Who’s Who in Top of the Lake


With so many addictive crime-drama’s airing at the moment you may be forgiven for over-looking Top of the Lake, my new TV obsession. Here are a few facts to get you started…

What’s it all about?

  1. Top of the Lake is a six-part crime drama, written and directed by the talented Jane Campion, who many will already be familiar with as the director of The Piano. For this project she’s teamed up with the BBC.Thomas M Wright and Elisabeth Moss
  2. The most noticeable element of the show is the spectacular setting. It was filmed in Campion’s homeland of New Zealand, specifically the Western area of Lake Wakatipu, near Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island.
  3. Unlike many other crime shows, the main crime in Top of the Lake is not a murder, but rather a 12-year-old girl, Tui Mitcham, who mysteriously disappears after discovering she is pregnant.
  4. It stars some already familiar faces – the amazing Elizabeth Moss is our main character. She was previously Peggy Olson in Mad Men. Holly Hunter reunites with Campion after they worked together in The Piano. Perhaps the most recognisable cast member is David Wenham who played Faramir in the Lord of the Ring’s trilogy.
  5. Top of the Lake was first aired in one six-hour film at the Sundance film festival.

Character’s and Cast

Robin Griffin

Played by Elisabeth Moss

Detective Robin Griffin returns to her rural homeland of New Zealand to visit her sick mother. She gets embroiled in the Tui Mitcham case. A feisty female lead, Californian Elisabeth says, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never played a character like this. I’m in uncharted territory.”

Johnno Mitcham

Played by Thomas M Wright

Johnno Mitcham (played by Thomas M Wright)
Johnno is a one-time boyfriend of Robin’s and there is still a strong connection between the pair, not to mention a few unsolved issues they have both tried to bury in the past. Now they are thrown back together again, will the pair manage to get along? Thomas says he is “completely obsessed” with Robin and Johnno’s relationship, as am I!

Tui Mitcham (played by Jacqueline Joe)

Tui Mitcham (played by Jacqueline Joe)


Tui Mitcham

The girl at the centre of the plot is Tui, played by an unknown actress, who was discovered for this role by a casting scout at her local New Zealand swimming pool. In the first episode Tui walking fully clothed mysteriously into a lake. We later discover her pregnancy, and she subsequent disappears.

Matt Mitcham 

Played by the excellent Peter Mullan

The scary Matt Mitcham (played by Peter Mullan)

Viewers are quick to learn that it’s a bad idea to get on the wrong side of Matt Mitcham. Tui’s Dad, Matt, is a powerful but scary local who is renowned in the town for being violent and aggressive. When even the police are terrified to cross him, how will Robin fair when trying to investigate his pregnant daughter’s disappearance. Mullan pulls off this role to perfection and some of the more heated scenes make for extremely powerful viewing.



Played by Holly Hunter

GJ (played by Holly Hunter) GJ is the leader of a group of vulnerable older women who have come together in a nearby place called Paradise; this soon becomes a problem when Matt Mitcham realises they are camping on his land – without his permission. Holly Hunter has previously starred in Campion’s The Piano.

DCI Al Parker

Played by David Wenham

Perhaps the most recognisable star to many viewers for his role in Lord of the Rings; Parker is Robin’s mentor, and long-time family friend. Being the head of the Queenstown Police Department mean that he is in a powerful position, and can use this to his advantage in some situations.

Al Parker (played by David Wenham)
Al Parker (played by David Wenham)




Campion says Top of the Lake was born after she read Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy. “I was just really encouraged that he was a feminist. He wrote his books because he’d seen a rape, a gang rape when he was 15 and he was so repelled that he became a life long fighter for women’s rights. I felt that it was encouraging that a book like that was so widely accepted because it’s pretty radical: a strange, lesbian, almost autistic heroine, accepted so powerfully in a basically macho world.”

This may also be where plot elements of Top of the Lake came from. In the third episode we learn that our heroic main character, Robin, has previously been a victim of a gang rape, and this is why she is so drawn to Tui Mitcham’s case.

This seven-part drama has already received rave-reviews, and currently holds a score of 92% on Rottentomatoes. With the right mix of stunning scenery, top-class acting and gritty drama, Top of the Lake is the perfect show to get stuck into. Just don’t let is pass you by…

Top of the Lake is compulsory viewing at it’s finest.



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