Cop. Courageous, thrill-seeker, loyal. Daniel’s older sister.
Unlike Daniel, being a cop was never Ruth’s dream – just a good career option. Well, that’s what she says.
Maybe Ruth is more like Daniel than she admits. Maybe she wants to save the world as well.
Ruth is her own worst enemy. She keeps making choices that jeopardise her relationships and her job.
But why is she self-destructive? Does she blame herself for something?
In The Hothouse Hannah plays Daniel’s big sister Ruth, a blunt and pragmatic thrill-seeker who also happens to be a cop. Audiences will remember her as Sam, the daughter in the “Butter Family” television commercials, which started screening back in 1988 and continued for eight years. Hannah has also appeared in the Gibson Group series Duggan and Cover Story, the American tele-feature William Tell, and has a BA in dance and literature from the University of Auckland.
Hannah Gould grew up in public as Sam, the daughter of a broken marriage, in the long-running Anchor Butter commercials. But the “butter girl” is all grown up now and viewers of The Hothouse will experience quite a different side of the actress when they see her as Ruth.
In the first episode of The Hothouse, Ruth returns from a Thailand getaway to find handsome, rakish stranger Levi in her kitchen. It’s only a matter of minutes before they’re acting on sexual impulse. But then Ruth discovers that Levi is sticking around.
“She’s still in holiday mode. She doesn’t intend for it to go any further than it might. And I think it’s uncomfortable that he’s kind of hanging around, because there’s quite a power play between them. Like, who’s facilitating this action? Who’s in charge?”
Hannah and Kip Chapman, who plays Levi, had never met before filming started and their saucy scenes were some of the first to be shot. Hannah suspects this was a deliberate ploy by the show’s producers to keep their relationship fresh and spicy.
Likewise, Hannah and Ryan O’Kane had never previously met, but she says they quickly discovered many similarities that aided their on-screen big sister-little brother relationship as Ruth and Daniel.
“Ryan and I have quite a lot of weird little things in common. Like sense of humour, same eyebrows. We both bite the insides of our gums. We both do Scottish accents out of the blue for no reason.
“In fact, what I’ve found is the relationship I have with Ryan is quite similar to the one I used to have with the father from the Anchor ads. Odd eh?”
The character of Ruth is a welcome challenge for Hannah, who has spent her time out of the limelight since the butter ads gaining a degree in literature and dance from the University of Auckland’s School of Creative & Performing Arts. She is also studying part-time to become a secondary school teacher. The Hothouse will team her up again with Duggan star John Bach, who plays the man who knows the truth about Ruth’s father’s death.
“For a long time I got cast as the young anarchist. You know, the young rebel thing, and I found that really annoying. I was glad to get roles of course, but The Hothouse is really well written and a really good cast. I’m in good hands.
“Ruth’s just a kiwi lass you know? But with extraordinary circumstances. Like, father dying pre-puberty, has to look after a younger brother. Difficult circumstances. Trying always to make things better but wanting to be free and vivacious.”
As Ruth, Hannah’s been able to exercise some of the physicality that she learned as a dancer.
“I’ve got to kick some ass, which is great because it’s the closest thing to dancing, to choreography. It was quite savage though because the exercises that [the fight trainer] was giving us to warm up were quite brutal and I’m used to 15 minutes of easing it out!”
And playing Ruth Fitzgerald has also changed her perception of police officers.
“My mum’s a defence lawyer, so I spent quite a lot of time in the courts when I was growing up. My perception of the police force was cynical and dubious because you see it from the lawyer’s point of view and there’s a long standing feud between lawyers and cops.
“When we sat down with the show’s advisor – who’s an ex-cop – I really had to chuck that out the window and start to understand the work that they were actually doing. The public duty, the necessary authoritarianism.”