Hi Sarah, what happens next week on Hollyoaks?

This week on Hollyoaks, we have a special disability awareness episode, which follows Mandy, as she takes a journey around the village. She has to make some serious decisions about her unborn baby and she bumps into a few of the characters from the show who have disabilities or additional needs. It helps her come to a decision about her own baby. There is a big charity concert with loads of children involved - it’s lovely and a very emotional episode.

Could you describe Mandy’s journey through the village, in the disability awareness episode?

Mandy bumps into lots of different people in the village. She finds Brooke upset and crying outside The Dog and has a really nice chat with her, which was a really lovely scene to film with Talia. She bumps into Maxine and Minnie, characters that she has never really crossed paths with before. When she arrives at the charity concert, she sees that Oscar’s involved in it and obviously he’s got his hearing impairment. I think it just really opens Mandy’s eyes that people with disabilities are living all around her, and she’s never even noticed that before. I think the fear Mandy has is whether she will be able to cope with a child that has disabilities. Parents do find it tough sometimes, but I think you find it tough full stop being a parent and she knows this herself, as she’s got children already. It’s a really eye-opening episode, and it was a real privilege to be a part of.

Why hasn’t Mandy told Darren that Luke may be the father?

Mandy is feeling super guilty that she hasn’t told Darren the baby might be Luke’s. I think she’s going through so much at the moment, and dealing with so many different emotions. Also, the hormones from being pregnant make it so much worse. There is a real possibility that Darren may not want to be a part of their lives, after he finds out the truth. But Mandy can only find that out, once she’s told him. This is something she has to deal with, and it’s not fair on Darren to keep hiding the truth from him. She so desperately wants the baby to be Darren’s as well, and she wants them to be a happy family. She hopes for that to be the outcome, and she doesn’t want to break that spell.

How is Mandy and Darren’s relationship going?

At this point, Mandy and Darren’s relationship is a bit strained and they have to make a huge decision about whether to go ahead with the spina bifida surgery. It’s such a huge operation and it’s only just become available in the UK. It’s still new, and not many people have had it yet. It can lessen the effect that the spina bifida might have, and it can also possibly stop the baby having hydrocephalous, which is something the baby can have because of the spina bifida. It’s a huge operation, but it comes with a lot of risks to Mandy and the baby. So, that’s why Darren is set against it. He’s thinking, why risk losing the baby or even more horrific situations? Mandy just wants to do what’s right for her child, so they’re having this real conflict of interest and they’re at loggerheads about it. They both stand by their different opinions and believe their choice is right, so it’s a really stressful decision for both of them.

How does Mandy feel about the operation?

Mandy wants the operation. I think she feels it’s the best option for their unborn child, to minimize the symptoms and the effects of spina bifida. She knows it’s a massive risk and she’s still unsure about it, but in her heart of hearts, she believes she’s doing the right thing for the baby.

Does the fact that Darren is against the operation change her mind?

The fact that Darren is against the operation does sway her thoughts on it, as she’s conscious of what Darren wants and understands why he doesn’t want to go ahead with it. It’s such a tough situation for the both of them, but I can see it from both points of view, and I can see why she’s being like that.

Why does Mandy keep going to Luke for advice?

I think Mandy keeps going to talk to Luke, because she feels guilty. She knows there’s a chance that the child is his and feels like any decision she makes might come back on her. She believes Luke has a right to know what’s going on and be involved. It’s to ease her own conscience and a way of easing her guilt.

Why is celebrating diversity so important?

The celebration of diversity is super important, and our show is great at raising awareness. You don’t realise how many diverse characters the show has, and I think that’s a credit to itself. There is a real sense of community in Hollyoaks.

How did you do research for this storyline?

I’ve been working with a charity called Shine, and they help people and their families with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. I found out about Shine when I was doing some research myself and read about what they do and how amazing they are. There are charities involved in the Diversity Awareness Day at The Bean, and Shine has a stand there. I also asked whether Mandy could wear a yellow jumper, as that’s the colour the charity use and it’s also such a bright and hopeful colour. They’ve been amazing and so helpful. They’ve been on hand to answer all my questions, and I’ve met up with three wonderful mums with kids with spina bifida. I chatted with them, and they were so honest and open about sharing their situations and details. Shine have been fantastic, and they’re pleased that the condition is being talked about.

Other than your own, what’s your favourite storyline?

I love the Nancy and Kyle storyline! Mainly because after the whole affair with Darren and Mandy, I feel like Nancy deserves happiness. Mandy feels so guilty for what happened, so it’s really lovely to see Nancy have some fun away from Darren. Nancy and Darren’s relationship was pretty toxic, and in the long run, it is better that it worked out the way it did. I love Kyle and Nancy’s budding romance and it’s great to watch.

How has Hollyoaks changed over the years?

Hollyoaks over the years has and hasn’t changed, but it has definitely grown. We’ve got so many characters, but also so much more diversity. I think we’ve always been brave with storylines, but we’ve got even more courageous as the years have gone by. Mandy’s got older, so I’m one of the old ones now, unlike when I started when I was one of the babies! I still feel like I’m walking through the same corridors as I did way back when. I’ve always loved it, and it’s the people that really make it for me. It just feels like home.

Make sure to tune in to the special #CelebrateDifference episode on Monday 4th February E4 at 7pm!