Kiwi star revels in the Rafters' dramatic roles

By Nick Grant

Nick Grant catches up with the Rafters' star as season five ends

Kiwi actress Hannah Marshall.
Kiwi actress Hannah Marshall.

Even if you've only an occasional viewer of Aussie drama Packed to the Rafters, you'll still have seen more of Kiwi cast member Hannah Marshall's work than she has. "I don't like to watch myself. It makes me self-conscious the next time I'm on camera," she says. "I mean, I've obviously seen myself on screen, but it gives me a mini heart attack.

"Anyway," she adds pragmatically, "I don't have control over how they're going to shoot it or light it, and you can edit a performance to make it look completely different, so it's just not helpful for me to see it. If I'm in a scene and I feel connected and the director's happy, then I kinda trust it's going well."

Marshall has had every reason to assume the best. She was a hit with viewers when she joined Rafters in its third season as the quirky Retta Schembri and earned a Logie Award nomination for Most Popular New Female Talent. Since then, her character has deepened to the point that in season five, which concludes on TV One tonight, Marshall's storylines have run the gamut from the comedic to the highly dramatic, including an emotionally devastating miscarriage.

"That's the benefit of doing something for a long time," says Marshall. "You get the opportunity to add more layers, because the writers adapt to the things you're offering. I was determined to play Retta with a genuine honesty. She's vivacious but I never thought she was stupid. I have so much fun doing the comedic stuff, but to be able to explore the more dramatic side as well is amazing."

Retta's evolution continues in Rafters' sixth and final season, which finished on Oz TV last week but won't screen here until next year. Marshall promises that Kiwi fans can look forward an ending with "a real sense of closure, and things wrapped up beautifully".

Marshall returned to NZ last month for a family wedding, and is "vaguely looking" for her next gig. She'd love to work here again (her stints on Shortland Street and tween series Amazing Extraordinary Friends remain highlights) but is mainly enjoying her first real break since finishing Rafters at the end of last year.

On the final day of shooting she learned she had been cast in her first feature film, The Infinite Man, a time-travelling comedy-romance that filmed in the Outback around Adelaide early this year. With just two other cast members (Josh McConville and Alex Dimitriades), the plot involves McConville's character inventing a time machine so he can go back and prevent his relationship with Marshall from ending. Needless to say, things go wrong.

"By the end there's like five versions of Josh's character running around, and a couple of mine, and it gets very confusing ," Marshall laughs.

She then performed in The Gift, a short premiering at the Melbourne International Film Festival later this month.

Marshall hopes those films will lead to other work but isn't counting on it. "You can't predict what will resonate with people," she says. "You're always one job away from something that'll have real impact, and then things can change overnight. That's what happened with me and Rafters, so who knows?"

Packed to the Rafters' two-hour season finale screens tonight at 8.30pm on TV One.

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- Herald on Sunday

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