Prior to The Bill, he had a long career working mainly with the BBC, appearing twice in their Play for Tomorrow strand, a sci-fi offshoot of the Play for Today series. He also guest starred in the 1982 Doctor Who story Kinda, and a character called Yissel (or Yizzle?) in Carla Lane's Bread in 1986.
He later played the role of another police officer, Detective Sergeant Vernon Cooper, in Operation Julie, a three-hour dramatisation (shown in three parts) of the real-life drugs investigation. Coincidentally, Robert Gwilym also appeared as Detective Constable Dan Richard: he would return opposite Rouse for a recurring role in The Bill in 2004.
He first appeared on The Bill in 1990 as Jack Meadows, then in AMIP (Area Major Incident Pool, a precursor to the Murder Investigation Team) and holding the rank of Detective Superintendent. He appeared twice in 1990 and then twice again in 1991. Meadows was subsequently demoted from Superintendent to Chief Inspector after it was discovered that one of his officers was corrupt, and he was returned to divisional CID, joining Sun Hill in 1992 to replace D.C.I. Kim Reid.