Jack Hannah (Shortland Street)
|Shortland Street character|
|Portrayed by||Reuben Milner|
|First appearance||25 April 2014|
|Introduced by||Simon Bennett|
Jack Theodore Hannah is a fictional character on the New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street. Portrayed by Reuben Milner since 2014 in what was originally a 4-episode stint, the character became a regular character in the following years and had a family unit written around him.
Creation and casting
The character of Jack was created as a guest character for the show, scheduled to appear for 4 episodes. Jack was written as the "First XV rugby player for Ferndale High" in what was to be a short storyline. Reuben Milner was a teenage actor that had previously "turned his nose up" at working on Shortland Street and told himself that, "no matter what happens, if I get offered a part on Shorty, I'll turn it down." Despite this, he auditioned for the role of Kane Jenkins, a character created to depict teenage suicide. Milner lost out on the role but his audition was archived and he was recalled in February 2014 to audition for the role of Jack. He explained his hypocrisy in taking the role as, "I figured out how hard it was to get auditions let alone land parts, so when I was in my final year of high school and they asked me to audition, I was like, 'Yes, Yes, Yes!'" He was cast as Jack and described himself as being, "shell-shocked" onset as he was, " looking around and thinking 'I know these people' and I'd be like 'OK that's them'. I was quite nervous but as soon as I got on set, because I've experienced set life before, I was like 'Oh yeah, this is all right'" Following the end of his stint, Milner's contract was extended over various guest stints before signing a regular contract in November 2014. Milner was pleased with this extension, stating, "When I heard the news, I was like, wow, this is amazing. I loved it. It's another step up for my acting." In 2015 Milner was informed by producers that they intended to make Jack a permanent character and have a family unit introduced around him.
Jack was the captain of the Ferndale High rugby squad and quickly became friends with new student Kane Jenkins (KJ Apa) but disliked his friend Toby Reynolds (Robert Evison). Jack supported Kane through his depression, but it soon became clear it was more than friendship when Jack tried to kiss Kane; the two fell out. Jack began to bully Kane, but ultimately they reconciled. Jack came out as gay to his friends and family. The following year, Jack began to date his homework tutor Edwin (Maxwell Apse) and subsequently struggled with his father Mo (Jarod Rawiri)'s uneasiness with the same-sex relationship. The relationship was short lived; however, the academic help enabled Jack to continue his pursuit of medicine. Jack reconciled with his father following the death of his sister Pixie (Thomasin Mackenzie), who succumbed to cancer. Whilst doing bar work to pay for university, Jack fell in love with chef Cam McCaskill (Ryan Carter) despite his asserted heterosexuality. Storing Cam's drugs, Jack narrowly avoided arrest when his brother Curtis (Jayden Daniels) took the blame for him and got jail time. Feeling guilty, Cam entered into a passionate relationship with Jack that was short lived and resulted in Cam fleeing Ferndale. Jack's classmate Charlie consoled him and the two began dating. However, Jack soon realised that Charlie was addicted to prescription medication (which he had taken to help him study), eventually succumbing to the urge himself. Mo managed to ease Jack off the drugs. Charlie was sent to a rehabilitation clinic. The drug ordeal also put an end to a promising relationship with a policeman that Jack had pursued. Jack again found love in the form of professional sportsman Dion Tai (Sonny Tupu). Despite initial hesitation to come out, Dion was inspired by Jack and the two enjoyed a brief romance before he succumbed to cancer, lying in Jack's arms.
Upon signing one of his contract extensions, Milner was informed by co-star Frankie Adams (Ula Levi) that the character of Jack was being written into a storyline that saw him come out gay. Milner was initially apprehensive toward this and thought it was a "nightmare" but decided it was the "best opportunity" he could get for his acting. He later described this decision as "selfish", as he thought accepting the storyline solely, "because I thought it would be good for my portfolio to show my range" when in reality he, "realised how important my role was. It opened my eyes to how much shit gay men must get." Milner believed that his apprehension on accepting the storyline was because, "I had gay friends, but I just didn't want to portray that as myself. I knew everyone was going to be looking at me and I didn't know if I'd be able to handle it." The character of Jack was purposefully written to defy stereotypes of gay people, something which Milner believed was important, "A lot of teens these days are confused, they think that if you're gay you can't do other things like play sports, or be in the First XV team because they think they'll be dissed but that's part of the point ... when you're gay you don't have to seclude yourself. You can do whatever you want." Hannah consulted his friend as to how best portray Jack's homosexuality and was inspired by the advice, "'Gay people aren't different. All you have to do is be you. That's it.'"
The character of Jack and his coming-out storyline was said to inspire other homosexual men in similar situations, with Milner being told that, "one of his mates took alot of inspiration from Jack. His story gave him alot of courage to open up about his sexuality after hiding it for so long."
- McGee, Lisa (27 September 2014). "Role in Shorty put US plans on hold". The Northern Advocate. APN News & Media.
- Nealon, Sarah (27 May 2015). "Shortland Street star says playing gay character is 'opportunity'". New Zealand TV Guide. Fairfax Media.
- "Shorty Exclusive - Reuben's Red Hot Romance". Woman's Day. 14 September 2017.
- Knight, Kim (29 September 2014). "Shortland St addresses youth suicide". stuff.co.nz. Fairfax Media]].
- "Shorty's latest Cleo Bachelor finalist". tvnz.co.nz. Television New Zealand. 5 May 2015. Archived from the original on 5 May 2015.