Hollyoaks' radicalisation storyline in which Ste Hay (Kieron Richardson) is unwittingly groomed by far right extremists is the subject of a special episode airing on Wednesday 13 March (E4, showing on Channel 4 on Thursday 14 March).
Viewers will discover the sinister true agenda of Ste's new friends Jonny Baxter (Ray Quinn) and Stuart Sumner (Chris Simmons) cross cut with Sami Maalik (Rishi Nair) introducing new girlfriend Liberty Savage (Jessamyn Stoddart) to his family with a traditional Indian meal as they discuss the Maaliks' cultural background as British Muslims. As Stuart manipulates Ste's hatred of the Maalik family he orchestrates an unprovoked racially-motivated attack on a local Asian man. Shahid (Alex Williams).
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Rishi Nair, who plays ladies' man lawyer Sami, reveals to RadioTimes.com what to expect from the special episode, and his take on tackling one of the darkest subject matters in soap history.
Why are the family putting on this traditional meal?
The Maaliks are having lunch with Aunty Kameela who is more of a traditionalist compared to the rest of the family who are a bit more westernised. She stamps her authority down, something Sami isn’t too pleased about, and rebels against her. Kameela has invited Liberty when she and Sami are not really a proper couple yet, which annoys him. And Kameela has everyone dressed in traditional clothing, apart from Sami, and is playing Indian music and laid out Indian food. Sami finds this frustrating - it feels forced upon them as it is not how the Maaliks live their lives. He feels it is making it out to Liberty they are someone they are not.
Does Sami have a different view of his cultural background?
Yes. You see with Sami and Kameela a clash of cultures within a culture, which is something that is felt in many Asian households around the UK, with parents being in completely different generations and upbringings as their kids.
What is Sami's view on the feud between Ste and the Maaliks?
At first, Sami understands Ste's resentment towards the Maaliks and Misbah in particular because what happened with Tegan, even though he knows Misbah was not at fault, so allows Ste to grieve. However, when things start to progress from grieving into malicious nasty behaviour Sami steps in and says enough is enough.
Is Sami worried when he sees Ste with his new friends?
He doesn't think much about it at first as there is no blatant 'in your face' racism. The first signs for Sami are at the end of the episode when the Maaliks walk into the Hutch and there's a bit of hostility between them and Ste’s mates, which Ste himself doesn't actually witness. At this point when Sami wonders if this could be a racial thing. I think that is the case with racism when it isn’t so 'in your face', but it takes you by surprise and it makes you almost question yourself. 'Did that really happen? Is it racism? Am I overthinking it?' All those things are going through Sami's head at that point.
Why is it important for Hollyoaks to address this issue?
Racism has been happening for years and unfortunately it still exists today, and so this story needs to be told. Hopefully it makes people talk about it as, essentially, that is what we want, for there to be more of a conversation on the subject. Maybe it will help some of our younger viewers to speak up and tell someone about it if they are suffering from any racism, or if people do see it happening to reiterate that it is wrong and we shouldn’t live in a society where we just 'put up with it'.
How did you react when you were told about the far right story?
I thought it was a brilliant storyline as it's a topic that I am personally very passionate about, so I feel very proud to be a part of it and get this message across. The fact that we have a special episode emphasises this message even more. As it is such a delicate subject I was also nervous, as I wanted to do it justice and make sure it was done correctly and handled in the right way. I don't think I've ever scrutinised a script as much as I have with this storyline as even a change of a small word can completely change the meaning of a sentence. It was very important that we got that right.
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