Hollyoaks’ tarnished golden couple Luke Morgan and Mandy Richardson are in the thick of the action this week. With Luke’s drink problem spiraling out of control and Mandy in danger of having her daughter taken into care, the lovebirds who once upon a time had it all are seriously on the skids.
For Gary Lucy, returning to the role that made him a household name 15 years after his last appearance, his character’s descent into a drink-fuelled oblivion provides a chance of revisiting one of Hollyoaks’ most groundbreaking storylines in its history. The soap tackled the taboo topic of male rape back in 2000 when Luke was sexually assaulted by evil Mark Gibbs and his gang of thugs – all these years later, Luke is still haunted by his ordeal.
“What Luke went through is not the kind of thing that ever leaves you,” begins the actor talking exclusively to RadioTimes.com recently. “It’s a long term thing, if you don’t deal with it properly what implications are there? The basis of Luke’s alcoholism is that he’s not dealt with what happened and has run away. Our producer Bryan Kirkwood’s idea was to play out the damage it’s done to him by not facing up to what happened.”
Mandy was unquestionably Luke’s rock around the time of the rape, and stood by her boyfriend through the trial that brought Gibbs to justice. But since fans caught up with the couple, who it’s been established have reunited off screen some time ago, Luke has started drinking heavily, getting them into debt and neglecting Mandy’s daughter Ella to the point where social services are involved. Has Mandy coming back into his life unlocked some painful memories as well as the good ones?
“Quite possibly,” considers Lucy. “It brings everything from that time in his life to the forefront, good and bad. Mandy understands the root cause of his behaviour, why he has these flip-outs, she was abused herself by her own father. Anyone else would run a mile at how Luke acts but deep down Mandy wants to help him and she knows he’s a good guy. He needs someone, but what will happen if he pushes Mandy away?”
Although there’s no sign of a happy ending for Luke and Mandy at the moment, Lucy believes their deep connection that goes right back to the early days of the show means there’s still hope for their future.
“There was a scene where he first saw her back when I joined in 1999 where he said, ‘I’m going to marry that girl one day…’ It set up a very important relationship that’s still being played out. A loyalty exists between them.”
Unfortunately, Luke may be running out of chances when social services come calling this week to investigate little Ella’s home life. “He’s mucked everything up because of his drinking, he’s lost his job and has disappeared off on benders. It’s not a stable home for Mandy and Ella, who ends up going into foster care because of Luke’s behaviour.”
The hard-hitting scenes with social services show the extent of Luke’s problems, but Lucy says they were his favourite to film so far as he was reunited with Hollyoaks legend Nick Pickard, aka the show’s longest-serving character Tony Hutchinson.
“Working with Nick and Sarah (Jayne Dunn, aka Mandy) in the same scene was the first time since returning I felt really settled. It was heavy, emotional stuff with Mandy fearing Ella will be taken from her, but I was surrounded by good people and familiar faces, including members of the crew I worked with back in the day. I loved it.”
Mandy ends up leaving Luke and goes to drastic lengths to get Ella back – only for Mr Morgan to turn up next week begging for another chance. With the characters established back in the village, Lucy teases the drama ahead.
“It all kicks off in the autumn when we properly revisit the the male rape storyline. Hopefully the people who watched it first time round will think we’ve done it justice, and those who didn’t see it will understand why Luke is in such a dark place – it’s really important to know why he’s acting like this and why Mandy is with him.
“Those late night episodes when we did the storyline in 2000 were called ‘Breaking Boundaries’, and that’s exactly what they did. This is the next chapter of the story…”
Hollyoaks continues weeknights on E4 at 7pm, and on Channel 4 at 6.30pm.