Mandy Morgan (Sarah Jayne Dunn) and Darren Osborne (Ashley Taylor Dawson) have a big decision to make about their unborn baby in a special episode of Hollyoaks airing next week which focuses on the diversity of the characters with disabilities and additional needs.
Doctors have confirmed Mandy’s baby has the neurological condition spina bifida, but there is the option of surgery on the foetus that may minimise the symptoms of the condition once the baby is born.
With only a small window in which the procedure can be performed, the couple must decide whether or not to go through with it – unfortunately they cannot agree on the issue as Darren feels the operation is too risky while Mandy wants to give the baby the best chance possible.
As Mandy struggles with her decision, she bonds with teenager Brooke Hathaway (Talia Vanessa Grant) when she finds her in tears having been bullied by mean girl Juliet Quinn (Niamh Blackshaw) over her autism. Mandy makes Brooke realise her condition is part of her and is not something to be ashamed of, and talk turns to the baby and the spina bifida diagnosis.
Against the backdrop of Nancy Osborne (Jessica Fox) organising a disability awareness day culminating in a concert at the Bean coffee house, featuring deaf son Oscar performing a solo, the episode celebrates disability and additional needs among characters such as Brooke (Grant is the first actor with autism to play a regular character with the condition in a British soap), Oscar, Courtney Campbell, young Minnie Minniver who has Down Syndrome, and Nancy herself, who lives with MS.
Brooke ends up having a pivotal role as Oscar get nervous about singing in public, and gives him the confidence he needs to shine.
Will Mandy tell Darren that Luke could be the baby’s dad?
The concert is the heart of what promises to be an emotional episode that explores in equal measure the hardships and joys of living with a disability and acknowledging Hollyoaks’ diversity among its cast. Several real-life charities have advised on the script and will apparently have a role to play in the concert.
Speaking about the instalment when it was announced in November 2018, executive producer Bryan Kirkwood said: “Hollyoaks has grown into one of the most diverse shows on TV and our disability visibility reflects that. We have exceptionally talented leading actors with disabilities or additional needs in Amy Conachan (Courtney), who is a wheelchair user, and Talia Grant, who has autism.
“It’s important they star in huge stories rather than fade into the background. The heightened world of Hollyoaks is an equal opportunities disaster zone where everyone can fall in love or get caught up in the latest stunt.”
By the end of the episode, Mandy makes the decision about the surgery – will she go through with it, with or without Darren’s support? And having sought advice from ex-husband Luke Morgan during a prison visit earlier in the week, will she reveal to Darren that Luke is probably the baby’s father?
Hollyoaks special diversity episode airs on E4 on Monday 4 February at 7pm, and on Channel 4 on Tuesday 5 February at 6.30pm.
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