Hollyoaks cast speak out on county lines storyline: "I hope we scare the bejesus out of teenagers!"
The Chester suburb is targeted by drug dealers - with tragic consequences
Hollyoaks embarks on it's biggest storyline for 2020 this week as it tackles the phenomenon of county lines drug dealing, the term given to gangs from large cities who infiltrate small towns and groom vulnerable young people into substance trafficking around different parts of the country.
Criminal networks manipulate children into dealing with the promise of money and status, but once drawn in they are controlled with violence, abuse and find themselves unable to break out of the cycle of exploitation.
- Hollyoaks county lines storyline to explore child exploitation in the UK
- Next week’s Hollyoaks spoilers – Nancy is stabbed and Jordan grooms Juliet: 27-31 January 2020
It's a story torn straight from the headlines, as were Hollyoaks' recent hard-hitting plots on far right extremism and abuse in the football industry, and the impact on the community's families is set to be explored throughout the year. As drug baron Jordan Price targets the teens, and teacher Nancy Osborne is stabbed in a playground fight, some of the key cast involved in the storyline talk to RadioTimes.com about what's in store.
Connor Calland (Jordan Price)
"Jordan is Sid's streetwise, drug dealer cousin who has identified Hollyoaks High as a target for his gang. His plan is to slowly integrate the local children into the big scheme. He thinks they are easy to manipulate, they've always been given what they want, but are not really sure what to do with it. Jordan has taken that and put it to use for his benefit. There's no rush - Sid is his way in to build trust with the local teenagers and their families. Jordan's background is not a happy one, his mum passed away and his dad couldn't cope - he's been looking for a father figure and it's just a shame he only found that within the drug world. That's the only thing he knows, and where he's earned respect."
Billy Price (Sid Sumner)
"Sid is cautious when Jordan shows up, he knows he's a bit of a baddie but they are the best of friends. He reckons he's going to cause trouble in the village. Despite himself, Sid agrees to stash drugs for Jordan because he always reassures him it'll be okay, and Sid is still vulnerable after losing his dad and everything that happened with the far right group. Connor and I got on really well from the moment we met, we have good chemistry and that's exactly what we want to do with the county lines storyline: make it as real as possible."
Niamh Blackshaw (Juliet Quinn)
"Juliet likes the attention Jordan gives her and the excitement of him being around. I feel sad she's being dragged back into this terrible world, drugs ruined her childhood, but when you come from a vulnerable background it's not that easy to get away. You have to make mistakes to it's the wrong path. I also think she doesn't have much self-esteem and believes she doesn't deserves happiness because of the way her mum made her feel growing up. The Nightingales have taken her in, but it doesn't matter how much you're loved and protected, you can still slip through the cracks - people that care don't know you've been forced to get on train to deliver drugs to another town.
There's pressure on being part of this storyline but there needs to be in order to get it right. We have a platform to raise awareness to young people, and you can't protect yourself from this unless you know about it. As a child I didn't pay much attention to the news or read the papers, but I did watch TV - if young people see kids from all backgrounds being groomed and manipulated, they will learn about it."
Lysette Anthony (Marnie Nightingale)
"Hollyoaks is not frightened of telling important, serious, terrifying, state-of-the-nation stories at teatime. I'm mother to a teenager and I'm thrilled my son gets a show made of his age group - and I hope we scare the bejesus out of them! I started modelling at 16 and was horrified at the drugs around then, but this is a whole new world. I only know about ketamine because it was a storyline on The Archers, but it's been normalised like having a drink. We need to let people know the damage - it's not fun, it's a slow death, a painful, stupid waste of time, money and lives.
"The power these dealers wield over young people is by isolation and fear - what we provide is a place for conversations to be had. To show a support network that speaks their language. Marnie adores her stepdaughter Juliet and is not happy about her hanging around with the likes of Sid - she has her beady eye on him. She can't understand the insidious pull of filth and poverty dragging Juliet back, when she does Marnie will be marching into those crack dens lickety split!"
Nancy Osborne (Jessica Fox)
"County lines as a topic is perfect for our demographic, the kids watching Hollyoaks are the ones being put in these situations. Since we started the research with charities and the police, it's terrifying - this is an epidemic sweeping the country. Any child from any background is at risk. As with any hard-hitting storyline like self-harm of radicalisation, if it causes one person to realise it's happening to them or makes parents more vigilant, it's well worth doing.
It's also great to see younger members of the cast like Charlie Behan (Charlie Dean), Erin Palmer (Ella Richardson) and Ela-May Demircan (Leah Barnes) buzzing about being part of something so big. They will handle it beautifully and taking care of the younger artistes is one of the things Hollyoaks does best."
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