British soap Hollyoaks has earned much acclaim for its issue-based storylines over the decades. Now, those whom these on-air stories have helped are taking center stage. According to Metro, the Channel 4 sudser will launch a five-part series called Hollyoaks: IRL, highlighting how the show has changed select viewers' lives and introducing those whose lives and experiences helped influence these important storylines.
Each episode, or "short film," will explore real-life experiences that dovetail with recent Hollyoaks storylines. Topics addressed include suicide, depression, eating disorders, conversion therapy, and county lines child exploitation (children being used to carry and sell drugs). Starting tonight, June 15, during Men’s Mental Health Week, activist John Junior discusses how watching Darren Osborne (Ashley Taylor Dawson) deal with his friend's suicide helped save their own life.
Josh Connolly will speak to actor Billy Price (Sid Sumner) about his own experience escaping from county lines drug dealers and how that inspired his own work as a mental health activist. Monique Jarett will discuss being an artist with a disability with actress Rhiannon Clements (Summer Ranger), while Ben Robinson will open up to actress Nadine Mulkerrin (Cleo McQueen) about his experience with an eating disorder, which Cleo also underwent. Justin Beck will discuss conversion therapy with actor Ross Adams (Scott Drinkwell) and how he recovered from such trauma.
Hollyoaks EP Lucy Allan spoke about the show's impactful storylines, noting:
Hollyoaks storylines are born out of a range of diverse places, we scrutinise research from charities about the new issues that our youthful audience may be experiencing, or could be in the near future and the personal stories that our writers bring to the table. Issues that are affecting their lives, or those of loved ones, friends and neighbours.
Joe Churchill, Digital Commissioning Exec at Channel 4, added:
Hollyoaks is well known for its sensitive handling of hard hitting issues, so it’s incredible to be able to shine a light on some of the people whose lives have been impacted by the issues reflected on screen.
Fans can get a sneak peek at each chapter of Hollyoaks: IRL on Snapchat Discover every Tuesday, with full episodes available on Channel 4's social platforms by Wednesday.