Call off the boycott – Hollyoaks has confirmed that Tony Hutchinson is alive! Fans were left fearing that the soap's longest-serving cast member Nick Pickard had been written out after 24 years, but it turns out he miraculously survived a deadly encounter with serial killer Breda McQueen last week, and is being held hostage by the merry murderess at her pig farm.
"I never like to know what's coming up in advance so the first I heard of this was when our producer Bryan Kirkwood came up to me in the corridor," the actor exclusively tells RadioTimes.com. "He said, 'Hi Nick, by the way you're going to read in a script that you die – but you don't!' I told him I'd like to think after 25 years I wouldn't just get told in the corridor! That was the extent of my knowledge about it."
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Monday 2nd September's E4 showing of Hollyoaks ended with Diane Hutchinson declaring that missing husband Tone was 'dead to her' after Breda convinced her he'd left her for another woman – before a chilling final scene at the nasty nanny's family pig farm revealed Mr Hutchinson lying unconscious (but alive) in a locked cage.
Last Wednesday's surprise twist, complete with Tony's life flashing before his eyes, a ghostly visit from dead son Harry and the character being removed from the opening titles, had caused a storm on social media, which pretty much passed the actor by. "I'm not really active on social media," he admits. "I'm not even a big texter, I'm a phone calls man. Although I did have a little look and I was overwhelmed by the reaction it got.
"It makes you feel nice to know loads of people are watching and enjoying it. There were thousands of comments."
Even some of Pickard's closest friends got caught up in the outrage, including a former cast mate. "I saw Will Mellor (Jambo) recently, he came to visit the set, and then yesterday he rang me demanding to know why I hadn't told him I was leaving the show! He had the right hump, he thought I'd not told him and was keeping it a secret!
"I haven't lied to any of my mates or family, but a woman ran up to me in Asda over the weekend desperate to know what had happened to Tony – I wasn't going to let it out to her and spoil the surprise, so with a wry smile I said what I always say to fans: 'You'll just have to keep watching!'"
With the audience breathing a collective sigh of relief, has it given Pickard a sense of what the reaction would be if he were to leave the show for real? After almost a quarter of a century, is that something that has ever crossed his mind?
"I've been asked loads of times if I'd ever leave Hollyoaks, but I've always been happy here since day one. I'm sure if I wasn't I would go, but I love the job and the people I work with.
"If they told me one day I was going I'd have no choice, but for me to leave voluntarily when I was really happy I'd probably kick myself. I've got a lot of pals in the industry and the grass isn't always greener."
As to Tony's future, he's not out of the woods – or out of the cage – yet, and the last person to be held captive at the pig farm was bad dad Louis Loveday who ended up dead. Can Mr Hutchinson escape a similar fate?
"It's not looking good," teases Pickard. "Breda starts losing the plot and things get a lot darker, she spirals and feels like she can't really kill Tony and starts to see him as a friend. He tries to play her a bit, it all gets very Stockholm syndrome! It's going to be good. But that pig farm set stinks!"
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