james sut t on

GT (UK) - - COVER - @the­james­sut­ton.

There’s very lit­tle that hasn’t al­ready been said about John Paul McQueen. Ev­ery bit a soap icon, we’ve spent count­less hours sob­bing into our pil­lows at his re­peated heartache, and even a few more when he walked down the aisle with Ste. But for ac­tor James Sut­ton, his Ch­ester ad­ven­ture has been a jour­ney that even he couldn’t ever have imag­ined... James! Twenty years of Hol­lyoaks. EX­CITED? When we do re­ally big things and re­ally ex­cit­ing things, that’s when you kind of go, “Oh, yeah, my job’s re­ally cool! I’m in­volved in some­thing that’s re­ally im­por­tant and re­ally fun,” and it kind of brings it home to you. And to be in the 20th an­niver­sary episode is huge. It’s quite a priv­i­lege. And in your time on the show, you’ve lead some of the big­gest gay sto­ry­lines in his­tory... They weren’t just big for gay au­di­ences, but big in gen­eral for soap sto­ry­lines. John Paul and Craig Dean, es­pe­cially. I think the pac­ing was re­ally good with that one, be­cause it lasted for a good cou­ple of years and it was a slow burner. It was a real kind of jour­ney and I think it was im­por­tant – and it did make a dif­fer­ence. Sto­ry­lines that do that al­ways kinda stand the test of time. The do­mes­tic abuse one we’ve done fairly re­cently and the HIV one – I think th­ese will stand up against any other soap. John Paul and Craig, though. We all re­mem­ber that. It’s a part of soap his­tory, isn’t it? AB­SO­LUTELY! John Paul’s got around a bit thought, hasn’t he? OH YEAH! He loves the cock, John Paul! And he doesn’t care who knows it. [Laughs] Did you have any idea when you be­gan at Hol­lyoaks how im­por­tant a gay char­ac­ter John Paul would be? I think at the time, the team knew, but I don’t think I did. Mainly be­cause when you’re ac­tu­ally in it and in day-to-day film­ing, you’re in a bit of a bub­ble. It was only when I left and had the chance to sit down and re­ally think about it that I was like, “That was ground­break­ing stuff.” Peo­ple still tweet me links to YouTube mon­tages they’ve made of John Paul and Craig – and I do oc­ca­sion­ally click them and it’s incredible now look­ing back. We put our heart and soul into that, Guy [Craig Dean] and I. I still get tweets and I still get let­ters about it. It’s the thing I’m most proud of in my ca­reer. And when you re­turned, you were in­volved with a male rape sto­ry­line, the first same-sex mar­riage in a church and Ste get­ting HIV... Chan­nel 4 al­lowed us to re­ally push the bound­aries when John Paul was raped. We re­ally went there with it and, for 6:30 in the evening, they have to take a bow re­ally, be­cause it’s re­ally im­por­tant stuff for us to show. It changed the face of the coun­try we know. The Min­istry of Jus­tice also gave money to male vic­tims of rape be­cause of it. We can do brightly coloured, loud, some­times fun sto­ry­lines, but we can also do in­cred­i­bly hard-hit­ting, im­por­tant stuff – and I think it’s that bal­ance that makes the show what it is. Hol­lyoaks has never been shy of push­ing the gay sto­ry­lines on screen either... For the last ten years, since John Paul and Craig, we’ve never hid­den away from openly show­ing men kiss­ing and hav­ing re­la­tion­ships and love. A lot of our fans who’ve fol­lowed us for a long time don’t bat an eyelid now. Have you ever re­ceived a back­lash about be­ing a straight ac­tor play­ing a gay char­ac­ter? Not so much any­more, but I did in my first stint on the show. Ac­tu­ally from cer­tain mem­bers of the gay com­mu­nity – some fairly prom­i­nent peo­ple on other shows said cer­tain stuff in in­ter­views. I re­mem­ber one ac­tor from an­other show ques­tion­ing why I should be play­ing a gay char­ac­ter, which I found ab­surd com­ing from a gay man him­self. You’re talk­ing about break­ing down bound­aries and prej­u­dices, but you’re say­ing, “You should do that be­cause you’re straight. You should do that be­cause you’re gay.” All you’re do­ing is adding fuel to the fire. Has Hol­loy­aks ‘nor­malised’ sex­u­al­ity on TV then? No, but it’s be­cause for so long it was seen as ab­nor­mal! I think ‘nor­mal’ is the right word. You go back to Queer as Folk, at the time that was seen as re­ally shock­ing as a pro­gramme. I was prob­a­bly bor­der­line too young to prob­a­bly watch it but that was re­ally shock­ing. And I think if that was on TV now, I don’t think that would be deemed that shock­ing. We now have peo­ple that aren’t de­fined by their sex­u­al­ity and just go about their day.

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