TV

Kiwi actor Erik Thomson is done with Packed To The Rafters!

The Packed To The Rafters star reveals why he won’t be playing Dave ever again

He’s beloved on both sides of the Tasman for his roles in Packed To The Rafters and 800 Words, but Erik Thomson could’ve been even more famous as a hobbit or elf.

The Scottish-born, Tauranga-raised actor reveals he was a couple of months into filming long-running Aussie medical drama All Saints when he got a call that might have changed his life.

“I got offered an audition for Lord Of The Rings and turned it down because I’d just signed a two-year contract with All Saints,” he recalls. “In retrospect, I should have done the test and if I’d got it, I probably could have got out of All Saints because Lord Of The Rings would have launched an international film career.”

Of course, sticking with All Saints turned out pretty well for Erik, 55. He smiles, “It set up my career in Australia, but I look back at that moment where I said to my agent, ‘No, I won’t put an audition down,’ and I go, ‘I wonder what would have happened if I had?'”

Growing up in the Bay of Plenty in the ’70s, Erik didn’t harbour dreams of becoming an actor.

“I loved doing school plays and reading things out loud in class,” he says. “But I never thought, ‘I’ll make it a career.'”

Yet after doing a Bachelor of Arts, he decided to go to drama school, then he kept getting roles, including a stint as Hades in Xena: Warrior Princess.

“It just kind of happened – I wasn’t driven to be an actor,” Erik explains.

Moving across the ditch, his first major role was as a gigolo in Pacific Drive, which was Australia’s answer to Melrose Place. “It wasn’t a great TV show,” he admits, but it led to All Saints and then outback drama The Alice, where he co-starred with his future wife Caitlin McDougall.

On holiday with wife Caitlin in New Zealand.

In 2021, Erik reunited with fellow Kiwi star Rebecca Gibney and the rest of the gang for the Packed To The Rafters spin-off Back To The Rafters, which was cancelled just a month after it premiered.

Now he insists he’ll never play TV’s favourite dad Dave Rafter again. “Rafters will never come back. I was really proud of what we did, with the difficulties we had with Jess [Marais, who played daughter Rachel] not doing it at the last minute and COVID in the middle of it. We made a really good show, but it was evident time had moved on. It was hard to recapture the magic. Personally, I won’t be involved in any more. It’s done.”

Packed To The Rafters was a blessing and a curse.

Last year, Erik’s series Aftertaste marked the beginning of a new chapter in his career. The actor produced the show, as well as starring as the lead character, volatile celebrity chef Easton West. “Being my age and at my stage in the industry, it’s a natural progression to want to tell stories and be more part of that side of things,” reflects Erik.

Getting picked up for a second series was “really exciting”, but he adds, “Then we had to go about the process of writing it. After the initial elation, you suddenly go, ‘OK, we’ve to do this again!’ It’s the classic difficult second album.”

As off-the-rails chef Easton West in Aftertaste, alongside Natalie Abbott as his niece Diana.

Despite his success, Erik still isn’t sure how driven he is to be a thespian. “Some actors work it really hard, but I live away from the mainstream. I’m not on the red carpet all the time. I have a fairly low profile and normal life.”

Erik lives in in Port Willunga, near Adelaide, with Caitlin and their children, Eilish, 14, and Magnus, 11. Although work takes him away a lot, he makes up for it when he’s home, even volunteering at the kids’ school. At a recent fair, he cooked 240 wood-fired pizzas. Erik says, “I did that knowing I might not be able to do anything for the rest of the year.”

Erik’s children are both reaching the age where he needs to “let go”. He explains, “As a parent, you’ve got to accept that most of your work is done. I look at my kids and go, ‘They’re both good people, they’ve got hearts, they’ve got consciences and they’re nice.'”

Caitlin, meanwhile, has established a new career as an artist. Erik says she’d like to get back into acting, but “the same women” tend to get the roles for females of a certain age.

“It’s very difficult if you’re not in that inner sanctum of the Miranda Ottos and the Rebecca Gibneys. If you’re not those people, it’s hard because they’re the ones who people will sign off deals on.”

As for Erik, he has a few other ideas for shows “bubbling away” and he’d still love to star in a “massive international blockbuster”, but he doesn’t have any regrets.

“If you say you regret something, then it means you might not be happy where you are. I’m very happy where I am.”

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