Hannah Marshall is popping up all over our television screens and her parents are breathing sighs of relief.
"It's great all the shows I've been filming are finally starting to screen so that my family can watch them," says the Auckland actress. "See, mum and dad - I have been working, really!"
Despite being young, pretty and blonde, Marshall has so far avoided being typecast in her many TV roles. Shortland Street fans will remember her as Beth Allen, one of serial killer Joey's victims, who in Marshall's words "basically cried all the time".
In her latest shows, she plays everyone from a feisty 17-year-old reporter to a heavily pregnantwoman. In the well-regarded TV2 kids' show Amazing Extraordinary Friends Marshall is the feisty reporter Vicki Van Horton who is also the love interest to main character, Captain X. In TV One's Burying Brian she appears this Wednesday as Kimberley, the "sweet-but- stupid" secret girlfriend of the eponymous (and married) Brian. And she will be appearing soon as "slightly evil" receptionist Kirsty in comedy Diplomatic Immunity.
While the roles might share a slightly cartoonish humour, they still allow Marshall to demonstrate her range in both dramatic and comedic situations. That has meant having to hold her own against much more experienced actors: Jodie Dorday and Rebecca Hobbs in Burying Brian, Ian Mune and Stuart Devenie in Amazing Extraordinary Friends, and Craig Parker and David Fane in Diplomatic Immunity.
While all three shows have their charms, Marshall admits the biggest buzz for an actor so new in her career has been the opportunity to work back-to-back on television shows.
It has been a pretty quick trip from drama school obscurity to primetime TV for the 24-year-old, who enjoyed acting and theatresports at Baradene College but didn't really get serious about acting until she was 18. "I went to Germany for a year to work and study and it gave me plenty of time to think about what I wanted to do," she says. "I decided that life was too short not to do something that you loved and that I really had to give acting a go."
Back in New Zealand, she enrolled in a double degree at the University of Auckland studying arts and commerce, as her parents wanted her to have a qualification to fall back on. Then in 2004/5 she took acting classes led by Theatre Stampede's Ben Crowder and soon after she secured an agent and was cast in theatre show Milo's Wake, which played in Auckland and toured New Zealand.
Her studies have taken a back seat to her acting career but Marshall says with just four papers to go she is determined to complete her BA in English and Politics even if she is "the most mature mature student ever". For now, acting is definitely her passion and only career option. "I love acting because I'm not naturally an extroverted person and this allows me to experience humanity and get into the characters of other people."
Future goals include breaking into feature films and living and working overseas, preferably New York. "I'm such a Sex and the City fan I just know that I will love New York."
Still young at 24, Marshall feels the clock is ticking in terms of making her mark in films especially given Hollywood's adoration of youth. "I want to make my mark before I'm 28 and start being cast as someone's mum!"
- Amazing Extraordinary Friends plays on TV2, Saturdays at 4pm; Burying Brian is on TV One, Wednesdays at 8.30pm; Diplomatic Immunity is scheduled for screening on TV One later this year.