Hol­lyoaks has cel­e­brated the LGBT com­mu­nity more than any other Bri­tish TV show. From same­sex mar­riages to the dif­fi­cult re­al­ity of male rape, and even a HIV di­ag­no­sis of a lead­ing gay char­ac­ter, there isn’t much ground it hasn’t cov­ered. It’s even about to host its first ever Pride event. It’s pushed bound­aries, tack­led un­spo­ken is­sues, and made us all fall in love with some rather beau­ti­ful boys along the way. So with cake and our favourite lead­ing gay char­ac­ters at the ready, we cel­e­brate two decades of Bri­tain’s most colour­ful soap.

He was the orig­i­nal bad boy of Hol­lyoaks who be­came al­most as big a role model as the show it­self. Since he joined our screens as a skater boy, he’s been wrapped up in teenage preng­nan­cies, theft, abuse, same­sex mar­riage and now HIV – Kieron Richard­son’s time as Ste Hay has even made head­line news. Why? Be­cause his char­ac­ter has shown the coun­try there’s more to a per­son than just their sex­u­al­ity…

It’s 20 years of Hol­lyoaks but TEN years of Ste Hay. You joined the cast way back at the end of 2005, right? My first of­fi­cial film­ing day was the 2 De­cem­ber 2005. I can even re­mem­ber my first line and every­thing! Go on... “They’re not fish, they’re mam­mals. Dol­phins live in the sea and they swim and that, but they’re not fish.” [Laughs] Is the jour­ney Ste’s been on with the show some­thing you’d have en­vi­sioned? When I was first on screen, Ste was a bit of a skater boy and used to wear baggy trousers with chains, and walk about with a skate­board. It was all to do with Amy Barnes and her los­ing her vir­gin­ity in school, and her fam­ily then not lik­ing me. But with the lines, they were all a bit geeky – a bit like the fish line – and I use to think that there’s no way this char­ac­ter was gonna last. I use to say all my lines un­der my breath and a bit sin­is­ter – beg­ging they’d pick it up and see I can do bad boy re­ally well. Next thing, I was in a track­suit and full on Scouse and, well, cut to ten years later. He’s been in­volved with un­der­age sex, drug deal­ing, baby kid­nap­ping… Oh, and he’s gay, too. Do you think him be­ing gay has ever come first in his char­ac­ter­is­tics? He’s had such a col­or­ful ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore they turned the char­ac­ter gay. We had the do­mes­tic abuse sto­ry­line and the teenage re­la­tion­ship. And then his par­ents and his ter­ri­ble up­bring­ing. Oh yeah, and he got in­volved with War­ren, pre­tended that his daugh­ter has leukemia so he could get money to buy a flat screen TV. [Ex­hales heav­ily] Lots of messed up things! [Laughs] Why do you think Hol­lyoaks made the de­ci­sion to ex­plore Ste’s sex­u­al­ity? I’ve al­ways said – in jest – that the rea­son they de­cided to turn the char­ac­ter gay was be­cause I was on Danc­ing on Ice, and the pro­ducer at the time said maybe I was a lit­tle more flam­boy­ant than Ste was meant to be. From there, he com­mented, “Ooo, he can do gay re­ally well.” In jest, I’ve al­ways blamed that for the rea­son. Blame the se­quins then? [Laughs] I re­mem­ber the day it was first dis­cussed, I got called in for a meet­ing. They sat me down and asked if I would be com­fort­able with him be­ing gay and if I thought it was the right push for the char­ac­ter. I said “ab­so­lutely” straight away. Was this be­fore or af­ter your com­ing out on This Morn­ing? This was ac­tu­ally be­fore. The rea­son why I did This Morn­ing was be­cause I’d been asked be­fore in in­ter­views sev­eral times and I’d never felt com­fort­able shar­ing it with a news­pa­per. Straight peo­ple don’t do that, so it felt like an open door and a new chap­ter. I kept think­ing that no one had ever come out be­fore like that, so I’d do it. Has be­ing in Hol­lyoaks changed your per­sonal life? Ab­so­lutely! I was re­ally open when we first started the HIV sto­ry­line about be­ing a bit ig­no­rant to it. Not hav­ing the sex ed­u­ca­tion at school and me as­so­ci­at­ing it with the 1980s, plus peo­ple say­ing it was a bad idea to do this sto­ry­line. Yet hav­ing the re­search has helped change my life. This year, I’ve had two HIV tests alone. I’d never have done that if not for this sto­ry­line in Hol­lyoaks. Do you feel re­spon­si­ble in teach­ing the younger gen­er­a­tion about equal­ity and ac­cep­tance? The best thing about Hol­lyoaks is, and I know peo­ple joke about this be­ing the “gayest show on tele­vi­sion”, but there’s so many dif­fer­ent gay char­ac­ters and they’re all so dif­fer­ent. We’ve got the bright and colour­ful ones like Scott and the dark and moody ones with Bren­dan. Be­cause there’s so many dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties and peo­ple in the world, I’m sure the kids watch­ing the show can see a lit­tle bit of them­selves in a cer­tain char­ac­ter. And Ste’s been through quite a few men, too... YES! [Laughs] The first guy was Bren­dan, then I’m sure he kissed Bren­dan’s nephew, then Noah and back to Bren­dan. Fol­low­ing him was Doug and then John Paul. There’s also been Con­nor and Harry, and he kissed Steven. Oh, and he also nearly kissed his dad. I thi­i­i­i­i­ink that’s about it for the boys.


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