Sami Maalik (Rishi Nair) was the victim of a pepper spray attack after Jonny Baxter (Ray Quinn) and Stuart Sumner (Chris Simmons) interrupted the clan’s Eid celebrations with more threats and intimidation, and the fallout on Monday 12th August (E4 showing) heightens tensions in the village further.
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“There was some fear and apprehension about tackling extremism at first,” Nair admits to RadioTimes.com, discussing the much-talked about storyline. “It’s such a big thing and needs to be done correctly. But Hollyoaks have handled topics like mental health and sexual abuse so well, and a year into the far right story I’m chuffed with how it’s gone.
“It has been hard to watch but that means it sticks with you, we don’t want the audience to watch and forget about it. When you’re trying to get a message like this across it has be real, it has to be dark.
“For young people, 10 to 15 year-olds, it could be the first time they’ve seen anything like this on screen and it can have a big impact. They may have been exposed to racism in the playground and not understood it, this storyline might make them realise it’s wrong and they should tell someone about it.”
Police descend on Hollyoaks demanding to know if Jonny and Stuart have an alibi for the anonymous attack, while Sami is discharged from hospital with no permanent damage. The atmosphere between the neighbouring households festers throughout the week, fuelled further by the fact Sami is now effectively stepdad to Ste’s daughter Hannah by virtue of being in a relationship with Sinead Shelby (Stephanie Davis).
“For Ste this is infuriating – he’s been brainwashed by the far right and having someone like Sami be a father figure to his daughter doesn’t sit well with him. You can expect Ste and Sami to square up again – in fact 90% of me and Kieron’s scenes are us squaring up against each other!
“Sami almost feels guilty he’s dragging Sinead and Hannah into this. It’s not their fight but Ste’s attitude makes it difficult for Sinead. The group pose a threat to Sami and Sinead’s relationship but she wants to be with him, and they become united against them.”
How long is the far right storyline going on for?
It’s been established the scales will soon fall from Ste’s eyes and the next chapter of the story playing through the autumn is how he extricates himself from the group. The show is aware of the challenge ahead in terms of how Ste redeems himself, which Nair acknowledges won’t be an easy task.
“I have no idea at this point how Ste will be redeemed but it needs to be treated with as much caution and reality as has been done so far. But I have faith in the writing from what I’ve experienced over the last year.
“For Ste to just go off for three months and admit he was wrong is not realistic,” he explains. “It needs to be a process for it be believable and for the audience to genuinely forgive him. Ste has been groomed but has to understand why it happened.
“It will be tough for others to forgive him, especially the Maaliks who have been victims in this. If people have been hounded and subjected to racially-aggravated attacks and they just say sorry, naturally you probably are not going to forgive them straight away. Sami is protective of his family. It should take a while.”
A menacing hint of the peak the plot is heading toward comes this week when Stuart is revealed to have a memory stick with a floor plan of a community centre on it – could the group be planning a strike more targeted and terrifying than what we’ve seen before?
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