Hannah Marshall: Showing her true colours

By Jacqueline Smith

Hannah Marshall's fans have had a mixed reaction to her TV character. Photo / Supplied
Hannah Marshall's fans have had a mixed reaction to her TV character. Photo / Supplied

Kiwi Hannah Marshall is still pinching herself about landing a substantial role on the Aussie hit show Packed to the Rafters.

A role on an internationally renowned show is quite a step from playing Joseph in a primary school rendition of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Kiwi actress Hannah Marshall is still a bit shocked that she has done it.

She is now halfway through a season playing Loretta Schembri, the girlfriend of Nick "Carbo" Karandonis on Australian drama Packed to the Rafters.

The 26-year-old actress, originally from Greenlane in Auckland, only decided she wanted to try acting a few years ago, after a stint as an au pair in Germany for a year.

It was such a formative experience that she came back determined to give acting a go, so enrolled in a few classes.

"I had always done theatresports but no one in my family worked in the arts so I never considered it as a career option."

But soon enough she was cast in a play, followed by the New Zealand children's television series Amazing Extraordinary Friends, and then landed a role on Shortland Street in 2007, which was great until her character became a victim of the resident serial killer.

'It's always a slight regret that now I'm dead I can't go back, but anyway," she says.

Onwards and upwards, Marshall moved to Australia in 2007 to try her luck.

"It was a long time of hanging out and hoping, trusting that something would come up. Somehow everything fell into place."

And after a stint on All Saints, and some theatre roles, she was cast as Carbo's love interest on Packed to the Rafters.

"I was very relaxed and a bit fatalistic and it wasn't until I was cast that it started sinking in. Suddenly I had gone from working in retail to this."

Just being in Australia, where Packed to the Rafters is part of much water-cooler conversation, meant Marshall had inhaled the characters and basic plot of the show unwittingly, but most of her background knowledge came from her parents, who watch it religiously from New Zealand.

"They would have loved to be on it," she laughs.

Her character, Loretta, emerged without saying too much, but quickly staked out her ground as the next stroppy female lead.

Being the new girl has saved Marshall from Aussie Packed to the Rafters fanaticism so far, but she's seen it in action.

"I was at a photoshoot with George [Houvardas] over here and out of nowhere a busload of teenage girls came out and basically mobbed him, asking for autographs and photos. Then I realised people actually got quite funny about this show. It was a whole new experience for me."

Though Loretta's arrival caused ripples when she arrived as Carbo's internet girlfriend, polarising fans, Marshall says she really enjoys her character's quirky traits.

"She's definitely left-of-centre. She's very genuine and loving but has a very strong sense of who she is. But she does also really want to be liked, and to fit in."

Loretta's a colour therapist, studying the effects of colour on moods, based on chakras, while Marshall was working at an aromatherapy centre before she was cast in the role.

"So I can relate to that - yellows are happier, blacks and greys are morose, but this is obviously more complicated."

"I've definitely got aspects of hippie in me, but Loretta does put her foot in it a lot."

She says she is enjoying playing a joyful character, and will keep pushing her acting career until she can't support herself. There's always the arts degree she started at university waiting for her to return to.

"Life is a funny thing, and I think the parents of actors are wonderful because they support unconditionally - but it must be in the back of their minds, that thought of what are you actually going to do?"

LOWDOWN

What: Plays Loretta Schembri on Packed to the Rafters.
When and where: 8.30pm Wednesdays, TV One.

- NZ Herald

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