In his time on Hollyoaks actor Richard Linnell and his character Alfie Nightingale were at the heart of the show’s DontFilterFeelings mental health campaign after Alfie was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder as he tried to cope with the loss to cancer of his teen sweetheart Jade Albright (Kassius Nelson).
This week as Hollyoaks Favourites airs more classic episodes from Alfie’s time in the show Linnell shared his thoughts on his “life-changing” three years on the soap and his own struggles to get his head around isolation as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.
“If I’m honest, I’ve not coped amazingly,” says Richard. “I’ve found it really hard to keep motivated, and not let my mental health slip while being stuck at home. There are a few things that have helped me stay sane(ish). Cleaning your space has an incredible effect on your mood. Keeping a routine of exercise and meditation has really helped me actually get out of bed, and be able to at least do something with my day.
“I’ve also started volunteering for a local food bank, delivering parcels to vulnerable people who are isolating. It’s been a brilliant way to give back to the community, and it means I can get out of the house every now and again and feel like I’ve accomplished something. It helps my mental health too. I’ve also started a BSL course online… and juggling. Lots of juggling.”
In this Thursday’s and Friday’s May 14th and 15th E4 editions Alfie is one of the Sixth formers at Hollyoaks High, along with Lily (Lauren McQueen), Yasmine (Haiesha Mistry), Imran (Ijaz Rana) Peri (Ruby O’Donnell) and Tom (Ellis Hollins), who find themselves in the middle of a disaster movie when half the school blows up after a violent bust-up between a vengeful Mac Nightingale (David Easter) and his soon-to-be-very-dead ex-girlfriend Neeta Kaur (Amrit Maghera).
“That was absolutely incredible,” he says. “They built an entire fake front of the school for the stunt so we were actually half outside for the whole shoot. You had to keep your wits about you. Half the walls were ‘breakaway’ and made of polystyrene, but through all the smoke you couldn’t tell which was which.
“Stunts are always a lot of fun as you get to, however briefly, live out all your action hero fantasies. There’s one section of the sequence where I get to throw a filing cabinet down the gaping hole in the floor and then turn around and say a witty quip. I’m gonna be honest, I have never felt cooler.”
Richard still has no doubt what his all-time favourite Hollyoaks storyline is and it’s not surprising considering he won two British Soap Awards in 2017 for it with co-star Kassius Nelson. Their moving portrayal of a young couple tragically torn apart by cancer is the show at its very finest.
“It’s got to be Alfie and Jade,” says Richard, “Their story is a truly touching one of how love transcends. It was so powerful, and touched so many people that it was a real honour to be a part of. Plus Kassius will kill me if I don’t say it.”
Since leaving Hollyoaks, Linnell has been filming a new TV show, Pan Tau, “a reboot of a beloved kids TV show from Germany in the 70s” and volunteering as an animal rescuer for Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital in Buckinghamshire. He is also still in touch with his former soap family.
“I try to keep in touch with the Nightingale clan, both living and dead (#RIPNathan&Rach), as much as possible with us all being spread up and down the country,” he says. “When it comes to the kids, we’ve never really stopped. I’m still up in Liverpool every few months to see Ellis, Ruby and Lauren. The whole gang still talk all the time. Missing those guys a lot right now being stuck at home.”