TV & Movies

Hollyoaks writer reveals why far-right story award means more than just a trophy

Hollyoaks was awarded with yet another honour, as it won the coveted Best Soap award at the Broadcast Awards — which is judged by industry professionals — earlier this week, with an episode centering around Ste Hay’s (Kieron Richardson) radicalisation at the hands of extremists Stuart Sumner (Chris Simmons) and Jonny Baxter (Ray Quinn).

While Hollyoaks has received critical acclaim for several of its narratives last year, the far-right extremism storyline was undoubtedly one of its greatest to date — and arguably its most ground-breaking.

Over the course of a year, soap mainstay Ste was radicalised by Jonny and Stuart — two people he believed were his mates, but he was unable to see how they were grooming him.

Follwing the victory, soap boss Bryan Kirkwood enthused: ‘We are delighted to be recognised as Broadcast’s best soap, particularly in a year which saw Hollyoaks be the first continuing drama to tell a story about far right radicalisation.

‘This long-running story was a team effort that required the collaboration of every department in Hollyoaks. It was meticulously researched, sensitively portrayed by the actors and delivered with outstanding production values.

‘I’d like to thank the writers Jayshree Patel and Kevin Rundle for writing the extraordinary episodes that led to this award’

Jayshree — who wrote several of the soap’s episodes during this period — said: ‘It was an absolute honour to be part of the team that brought this story to homes across the country. It’s so warming to know that Hollyoaks and Channel Four had the bravery to tackle such a difficult storyline.’

‘As writers it was important for Kevin Rundle and I to present the story from Ste’s reality. The choices he made and why he made them. It would have been easy to focus on a new character and present them as a racist, but to actually vilify one of the most popular characters in Hollyoaks was an absolute risk for Kieron, Bryan and the show as a whole.’

‘But telling the story of how a loveable working class lad is drawn in by the Far Right allowed us to explore wider issues such as grooming and the power of social media. Ste represents one of the lost boys of society. As a group so often ignored and are then vulnerable to the trappings of the Far Right. The story also allowed us to show the impact of racism on families.’

‘While this is a topic that has been explored on TV, we wanted to show how within the same family people have different reactions to the same event. We didn’t just present The Maaliks as victims of racism, but as humans dealing with provocation in different ways. We feared Imran’s frustration would spill over into violence and instead he became the family rock.’

‘Yazz, the happy go-lucky chatterbox losing her confidence as well as her hearing. Sami often angry, but then ultimately being the one who helps Ste to see the light. And throughout Misbah’s dignity shining like a beacon, giving us all hope.’

‘It’s so important to be able to show the sheer complexity of people’s reaction to racism and understand that ethnic minorities are not one homogenous group who think the same and are the same.’

‘Hollyoaks fans mean the world to us and to see them moving from loving Ste to hating him to, in the end having empathy with him was a journey we wanted them to take. They were desperate for Ste to escape and relieved when he did. This was a tale about the power of hatred, but it was also a story of hope and forgiveness – ultimately it was about the power of love to overcoming hate. I can’t think of anything better to write about.’

Hollyoaks continues Thursday 6 February at 7pm on E4.

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