Returning Hollyoaks star James Sutton has discussed the much-anticipated confrontation between his character John Paul McQueen and his rapist Finn O'Connor, hinting the soap will not be dealing with the tense reunion in the way fans might expect.
Finn was released from jail earlier this year after serving time for the sexual assault of his former teacher, and understandably receiving a mixed reception from the locals, including his own family. Calculating Edward Hutchinson is determined to get rid of Finn so he can assume the role of protective patriarch, and teams up with John Paul's mum Sally St Claire to bring her son back to help drive his attacker out. But how does JP really feel about Finn five years on?
"Hollyoaks have been doing a rehabilitation story with Finn, asking whether someone who's committed the most heinous of crimes can be forgiven and accepted back into society," said Sutton, speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com. "It's not a black and white situation. Keith Rice plays Finn incredibly truthfully and apologetic so our audience will have some sympathy for the character, which is a very complicated device to put forward.
"Dramas don't try and rehabilitate sex offenders, and I wonder why that is because of course people have to be re-introduced into society when they've served their time and atoned for their sins. But it's very emotionally complicated for everyone involved."
As glimpsed in the recent winter trailer, John Paul pays Finn a visit, and the scenes air on Monday 9th December's E4 showing. "To revisit what's happened is very difficult but he's coming at it from a place of emotional maturity," continues Sutton, describing his alter ego's headspace. "It would be very easy for the writers to have him very aggressive towards Finn and still have that hatred, and quite rightly so, but I don't think it's as interesting as where they take it.
"Finn is sorry and does feel bad, perhaps he does deserve a second chance? But not to the detriment of the happiness of John Paul and his friends and family. This is a very complicated and tricky story to play, and extremely brave. Very few shows would go there and attempt it."
Sutton has played the role on and off since 2006 and is back for just a few episodes, a taster of his full-time return expected to be later this winter, having quit in spring 2017. "I emailed our producer, Bryan Kirkwood, in June to congratulate the team on winning best soap the British Soap Awards and he invited me for dinner. We had a chat and he put to me the idea for a long-running storyline John Paul would be involved with, and it sounded exciting.
"I've got history here, it's a super place to work and they write well for the character. Plus I live in Liverpool but had been away most of the last year working, and I recently got married so I owe it to my wife to be at home for a bit!"
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