Hollyoaks: Nick rapes Holly – Amanda Clapham discusses the next stage of sexual consent storyline

Interview with the actress who plays Holly Cunningham about tackling the powerful plot

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Hollyoaks will revisit the controversial sexual consent storyline as Nick Savage rapes girlfriend Holly Cunningham.

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When Ellie Nightingale accused Nick of raping her several months after they slept together, the village was divided as the issue of consent raised much discussion among the locals – and with viewers. Holly has stood by Nick and protested his innocence, but in tonight’s E4 episode a chain of events begins that has horrifying consequences.

Amanda Clapham, who plays Holly, reveals how the next chapter in one of Hollyoaks’ most important stories of recent years is about to unfold.

Tell us about tonight’s episode, and how the consent story is revisited…

We follow Holly throughout her whole day. There are lots of ups and downs for her and Nick as a couple and finally a huge argument erupts at Nick’s graduation party when he discovers Holly and Zack kissed. It nearly breaks them up for good. Holly decides to stay with Nick, but his way of making things up to her is not what she had in mind. They sleep together but against Holly’s will.

What does Holly do next?

Afterwards she is confused and upset and doesn’t know how to process what has happened. She keeps going over and over it in her head.

Does she turn to anyone for help?

She lashes out at Ellie and is blaming her, but eventually she gets upset and tells her what happened. Ellie tries to support her and help her process it as much as she can. She encourages her to speak to the police, but Holly is not ready as she still doesn’t quite understand what has happened. With Ellie’s help she ends up telling her mum Cindy which also helps her come to terms with it. Holly is now in a dilemma, she doesn’t know whether to take Ellie’s advice and risk being in the same situation as Ellie where no one believes her, or just to keep quiet.

Nick confronts her in the pub, how does she feel?

Holly feels humiliated when Nick shouts at her in front of everybody. She runs away from the party upset, she wants to be as far away from everyone as possible.

Did you have any guidance from charities or organisations about the issue of consent?

We have had support from Rape Crisis and The Mix charities. I had meetings with our research team and spoke to Rape Crisis about people in a similar situation to Holly. One thing that really stood out to me when speaking to them was that when someone is in a relationship where their partner has been accused of rape or it is happening within the relationship, it is the last thing you want to believe your partner is capable of. Holly is in denial and knows all the great things about Nick and doesn’t want to think about the aspects of their relationship she is unsure of. The Mix have also been really helpful, they have posted tweets with useful links for viewers to use where they can talk to someone if they are experiencing anything they have seen in this storyline.

Why do you think this is such an important story to portray?

There will be many viewers that have found themselves in similar situations and not known what to think or who to turn to. It is incredibly important for Hollyoaks to explain what consent is and I think this story does that in such an identifiable way. Holly and Nick are a young couple and some people before watching this, may struggle to understand how rape can happen within a relationship, and I am hoping that it will be clearer as the story plays out. Some viewers may not understand or agree with Holly’s response but this is all the more reason to tell this story so we can keep talking about consent.

How have you, Ben Ryan-Davies (Nick) and Sophie Porley (Ellie) felt about working on this storyline?

Ben and Sophie have both been great. They feel as passionately about getting it right as I do and have both worked really hard together in the previous chapter of the plot, so that when it came to playing my part we all helped each other. The scenes can take you to a dark place, but we all keep each other going when it gets tough and helped me to remember the importance of why we are doing this.

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