Hollyoaks’ Scott Drinkwell attempts to take his own life in tonight’s E4 episode, and the show has revealed this is the start of a long-running mental health storyline for the character.
Scott, played by Ross Adams, usually provides the comic relief among the high drama of Hollyoaks, but viewers will see in the coming weeks how his flamboyant, camp personality hides a deep unhappiness and feeling of isolation.
As a prominent gay character, Scott’s struggle with depression is also hoped to highlight the fact people from the LGBT community are twice as likely as heterosexual people to have suicidal thoughts or make suicide attempts, and two to three times more likely to suffer from depression.
Speaking about the hard-hitting scenes, Adams hopes the unexpected choice of Scott to tackle mental health will provoke discussion and help viewers going through similar experiences to speak out.
“Scott has always been viewed as an outgoing, happy-go-lucky guy but we never see his true self,” he begins. “He’s always trying to get the laughs, be the funny one – and throw his true feleings under the carpet.
“There has been a catalogue of things that have hurt Scott, starting with John Paul’s rejection, then discovering he was adopted and also being rejected by his biological mother. As well as that, people very dismissive of Scott which you wouldn’t think would affect him, but it actually does. So all of that results in his attempted suicide.”
In a special episode showing on Monday on E4, Diane and Mercedes find Scott’s video diary following his suicide attempt and are shocked at what they see. The episode revolves around a moving monologue on the camera footage which slowly reveals the heartbreaking truth about how Scott has been feeling.
It’s undoubtedly Adams’s biggest acting challenge to date, which required a different approach to his usual scenes. “It was so hard. I treated it like a theatre piece and I thought if I learn two pages a night I’ll be okay. On the day we shot the monogloe piece I knew all the words so I could focus completley on my performance.
“As well as playing the emotions I also had to operate the camera at the same time which is something I’ve never had to think about before. Also I was on set completely on my own without any crew so I actually felt really vulnerable, which helped the performance.”
Hollyoaks never approach sensitive subjects lightly, and Adams reveals there has been a great deal of research gone into the plot. “Before I got any scripts a session was held with writers, storyliners, researchers and the charities Mind and the Samaritans. I heard first-hand accounts of people who have been through this and how they dealt with the situation.
“I also spoke with the LGBT Foundation in Manchester, because mental illness affects so many in the gay community and even though Scott’s storyline isn’t exclusive to that, I still thought it was important to know more about it.
“We had Mental Health Awareness week last month so this is a very current issue. Soaps are always breaking taboos and men with mental illnesses and men in the LGBT community going through this is something that hasn’t really been touched on before. It’s great we’re opening this out for wider discussion.
“Ultimately we’ll show how Scott does seek help and finds a way out of it.”
With Scott’s outward exuberance, it was a deliberate choice to have the character battle depression as it highlights one of the major elements of mental health. “It’s something you can’t see,” explains Adams. “So many people look fine on the outside but deep down they’re feeling dreadful. We’ve got a great dgiital campaign #DontFilterFeelings because it’s so important to show audiences it’s healthy to talk about how you feel.”
As to how he tackled the drama after years of mainly playing comedy, Adams admits to being daunted. “This made a good change from going for the laugh but was so challenging. It was a massive responsibility because I wanted to do it justice, so I did a lot of research. I read a book called Straight Jacket by Matthew Todd which really helped.
“For the big heavy stuff I took myself away to really get into it, and it also helped changing my look and letting the mask slip.
“Scott will have a long and rocky road to recovery, which is the right way to portray it. He comes out of hospital with the mask back on so people don’t worry, but he’s still dealing with all the changes in his life. Instead of just being his usual comedy self we will see more glimpses of his vulnerable side, but we’ll see him seek help and how he does eventually get better.”
Hollyoaks continues weeknights on E4 at 7pm and on Channel 4 at 6.30pm.