Jessica Marais steps away from Packed To The Rafters reboot 'for personal reasons'

It's official: Packed To The Rafters will be back in 2020. Photo: Channel 7.

Jessica Marais has stepped away from the Packed to the Rafters reboot, just months after it was announced the iconic Channel 7 series was coming back to our screens.

In a statement released by RGM Management, it was revealed that Jessica, who appeared on the show from 2008 until 2013, would not continue filming the Back to the Rafters reboot, effective immediately.

“Jessica Marais has decided to step away from the new series Back to the Rafters for personal reasons,” the statement started.

“She thanks everyone involved on the show for their ongoing support and love, especially her ‘Rafter’s family’, and sends them her very best wishes for the production.”

The news comes just 10 days after Jessica’s on-screen mum, Rebecca Gibney, posted a selfie of the pair to her Instagram page, alongside the caption: “Reunited”.

The Back to the Rafters spin-off was announced in December as the first homegrown offering from streaming giant Amazon Prime but, according to a press release, will still be produced by Seven Studios.

The plot will pick up six years after the original Rafters show left off when it wrapped in 2016 and will see many of the core cast return.

Logie winner Jessica Marais was expected to reprise her role as Rachel Rafter with Rebecca Gibney back as matriarch Julie alongside Erik Thomson as her husband Dave.

The original Packed To The Rafters cast. Photo: Channel 7.

Rafters cast returns

Hugh Sheridan and Angus McLaren are on board as Ben and Nathan Rafter respectively with George Houvardas back as neighbour Nick Karandonis, while grandpa Ted Taylor will once again be brought to life by industry legend Michael Caton.

Back to the Rafters picks up six years since we last saw the Rafter family. Dave and Julie have created a new life in the country with youngest daughter Ruby, while the older Rafter children face new challenges and Grandpa Ted struggles to find his place,” the synopsis states.

“As Dave enjoys his newfound freedom, Julie must reconcile her responsibilities to the family. They might not be under the same roof, but the same honesty, love and laughter bonds them more tightly now than ever before”.

Jess Marais and James Stewart were on and off-screen lovers on Packed To The Rafters. Photo: Channel 7.
Ryan Corr played tradie Coby Jennings on Packed To The Rafters. Photo: Channel 7.

James Stewart unconfirmed for Rafters spin-off

Noticeably absent from the lineup was James Stewart as Jake Barton and Ryan Corr as Coby Jennings.

When approached for comment, an Amazon Prime rep declined to comment on whether the pair will appear in the re-boot.

As well as playing on-screen love interests, James and Jess took their romance off-set and became engaged in 2009 but split six years later.

James married his Home and Away co-star Sarah Roberts earlier this year in two separate wedding ceremonies and the pair continue to co-parent their seven-year-old daughter, Scout Edie Stewart.

Brooke Satchwell, who joined the cast as Frankie in season five, was also not mentioned nor was Zoe Ventura who played Ben Rafter’s late wife Mel or Jessica McNamee (Sammy Rafter, Nathan’s wife).

The Packed To The Rafters re-boot was top priority for Amazon Prime Australia. Photo: Channel 7.

Re-boot rumours confirmed

Rumours of a re-boot have been swirling for a while, with both Erik Thomson and Rebecca Gibney teasing the possibility in the past.

“I think we're all quite keen to do a reunion show,” Erik told TV WEEK in 2018 but noted that at that point the cast hadn't officially been approached.

“We've finished this chapter, but that doesn't mean to say Rafters won't come back in some other form,” Rebecca added.

Back to the Rafters was “at the top of the list” of projects Amazon was keen to take on according to James Farrell, Vice President of International Originals at Amazon Studios.

Back to the Rafters will launch on Prime Video in Australia and around the world with production set to begin in Sydney next year.

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