Hollyoaks producer admits flash forward is giving him “sleepless nights – but in a good way!”

Bryan Kirkwood discusses soap’s most ambitious storyline yet

hollyoaks bryan kirkwood

They say you can’t predict the future, but it turns out you can as Hollyoaks presents an audacious flash forward concept teasing plot developments 12 months away, whetting fans’ appetite for the whole of the year ahead.

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The episode airing on E4 on Friday 27th December is set on New Year’s Eve and follows four parties thrown by different character groups across the village. As midnight chimes in 2020 viewers will see a series of 10 short, sharp scenes scattered throughout the episode set exactly one year in the future, on New Year’s Eve 2020.

Each dramatic moment, signalled by the soap’s typically nifty on-screen graphics, is out of context and teases a juicy key point in stories that are yet to even start, leaving the audience to guess how we build up to it and what pushes the characters into situations that look, on the whole, dangerous and surprising – two words that could sum up the audacious experiment for the soap’s executive producer, Bryan Kirkwood…

“This is giving me sleepless nights, but in the best way!” he says, speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com. “I feel strongly that if a story isn’t keeping me awake that it’s not worth telling. All of our biggest storylines have been terrifying in their boldness.”

hollyoaks flash forward

Most of the flash forward content involves the upcoming county lines storyline, Hollyoaks’ big narrative arc for 2020 that sees the community infiltrated by drug dealers who groom the local schoolkids into substance trafficking, among other horrific crimes, exploring the shocking consequences of child exploitation on families.

It follows hard-hitting plots on far right extremism, child abuse in the football industry, marital rape and self-harm, all of which helped Hollyoaks to a haul of industry awards and audience acclaim in 2019.

As well as embarking on another topical issue plot, the flash forward brings huge logistical challenges and continuity matters to wrestle with – not least the cast members’ ever-changing hairstyles.

hollyoaks flash forward nancy osbourne

“There is a strategy in place for Jess Fox’s hair,” grins Kirkwood, referring to the actress who plays Nancy Osbourne’s penchant for altering her hairdo every few months (she’s agreed if she changes it during the year she’ll go back to the same style by the time the show catches up with the filmed flash forward scenes. In case you were wondering…).

“We came up with the concept about nine months ago and have been planning for this and what exactly happens on New Year’s Eve 2020 for a long time. Hopefully we have a safety net for anything that might go wrong as we go along!

“This is a big ambitious plan and we decided to set it on New Year’s Eve to make our intentions very ‘gettable’ for the audience, as it’s a time when people are making resolutions, talking about the future and are very conscience of the past. New Year’s Eve lends itself beautifully to the concept and gave us the perfect opportunity to flash ahead and see into the future.”

Hollyoaks’ hour-long flash forward airs on Friday 27thDecember on E4 at 7pm, and on Channel 4 on Monday 30thDecember at 6pm. You can download it now as part of the Hollyoaks Christmas and New Year boxset on All4.

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