Hollyoaks: Gregory Finnegan interview – “James is capable of anything… for the right reasons!”

Exclusive chat with the British Soap Awards nominee on why everyone loves the nasty Nightingale

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Acid-tongued lawyer James Nightingale has become one of Hollyoaks’ breakout stars in the last 12 months, and his popularity with the public has given actor Gregory Finnegan a place in the shortlist of best actor nominees in this year’s British Soap Awards.

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Going from being an out-and-out villain, scheming with meddling mother Marnie to destroy abusive dad Mac by making him think he had Alzheimer’s disease, to displaying a more sensitive side with his doomed romance with John Paul McQueen, James – and Finnegan – have peeled back the layers of a character who could so easily be one-dimensional and moustache-twirling to a complex, compelling presence in the show.

An in exclusive interview, Finnegan discusses a year in the life of James Nightingale, and looks ahead to what’s in store – and whether his alter ego could be capable of murder…

How does it feel to be shortlisted as best actor?

Fantastic, but very unexpected. It’s wonderful to get so many messages of support from the fans and I’m just enjoying the ride.

What would it mean to win?

It would be incredible. I don’t expect it and I’m happy to have come this far, and I guess you’ve got to be in it to win it. It would be truly amazing if it happened but I’m not counting any chickens… you never know!

Are you worried about splitting the Hollyoaks vote with Jamie Lomas?

If Jamie wins it’d be absolutely deserved and I’d be very happy for him, some of the work he’s done has been fantastic. We get along and work together very well. To be honest if either of us wins that would be great for the show.

What’s been your highlights this year?

There’s been a lot going on! I’ve really enjoyed working with all the Nightingales and the huge family drama, especially with David Easter who plays Mac and exploring his abuse of James when he was a child. I loved working with James Sutton who played John Paul McQueen so memorably for so long and was very sad he left. There was lots of love for McKnight! I saw James yesterday, he’s much missed around here.

Tell us about having Dallas legend Linda Gray as your grandma…

That was fabulous. I don’t think anyone knew what to expect, but she came in, got involved and was grace and poise personified. Linda is a lovely woman with absolutely no ego whatsoever. Fingers crossed she fancies coming back for another stint because we’d love to have her.

James is pretty twisted, why do fans love him so much?

We have an intelligent audience and I think they enjoy the fact he’s a complex character and not easy to define. He has a multi-faceted personality, you feel like you understand him one moment and then he does something that frustrates you. They go through his ups and downs with him and he keeps you interested.

Why does Hollyoaks deserve to win best soap?

We’ve had an incredible year, I really hope the voters get behind the show as there’s been much to applaud. Jade and Alfie cancer’s storyline in particular, Kassius Nelson and Richard Linnell did tremendous work for such young actors. I could reel off many more storylines that have been handled brilliantly. Hopefully we’ll bring home a few awards on the night…

What’s coming up for James with his sabotage of Ste Hay’s case in the Amy Barnes murder mystery?

James is on the sabotage trail and we’ll start finding out some of his reasons for that. Over the summer with the trial coming up and his involvement with that we’ll see more of the underside of James’s motivation in all this, and what his involvement is with Amy’s murder. He’s right in there.

Do you know who killed Amy?

No. Little bits of information are being fed to us as we go on so we play things in the right way, but there’s a few unfinished leads we’re not aware of just yet. We’re still in the dark but it’s very exciting.

Would you like James to be the killer?

No as I want to keep my job! James is possibly capable of anything for the right reasons, but whether or not he did this I couldn’t possibly say…

Is James ready for a love interest after John Paul?

It’s a bit soon, he’s still smarting from how hurt he was when that ended. He doesn’t appear interested at the moment but I dare say that will change, this is soap after all. Him and Harry have been back to the well a couple of times haven’t they? Clearly there’s something between them, but Harry and Ste look like a fairly firm couple.

If Ste was out of the picture, would James and Harry be a good match?

I’d fear for anyone in a relationship with James to be quite honest. Maybe his twisted ways will become a thing of the past and he’ll open his heart to love… but I don’t think he will!

What about the future for the Nightingales?

There’s a massive parting of the ways since Mac discovered James and Marnie were doing ghastly things to him, the family are in utter disarray at this point. David and Lystte Anthony (Marnie) are hilarious and great to work with, they’ve known each other for years. They are literally like an old married couple off screen. James and Mac have no communication at the moment but I suspect down the line we’ll explore their troubled past and the abuse again, perhaps towards the end of the year.

James is helping Warren steal the babies from Sienna – how does he feel about his plan?

I don’t think he’s that impressed, but James is his lawyer and if that’s what Warren Fox wants, ultimately he knows not to annoy him too much and just tow the party line. James would stand up to Warren at the right time but in this instance he’s happy to stand back and just draw up the papers. Where are his morals?! That’s why we love him!

The British Soap Awards 2017 will be broadcast live on ITV on Saturday 3 June at 8pm – click here to cast your vote. 

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Hollyoaks continues weeknights on E4 at 7pm and on Channel 4 at 6.30pm.