[from Herald Sun]
September 24, 2008 12:00am
ERIK Tomson has got his hands full, onscreen with a grown-up family who won’t leave home in Packed to the Rafters, and offscreen, with a much smaller package.
On Packed to the Rafters, Dave and Julie Rafter have their hands full when eldest daughter
Rachel, son Nathan and his wife Sammy, and Julie’s father Ted all return to the family home.
In real life, Erik Thomson, who plays Dave Rafter in the hit family series, has his hands full with a much smaller package — one-year-old daughter, Eilish.
She is Thomson and wife Caitlin McDougall’s first child and she is giving the 41-year-old actor a crash course in the joys of fatherhood.
‘‘I’m home alone with my one-year-old baby and she might wake up during the interview,” Thomson says.
‘‘Though she’s 24 years younger than my on-screen daughter, there are a lot of parallels.”
Packed to the Rafters is something of an acting comeback for Thomson, who won the 2003 Most Popular Actor Logie for his role as Dr Mitch Evans in medical drama All Saints.
His stint as faded rock star Jack Jaffers in The Alice (which co-starred McDougall) was short-lived and that was followed by a year as a reporter on travel program Getaway.
Last year’s acclaimed Aussie movie The Black Balloon, in which Thomson played the father of a teenage autistic boy, reminded everyone just how good an actor he is. And the immediate ratings success of Packed to the Rafters indicates viewers have already warmed to the laid-back charm he brings to Dave.
Thomson saw the first two scripts in draft form and was immediately struck by how timely the show’s family concerns were.
‘‘I could see a lot of scope in the character of Dave but I made them promise that he wasn’t going to be written as a dad, but rather a man who has children,” he says.
‘‘Being in my early 40s and a new dad, my life is my life. I continue to have hopes and dreams for myself. I don’t feel like I’ve suddenly become a stereotype because I have a child.
‘‘When you become a dad, a lot of dominos start to fall into place as you understand a whole lot more about a side of yourself that you’ve never really had before.
‘‘In episode two, there is that scene with Jessica Moray (daughter Rachel Rafter) where I tell her that I’ll look out for her until the day I die. That emotion is very much at the forefront for me at the moment because I have a very vulnerable young baby.”
Thomson is still clearly hurt by The Alice experience. He says it wasn’t given the time or support by the Nine Network to prosper.
The contrast with Rafters couldn’t be more different. Under creator Bevan Lee (Always Greener), the series has had significant development time and money.
‘‘Before the cameras even rolled, I knew it was going to be born into a supportive environment. Rebecca (Gibney) and I met and we instantly clicked. She’s a similar age to me and has a young child as well.
‘‘The majority of our cast is exceptionally family-oriented. Once they put us all together it just fell into place and we felt instantly connected.”
Thomson describes Dave as one of the new breed of father — a modern, hands-on dad.
‘‘There’s the stereotypical dad who’s a little bit daggy, has issues expressing himself, Mum runs the house and he just comes home, sits on the couch, drinks beer and doesn’t do anything,” he says.
‘‘That’s a huge stereotype and I think it’s important to break it down.
‘‘Families are at an interesting time because there’s been the transition from the post-war period through the women’s liberation of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. I was born in 1967 so I guess I’ve lived through a lot of that and now I’m in that position myself.”
Thomson says the birth of Eilish has brought he and McDougall renewed happiness after the disappointment of The Alice.
‘‘A really great Saturday morning for me is going to the supermarket with her, which sounds mundane but I find it fantastic,” he says. ‘‘Because I’m more interested in her wellbeing I get on with things a lot more. I’m very now and in the moment.”
As we end the interview, Eilish stirs and Thomson swings into action. There is a hushed pause.
‘‘I think she’s got something in her nappy for me,” he finally says.
‘‘Just as I was talking she’s gone, ‘Yeah Dad, this will bring you back to Earth’.”
Packed to the Rafters, PG
Channel 7, Tuesday, 8.30pm
Empty-nesters no more
Duration: 1 hour