Hollyoaks is riding high after the drama of the far right attack, but the soap won't be pausing for breath as it's got a bucketload of massive storylines in store for the autumn – with stunts, exits, comebacks and surprises planned right through into winter and beyond.
In an exclusive chat with RadioTimes.com, executive producer Bryan Kirkwood and some assorted cast members tell us what we can expect in the months ahead, starting with a seasonal Hollyoaks tradition…
- Hollyoaks autumn 2019 trailer: first look at Tony’s dad, Ste’s arrest and stunt week
- Exclusive – Hollyoaks Later returns in 2020 for killer Breda’s final chapter
- Can Ste be de-radicalised from the far right? Hollyoaks producer promises “This isn’t the end of the story”
1. A big exit in stunt week
Annual carnage occurs when a crane collapses and causes chaos as work begins on Cindy Cunningham's new business venture, leading to characters getting trapped in tunnels under the village.
"Our brilliant heritage super stars Luke, Mandy, Darren, Nancy, Cindy and Tony are at the heart of our biggest week of the year," says Kirkwood. "They're all in the same place at the same time, including Tony who is currently Breda's hostage, but in ways that will surprise, frustrate and satisfy the audience. I can confirm there is a massive exit in stunt week, and it will be full of heart rather than just bits of metal falling on people…"
2. Who shot Mercedes?
Following the October stunt is a big whodunnit when Mercedes McQueen's year of bad behaviour catches up with her and someone shoots the lairy landlady. "Fans will think Mercedes has been quite heartless, and in the autumn it all builds to a big, dramatic climax of everything she's been through," Jennifer Metcalfe told us.
The discovery of Harry Thompson's corpse and Joel having recorded evidence she threatened to kill him kicks off a long-running mystery with eight suspects in the frame for pulling the trigger.
3. New Year's Eve flash forward
Kirkwood told us an ambitious narrative device, previously used to great success by the soap, will be employed again in December to launch a gritty year-long storyline. "Our New Year's Eve episode, airing on Monday 30th December, has three separate parties where some of our most loved characters announce their resolutions for the year ahead - and we throw forward to 12 months in the future, New Year's Eve 2020.
"The dramatic and surprising content of the flash forward ushers in our 25th anniversary year and announces a big storyline on county lines drug dealers invading our schools.
"Being at school in the UK has transformed in recent years - you've got sniffer dogs, drug raids and vulnerable kids being targeted by terrible people luring them into trafficking drugs around the country. Younger characters such as Charlie Dean, Ella Richardson and Leah Hay will be embroiled, and it has massive impact on their families so the likes of Nancy, Mandy and Leela will be involved.
"We'll explore the ramifications and ripple effects of what happens when drug dealers descend on a leafy suburb to exploit young people."
4. Ste's de-radicalisation
The hard-hitting far right storyline has been a recent triumph for the show, earning critical and audience praise in how it's tackled a difficult topic never attempted before on a British soap. Ste Hay's de-radiclisation as he tries to extricate himself from the clutches of Stuart and Jonny will focus on how organisations like Prevent and ExitUK help those who have been groomed by extremists having been identified as vulnerable.
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"Ste has burnt most of his bridges," says Kirkwood, "but will find strength from his sister Leela, best friend Sinead and the authorities." The plot will culminate in Kieron Richardson taking a temporary break from playing Ste later in the year to appear in a stage production of TV drama Band of Gold.
5. Darren's depression
"As it always should, stunt week starts as many stories as it pays off," says the producer. "Darren is about to embark on a very serious mental health story. His battle with depression goes into next year but the origins of that play across stunt week - although he doesn't realise it at the time. It sows seeds of his dissatisfaction."
6. Tony's long-lost family
Joe McGann arrives soon as Edward Hutchinson, long-lost dad of the soap's only original character Tony. Suave surgeon Edward will be quick to establish himself as the new baddie on the block, definitely not to be trusted, and will be followed in 2020 by his daughter, a half-sister Tone never knew he had. This new branch of the Hutchinsons are set to ruffle feathers with their scheming and manipulation, putting the clan at the heart of the show.
7. Breda's last stand
Tony's captor Breda McQueen, soap's most unlikely serial killer, headlines the return of Hollyoaks Later, the post-watershed spin-off which is back for the first time since 2013 in January for a one-off episode that Kirkwood promises will be "Breda's final chapter."
Before then, autumn will be a testing time for the nasty nanny: her most recent victim Harry Thompson's corpse is discovered and Tony's family begin to doubt Breda's story he's run off with another woman and report him missing. Will Breda be forced to kill again to protect her sinister secrets?
8. Sienna's surrogacy drama
Selfless Liberty Savage has agreed to be a surrogate for big sister Sienna Blake and her boyfriend Brody Hudson, with her pregnancy seemingly confirmed by the autumn trailer, but Anna Passey teases caution this may not be her alter ego's happy ever after.
"Sienna has thrown herself into the surrogacy to mask the pain of having her twins stolen by their dad, Warren," she told RadioTimes.com. “It could be a threat to her and Brody. He’s dated Liberty, and Liberty’s never had children, so will she want to give it up when it’s born? To me this sounds like trouble."
9. John Paul faces his rapist
Finn O'Connor has been released having served his time for raping John Paul McQueen, and will come face to face with his victim when James Sutton reprises the role later in the autumn. "With so many loose ends in the village and a few ex-lovers, we are looking forward to another ground-breaking chapter for one of our most beloved characters," enthuses Kirkwood. Teacher JP will be back in his old workplace when he takes up a senior role at Hollyoaks High.
10. Warren Fox returns
Another big-name return on the horizon is Jamie Lomas as fan favourite Foxy, one of the soap's most enduringly popular bad boys who has been in the show on-and-off since 2006. Almost two years since leaving the regular cast, with two cameo appearances in between including one this summer, gangster Warren was last seen getting away with his and Sienna's twins once again. Will Ms Blake finally track him down?
11. Yazz battles with going deaf
Another fallout of the far right attack storyline is Yazz Maalik losing her hearing after being caught up in the blast when a bomb, intended to detonate at her brother's engagement party, accidentally went off in the extremists' base next door.
"Yazz is such a big, loud character, this is the last thing you expect to happen to her," Haiesha Mistry told RadioTimes.com, suggesting the development could be permanent. "It's so interesting playing how it affects her and how she adapts."
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