Photo: Three / Design: Archi Banal
Photo: Three / Design: Archi Banal

Pop CultureSeptember 23, 2023

‘I could not hand my keys over’: Katrina Hobbs on why she loves House Rules NZ

Photo: Three / Design: Archi Banal
Photo: Three / Design: Archi Banal

The House Rules NZ judge talks Tip Top, The Traitors and why she’ll never watch The Kardashians. 

Katrina Hobbs might be a judge on House Rules NZ, but there’s little chance she’d leave her home in the hands of complete strangers. “I’ve got to confess, when I first read about the show, I went ‘I could not hand my keys over,’” the designer, actor and  presenter laughs, but it seems the show quickly won her over. House Rules NZ is Three’s new renovation show where five teams transform each other’s homes according to a unique set of design rules, and Hobbs says it’s been a career highlight to work on a show with such a generous heart. “It’s focused on creating something for people that really, really deserve it,” she says. 

Of course, House Rules NZ is just the latest in Hobbs’ long and varied television career, both in Aotearoa and across the Tasman. She may be best remembered for her roles on Shortland Street (as police officer Janet Maxwell in 1999, and interfering mother Liz Griffiths in 2022) and her two year stint as Dr Kelly Watson in Home and Away during the mid 90s, but Hobbs also appeared in everything from Hercules to The Brokenwood Mysteries, All Saints to Rake. In 2001, she even ventured into the unknown waters of a new reality show called Celebrity Treasure Island, competing on the first ever celebrity season.

As the design drama on House Rules NZ heats up, Katrina shared some of her favourite TV moments with us, including her love of The Bear, her fondness for a certain classic Tip Top ad, and what it’s really like to work on a fast-turnaround TV soap. 

Katrina Hobbs (Photo: Three)

My earliest TV memory is… My mum’s a producer, director and writer, and I grew up with her on the set of The Governor. I remember all these amazing costumes and thinking “this is the coolest thing ever”, and then realising it could be a career for me. 

The TV show I used to rush home from school to watch was… My mum wouldn’t let us watch TV after school, but my dad did, and the one show I loved was After School with Olly Ohlson. I was allowed to watch that on a Friday, and that was the best. He used to sign “keep cool ‘til After School”, and I remember thinking that it’d be so cool to learn how to sign.

The TV ad I still think about today is… The Tip Top ad with Rachel Hunter. I never went to the Tip Top factory because I was sick on the day of the school trip, so that’s a trauma that stayed with me! 

My earliest TV crush was… Erik Estrada on Chips, every Saturday morning. I just thought he was so cool with that uniform. 

My TV guilty pleasure is… The Traitors NZ. I feel really uncomfortable watching it, because I know some of the players, and I know I couldn’t do it. I love playing characters that are so far removed from me, but I can’t lie to people. I’m one of these people that basically tells you way more than you need to know, so I’d be terrible. I’d have to be a Faithful. 

My favourite TV moment of all time is… The Christmas episode of The Bear. It’s so uncomfortable, but it’s so good. There’s so many levels of wrong, and yet it’s completely believable because that’s a shitshow of a family. 

The thing I wish people knew about making a TV soap is… There’s a massively fast turnaround. People expect to see the same level of performance on Shortland Street as they do on something like The Bear, and they say “well, they’re not very good actors”. But the actors are really talented, they’re just having to pump out the same level of creativity in about a tenth of the time. Creativity needs to breathe and have space to try things out, and on fast turnaround television you just don’t have that luxury. 

My favourite TV character of all time is…  Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley. That character is so flawed, but so fabulous at the same time. I just love characters that are wholly human.

My best memory from the first season of Celebrity Treasure Island in 2001 is… it was so much fun, but we didn’t get given any food. We had nothing at all. I remember swimming with Trent Bray, and we spent so long trying to catch fish. It was utterly idyllic but I remember the theme of Jaws running in the back of my mind constantly, and thinking “he’s a much faster swimmer than me”.

My favourite TV project that I’ve been involved with is… I really love working on House Rules, with a wonderful crew and lovely teams. I also really enjoyed The Brokenwood Mysteries. For me, it’s the people I’m working with that’s important, and Brokenwood would have to be one of my favourites. 

The show I’ll never watch, no matter how many people tell me to, is… The Kardashians. I did try, but I just found it exhausting. It’s tricky when you know a lot of creative people that are busting their arses to make a living and then these people just… aren’t.  

The last thing I watched on television was… This is Us, and I’m very grateful to see that there’s lots of episodes. 

House Rules NZ screens on Three on Sundays at 7.00pm, and Mondays and Tuesdays at 7.30pm. The show also streams first on ThreeNow with episodes uploaded at 12pm each day. 

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