Hollyoaks confirms devastating conversion therapy story

Hollyoaks will tackle the subject of conversion therapy, it has been confirmed.

The Channel 4 soap previously highlighted the dangers of the practice in its BAFTA-nominated documentary series, Hollyoaks IRL, but it will now be dramatised as a storyline on the serial drama itself.

David Ames, who plays newcomer Carter Shepherd, joined Hollyoaks specifically to take part in the storyline. Carter, as viewers know, has sinister motives for coming to the eponymous village, with his ambitions extending beyond education in his role as headmaster.

The new school principal has befriended John Paul McQueen (James Sutton) and has started offering self-growth sessions, with his true motives coming to light later this autumn.

Carter has positioned himself as a guru and a life coach and he will soon use his influence on Lucas Hay (Oscar Curtis), harbouring a far more dangerous motive in mentoring the Hollyoaks community.

John Paul and Ste Hay (Kieron Richardson) will find themselves involved in the story as well, with the former couple supporting one another when Lucas finds himself exploring his sexuality as he starts to fall for newcomer Dillon Ray (Nathaniel Dass).

‘I’m incredibly proud to portray this story for Hollyoaks and Channel 4,’ said former Holby City star David. ‘It’s an incredibly moving and difficult story to tell. 

‘There is so much shame and fear involved. Conversion therapy is abhorrent so it’s an incredible challenge to take a side I don’t fall on and to illustrate the dangers of how all too easily these archaic stances can destroy lives.’

Alarming data shows that 1 in 4 LGBTQ+ people have experienced having their sexuality questioned.

Ben Wadey, Channel 4’s commissioning executive, said; ‘Conversion therapy may sound like something extreme or rare but sadly the figures tell us otherwise.

‘It is a practise that is devastating and tends to affect the most vulnerable in the community, young people coming out or exploring their sexuality which is why it is vital that Hollyoaks’ audience, with its youthful demographic, are fully informed.

‘Through our established characters and the recent arrival of Carter we will look at this devastating practise and the various insidious forms that it can hide behind.

‘Hollyoaks is well-known for never shying away from a subject that is agenda-setting and can help educate and inform and has a history of successfully telling difficult and important stories.’

Hollyoaks has worked with campaigners and advisers with lived experience of conversation therapy.

Award-winning journalist Josh Parry’s investigative work brought the practice to the attention of parliament when he went undercover at a church in Anfield to undergo conversion therapy while posing as a member of the public.

The former Liverpool Echo journalist, who now works at the BBC, won Young Journalist of the Year at the Regional Press Awards 2017 for his reporting and has since continued to report on the topic across national TV, radio and online. 

Josh has advised on the storyline and scripts and shared his lived experience from his investigation and research on conversion therapy with Hollyoaks cast.

On working with Hollyoaks on the story, he said: ‘It’s been an honour to be asked to guide the team through this complex and sensitive storyline.

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‘As someone who themselves has been through gay conversion therapy as an undercover reporter, I have experienced first-hand the misleading and often damaging claims made by so-called conversion therapists.

‘I think Hollyoaks is the perfect platform to bring the reality of these practices to life so that the public can better understand them and the impact they can have.

‘The team has put so much effort into making the storyline engaging and entertaining but above-all accurate and realistic on what is an extremely emotive topic.’

Justin Beck, who detailed his traumatic experience in the Hollyoaks: IRL documentary strand, which was nominated for a BAFTA, has also worked across the storyline.

‘I could never have foreseen the impact that sharing my story would have had being part of Hollyoaks IRL – finding out that it was nominated for a BAFTA was amazing and then to be involved in a full storyline has been an honour and a privilege.

‘Representation matters – and with something as insidious, manipulative and dangerous as conversion therapy – it is important that stories, like mine, shine a light and raise awareness on what is happening to vulnerable LGBT people right now.’

 Hollyoaks airs weeknights at 7pm on E4. Stream episodes first weekdays on All4.

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