Ste Hay is at the centre of Hollyoaks' most controversial storyline in years as he fights to extricate himself from the far right extremist group who have groomed him into being radicalised, with the scales falling in the aftermath of a devastating attack targeting Muslim family the Maaliks.
The next chapter of the plot follows Ste's efforts to step away from the group, and for the vulnerable character to ultimately be rehabilitated following his psychological manipulation that saw him brainwashed by the anti-Islamic faction.
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While the journey to redemption will be long for Ste, Kieron Richardson, who has played the fan favourite for 14 years, will soon be taking a break from the show - so how will his alter ego's current predicament play into this?
Is Ste Hay leaving Hollyoaks for good?
Richardson's exit is definitely temporary and is only to accommodate the actor taking on a new side project - he's starring in the stage version of Kay Mellor's classic 1990s TV drama Band of Gold, which tours the UK from November 2019 to March 2020.
It's confirmed he will juggle both jobs over a few months but it means Ste will have to be absent from our screens for longer periods of time - does this mean Mr Hay ends up in prison for being part of the far right group, is forced on the run with sinister Stuart Sumner and Jonny Baxter, or is driven out of the village having turned his back on his loved ones as a result of the extremists isolating him from everyone?
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The play starts in November and Hollyoaks films around six to eight weeks ahead, so doing the sums this means the impact on Ste's screen time should be felt towards the end of 2019 and stretch into the new year. By spring 2020, when Band of Gold's tour ends, normal service should be resumed…
Richardson is part of a star-studded cast that also includes fellow soap faces Laurie Brett (EastEnders' Jane Beale), Shayne Ward (Coronation Street's Aidan Connor) and Gaynor Faye (Emmerdale's Megan Macey, Mellor's real life daughter).
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