The first episode was watched by more than 1.9 million people. And the second episode did even better, with more than two million people tuning in.
“Those sorts of ratings were just unheard of for dramas,” Erik says.
Rafters was the family show Australia laughed and cried with. At the time, there really wasn’t another series like it on television. There were cop shows and medical shows, but nothing approached Rafters for family-based drama.
“Whole families would sit down to watch it every Tuesday, and you realised the power the show had,” Rebecca, 53, says.
As she says, Dave and Julie became the “mother and father of Australia”.
“I think everyone could relate to them,” she says.
“They’d say, ‘They’re just like my parents,’ or, ‘They’re just like us.’”
What made the series, which lasted six seasons, such a success? “Sometimes you can’t explain why something works,” Rebecca says. “It’s as if someone has sprinkled magic fairy dust. And that’s what happened for us.”
The series centred on Dave and Julie, and their extended family, daughter Rachel (Jessica Marais), sons Ben (Hugh Sheridan) and Nathan (Angus McLaren), and his wife Sammy (Jessica McNamee) and Julie’s father, Ted Taylor (Michael Caton). It was filmed in Sydney, with exterior scenes of the Rafters’ house shot at a home in Concord.
That house still stands – and looks much the same as it did when the final episode of the series aired on July 2, 2013.
Coming back to the Rafters’ house for the first time in more than six years, both Rebecca and Erik can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia for the series.
“It really feels like yesterday since we were here,” Rebecca says. “But the tree’s bigger!” Erik chimes in. “They’ve obviously put a fence up to stop the fans having photos on the steps.”
As they chat and reminisce, it’s easy to see why Rebecca and Erik, currently starring in 800 Words, made such a believable couple on screen.
“We get along, so there was never any clash of egos,” Rebecca explains. “We were friends with total respect for each other’s work ethic and what we both brought to the series.”
It’s just as well they both enjoyed each other’s company.
The show’s demanding shooting schedule meant they’d often have whole days shooting bedroom scenes.
“We’d literally spend all day in bed – lying down on the job,” Erik says. “I had very young children at the time so there was a temptation to have a little sleep.”
What really set Rafters apart from other shows was its ability to tackle confronting issues. Everything from infidelity and marriage breakdowns to dementia, death and, of course, mature-age motherhood was covered.
The series took a brave step in showing Julie and Dave as parents to baby Ruby. One of Rebecca’s favourite scenes saw Julie thinking she was hitting menopause, but she was actually pregnant.
“She was crying because she thought she was getting old, and Dave was reassuring her that she’d always be beautiful,” she says. As for the birth scene, Rebecca says it was “the most fun I’d ever had”.
“I’d done it before in real life, so I knew exactly what it was like,” she says.
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea, on sale now.