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.