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Hollyoaks to tackle ‘conversion therapy’ in new long-running storyline

"Hollyoaks is well-known for never shying away from a subject that is agenda-setting"

By Alastair James

James Sutton as John Paul McQueen and David Ames as Carter Shepherd (Image: Lime Pictures)

A new storyline on Channel 4’s flagship continuing drama, Hollyoaks, will see ‘conversion therapy’ being explored.

The “long-running” storyline will involve John Paul McQueen (James Sutton), Ste Hay (Kieron Richardson) Lucas Hay (Oscar Curtis), and newcomer Dillon Ray (Nathaniel Dass).

David Ames has also joined the soap to take part in the storyline, according to Lime Pictures. Ames will be playing Hollyoaks High headteacher, Carter Shepherd.

‘Conversion therapy’ is a debunked and outdated practice that seeks to change a person’s sexuality and/or gender identity.

The issue was explored in the BAFTA-nominated documentary Hollyoaks IRL.

“There is so much shame and fear involved”

So far in the soap, Carter has already begun to offer “self-growth sessions.” But Lime Pictures, the show’s producers, has said “a more sinister agenda” will appear this autumn.

Carter will begin to exert influence over Lucas Hay, the son of Ste Hay. Lucas will be beginning to explore his sexuality after falling for Dillon.

Ste was formerly married to John Paul with the two sharing the first same-sex church wedding in a soap.

Ames, who is gay, said he was “incredibly proud” to help tell the “incredibly moving and difficult story.”

He continued: “There is so much shame and fear involved. ‘Conversion therapy’ is abhorrent so it’s an incredible challenge to take a side I don’t fall on and to illustrate the dangers of how all too easily these archaic stances can destroy lives.”

Channel 4 commissioning executive, Ben Wadey, added that it is “vital” Hollyoaks tackle the difficult subject given the impact ‘conversion therapy’ can have on young, vulnerable people.

Hollyoaks is well-known for never shying away from a subject that is agenda-setting and can help educate and inform and has a history of successfully telling difficult and important stories,” Wadley added.

“I could never have foreseen the impact that sharing my story would have”

The show has also worked with the award-winning journalist Josh Parry, who went undercover to try ‘conversion therapy’.

The BBC reporter went undercover at a church in Liverpool and has advised on the storyline sharing his experiences.

He said: “I think Hollyoaks is the perfect platform to bring the reality of these practices to life so that the public can better understand them and the impact they can have.”

Parry also said the team behind the show had put work in to make it “accurate and realistic.”

Justin Beck, whose experiences were featured in the Hollyoaks IRL documentary, has also helped the show.

“I could never have foreseen the impact that sharing my story would have,” he has said.

“Representation matters – and with something as insidious, manipulative, and dangerous as ‘conversion therapy’ – it is important that stories, like mine, shine a light and raise awareness on what is happening to vulnerable LGBT people right now.”

Hollyoaks is streaming online via Channel4, on E4, and YouTube.