Hollyoaks 25th anniversary: 10 stars who got their big break on the soap

From Hollyoaks to Hollywood!

hollyoaks alumni

Hollyoaks reaches its 25th anniversary in October 2020, so we’re in a nostalgic mood as we look back at a quarter of a century of the Channel 4 soap.

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It’s not just explosive storylines, unforgettable stunts and a huge dollop of glamour the show has given us over the years, Hollyoaks has also provided a launchpad for some seriously stellar careers.

RadioTimes.com rounds up the big stars who got their big break in the vibrant Chester village.

Rachel Shenton (Mitzeee Minniver, 2010-2013)

rachel shenton

Future Oscar-winner Shenton played wild WAG wannabe Mitzeee, remembered for her rivalry with fellow alpha female Mercedes McQueen and steamy affair with cute cousin Riley Costello. After quitting the ‘Oaks, she co-wrote and starred in short film The Silent Child, about the experiences of a young deaf girl, which scooped the Academy Award for Best Short Film in 2018. In 2019 she appeared in the second series of BBC2 sitcom White Gold, from the makers of The Inbetweeners, and starred in Channel 5’s hit 2020 reboot of All Creatures Great and Small as feisty farmer’s daughter Helen Alderson.

Sian Gibson (Tessie Thompson, 1998-1999, 2007)

Sian Gibson at NTAs

Long before she occupied the passenger seat in Peter Kay’s Car Share, comedy favourite Gibson (credited by her maiden name of Foulkes at the time) had a small role as a slightly unhinged girlfriend of Tony Hutchinson’s in the early days. Eight years after pretending to be pregnant as a way to extort money, Tessie turned up in 2007 with toddler Harry, Tony’s son – she’d been preggers all along! Has anyone told Gibson her on-screen son was stabbed to death with a knitting needle in 2019?

Ricky Whittle (Calvin Valentine, 2006-2011)

American Gods Season 1 2017

After his breakthrough role as caring hot cop Calvin, and coming second in Strictly Come Dancing towards the end of tenure, Whittle carved out a successful career in Hollywood, though found time for a quick cameo as dead Calvin’s ghost in 2011. What a gent. He’s appeared in hit US shows including The 100 and Mistresses, but his biggest post-‘Oaks role was bagging the lead in fantasy drama American Gods, opposite Ian McShane and Gillian Anderson.

James Corden (Wayne, 1999-2000)

james corden

The small role as college cleaner Wayne may not be the most memorable character in Hollyoaks history, but it set Corden on the path to global stardom. After his brief stint as lovable loser Wayne he became co-creator and star of Gavin and Stacey, host of his US late-night talk show The Late Late Show, star of movies including Into the Woods and Cats, and has a shelf groaning with BAFTAs.

Emmett J Scanlan (Brendan Brady, 2010-2013)

Emmett J Scanlan

Tormented bad boy Brendan became one of Hollyoaks’ most popular characters, thanks in part to charismatic Scanlan’s blistering breakout performance. After three years of crime, passion and murder he was banged up, and Scanlan spread his wings to a raft of big dramas including Peaky Blinders, Gangs of London, Butterfly, The Deceived and The Fall. He even cropped in Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy.

Bronagh Waugh (Cheryl Brady, 2008-2013)

Bronagh Waugh plays Jessica Reid in Unforgotten

Brendan was introduced as a big brother for larger-than-life Cheryl, played by another successful alumni. Waugh’s warmth made Chez a true Hollyoaks heroine, and she and her on-screen sibling both left the village in 2013 to star in BBC2 thriller The Fall, in which she played the unsuspecting wife of Jamie Dornan’s serial killer. The actress has also been in gritty dramas including Des, Unforgotten and C4 sitcom Derry Girls.

Will Mellor (James ‘Jambo’ Bolton, 1995-1998, 2004)

Will Mellor - No Offence
Channel 4

Original cast member Mellor’s star quality turned cheeky chappie Jambo into an instant icon. We’re still not over the tragic end to his romance with Dawn Cunningham, who died in his arms of leukaemia as he proposed… Mellor has been a consistent presence on our screens since Hollyoaks, moving on to regular roles in Casualty, Broadchurch, Line of Duty, Waterloo Road, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and No Offence among others. He was even briefly a pop star in the 1990s at the height of his Jambo heart-throb stardom.

Nathalie Emmanuel (Sasha Valentine, 2006-2010)

4-weddings

Ricky Whittle isn’t the only member of the Valentine family to do well for themselves – his on-screen sister (she played Sasha) went on to be a regular in Game of Thrones as Missandei. The role piqued Hollywood’s interest, leading to recurring parts in massive movie franchises Maze Runner and Fast & Furious. In 2019 she voiced the lead role of Deet in Netflix‘s lavish puppet sci-fi epic The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

Nico Mirallegro (Barry ‘Newt’ Newton, 2007-2010)

nico mirallegro

Emo kid Newt and his mental health issues was a challenging, complex role and proved what a find young Mirallegro was. Within a few years of leaving Hollyoaks he was nominated for a Bafta for BBC One period drama The Village. The actor has also been in acclaimed dramas including My Mad Fat Diary, Our Girl, Rillington Place, The Ark and Common, as well as the Mike Leigh movie Peterloo. 

Warren Brown (Andy Holt, 2005-2006)

Warren Brown - Strike Back
Sky/Cinemax

Evil rapist Andy met a sticky end when he was impaled on a spike, but luckily things panned out better for the actor who played the baddie. Since his soap days, Brown is best known for starring alongside Idris Elba as DS Justin Ripley in BBC hit Luther, and for playing Sergeant McAllister in action hit Strike Back. You may have also seen him guest star in the 2020 series of Doctor Who in the episode Praxeus, as well as Liar and Agatha Christie’s Marple.

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Visit our dedicated Hollyoaks page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers. If you’re looking for more to watch check out our TV guide.