Hollyoaks will see a major new LGBTQ storyline unfold in the coming weeks as doctor Mitchell Deveraux (Imran Adams) begins developing feelings for friend and drag queen Scott Drinkwell (Ross Adams).
Mitchell, who has appeared on screens since February and is currently in a relationship Cleo McQueen (Nadine Rose Mulkerrin), is set to begin exploring his sexuality after finding himself attracted to Scott’s drag alter ego Anita – and eventually to Scott himself.
The scenes will mark the start of an ongoing sexual fluidity storyline as Mitchell and Scott embark on a romantic relationship behind Cleo’s back – a major new plot development that will eventually see Mitchell coming to terms with his sexuality and dealing with the reaction of his conservative family to his new relationship.
Speaking exclusively to Attitude, Imran explains that he’s known about the twist since producers cast him in the role of good-natured Mitchell late last year.
“I feel like a lot of people will feel like it’s for shock value, and won’t understand that this story has been planned from the start,” he says.
“We’ve seen society is getting closer and closer to getting rid of certain labels. Scott’s found himself, and I feel like Mitchell will slowly but surely get inspired by that – but he obviously berates himself for breaking Cleo’s heart.”
Ross, whose character Scott has been embarking on a new career as a drag performer in recent weeks, teases: “Initially Scott’s completely oblivious to the fact that Mitchell has these feelings, and they develop this really nice friendship because Scott doesn’t for a second suspect that Mitchell’s interested in him.
“When they do have their first kiss it kind of comes out of the blue, and then eveything develops from there.”
He goes on: “It’s hard because Scott’s obviously friends with Cleo and he doesn’t want to hurt her.
“But at the same time he can’t help developing feelings for Mitchell. It’s two people who fall in love through unique circumstances.
“Cleo’s a really loved character and I feel the audience will be sad that her relationship with Mitchell is over, but I hope that when they see that Mitchell is finding himself they’ll be rooting for that as well.
“I think Cleo’s reaction to it when she eventually finds out about the two of them, that will play an important role in what the audience will think.”
Mitchell was introduced as the son of long-standing character Martine Deveraux (Kéllé Bryan) earlier this year, and Imran says he hopes the character’s new sexuality storyline can spark wider conversations about acceptance.
“Hopefully a lot of people will graviate towards the story and feel inspired by it”, says Imran. “It’s an LGBT story but it’s a story for everyone.
“I’m Afro-Caribbean myself and I know people to this day in Afro-Caribbean communties have this idea that [homo]sexuality is exclusive to European culture.
“I feel like because of how they introduced Mitchell – he’s a doctor, he’s smart, he’s kind, he’s respectful to his parents – that they can see that being part of the [LGBT] community is not a bad thing.”
He goes on: “[Mitchell] wasn’t allowed to express himself and be who he actually is. I feel like a lot of the time in our community people think that if they ignore it or repress it, it’ll go away. But it won’t go away, it’ll just get buried deeper and deeper.
“I hope this story resonates with people. It’s all about identity and getting rid of labels, and I hope people see the beauty in that.”
Ross adds: “I think Hollyoaks as a show is synonymous in telling these types of stories.
“We’ve got a really diverse cast of characters and I think our audience won’t be too worried about labels. It’s a genuine love story and it develops slowly.”
Hollyoaks executive producer Byran Kirkwood, who was also at the helm during the soap’s now-iconic John Paul McQueen and Craig Dean affair storyline in 2007, says that the storyline’s focus on sexual fluidity shows how far conversations around sexuality have move on since the days of ‘McDean’.
“The reason I think this story is important is because there will always be a section of our audience who are struggling with their identity in any number of ways”, he says.
“Although both Hollyoaks and all the other soaps are very adept at telling coming out stories, there are always new viewers coming up, growing up, starting to watch Hollyoaks who are going through it for the first time.”
He continues: “I think that’s why we have a lot of responsibility as a tea time soap, that is really loved by our young audience, to always be delivering and to find new ways of telling stories that we have told before.
“The conversations we have now about our characters are very different ten or 12 years ago. And we think Mitchell’s fluid sexuality and he is falling in love with Anita and then he falls in love with Scott. Where he ends up five years’ time is anybody’s guess.
“You fall in love with the person and not the sexuality. We love telling that story right now.”
Hollyoaks continues tomorrow (2 August) at 6.30pm on Channel 4, while a first-look follows at 7pm on E4.