute French girl from the Harry Potter movies. But she proved her prowess as a serious actress when she starred in The Tunnel, the Anglo-French remake of The Bridge. Trying to compete with Sofia Helin’s performance was a tough ask, but Poesy pulls it off beautifully as Elise Wasserman. She reprised the role of Elise this year in a second series of The Tunnel. Next up are two movies, Final Portrait and Demain Tout Commence. There’s no news yet of future TV plans. Previous TV credits include Birdsong, an adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ novel where she played opposite Eddie Redmayne.

ku_damm_56-michelsen-centreClaudia Michelsen is a well-known German actress who recently impressed in Ku’damm 56, a TV miniseries produced by UFA for ZDF. After attracting an audience in excess of six million, the 1950s set series has been recommissioned (Ku’damm 59). Michelsen (pictured centre) has been consistently busy since the late 1980s on both TV movies and series. For much of the last decade she featured in the popular crime drama series Tatort. More recent credits include Flemming, Block B Under Arrest and Crossing Lines. She also appears in the first episodes of new Epix drama Berlin Station.

pauleypPauley Perrette plays eccentric forensic scientist Abby Sciuto on CBS hit series NCIS, making appearances in its various franchises. Prior to NCIS, she played roles in shows like Dawson’s Creek and 24. Interestingly, Perrette is one of the most popular actresses in the US when measured by Q Scores (a measurement of the familiarity and appeal of brands and celebrities that is taken very seriously by the advertising and media community). Perrette is pretty modest about her popularity and has shown no desire to quit NCIS (in fact, she has signed on for seasons 14 and 15). But when she does decide to move on, she’ll be in heavy demand.

korelBerguzar Korel has been one of Turkey’s leading actresses for much of the last decade. Her big break came in 2006 with Valley of the Wolves: Iraq. After this she had major roles in 1001 Nights (Binbir Gece) and Endless Song (Bitmeyen Sarki). A guest appearance in Magnificent Century was then followed by another triumph with ATV’s hit series Karadayi. The latter series, which aired from 2012 to 2015, saw Korel pick up a number of best actress awards.

Choi-Ji-WooChoi Ji-woo is known around the world for acclaimed Korean dramas such as Beautiful Days (2001) and Winter Sonata (2002). But she is still very much in business, starring in recent series such as Twenty Again (2015) and Woman With a Suitcase (2016). In the latter, which started airing in September, she plays a woman who goes from being a disgraced manager at a law office to a great attorney. Like all the greats, Choi Ji-woo is very versatile, equally comfortable taking on serious, romantic or comedic roles.

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