Real-life done lite: Rafters succeeds without need for prestige

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“About two years before I wrote Back to the Rafters, my partner and I found ourselves at that same crossroads,” Lee says. “What happens when two people who are still in love get to a point where their views of the future are in opposite directions?”

Lee and his partner split up but the experience proved the re-entry point for Back to the Rafters. Relatable issues inform the major storylines in the show, including the deterioration of Julie’s father Ted (Michael Caton). In the final season of Packed to the Rafters that aired on Channel Seven in 2013, Ted was diagnosed with dementia and six years down the track, his condition has worsened.

HaiHa Le stars as Cassie in Back to the Rafters.

HaiHa Le stars as Cassie in Back to the Rafters.

“Ted has gone deeper into his health problems; he is on a big dipper ride,” Caton, who earlier this year revealed to Australian Story he was experiencing memory loss, said.

“My mum lived until 103, and I saw that gradual deterioration in the people around her, how you just kind of drift away and that proved to be an education for me.”

Caton, the star of the Australian classic The Castle, says the series never takes itself too seriously and kept its finger on the pulse.

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“You can’t underestimate the power of the audience being able to see themselves,” Caton says.

The proof is in the Kung Pao. “Exactly, who doesn’t like Kung Pao chicken?”

There are a few new additions to the Rafters family. HaiHa Le plays Cassie, the new wife of Ben (Hugh Sheridan). Fans won’t soon forget the tragic death of Ben’s first wife, Mel (Zoe Ventoura), but Cassie helps move the story forward.

With such a pointed focus on family life, the return of Rafters is well-timed. Lockdown has kept loved ones apart this year, and most are counting down the days until they can argue over Kung Pao chicken at their favourite Chinese restaurant.

Rafters provides a dose of what we’ve all been missing, that love and connection,” Le says. “Families aren’t always easy; they can be frustrating and challenging, there are so many dynamics at play, but you still crave that; you crave the good and the bad.”

Back to the Rafters is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video now

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