Interview: Gay Hollyoaks actors strip off in support of the Terrence Higgins Trust

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Gay Hollyoaks actors PJ Brennan and Kieron Richardson – who play onscreen gay couple Doug and Ste have decided to bare all for this month’s special ‘naked’ issue of Gay Times.

Olympian diver Chris Mears, along with 34 other men have also taken part in a celebrity shoot in support of the Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s largest HIV and sexual health charity.

“Awareness has built year by year but recently it’s become blurred again,” begins Brennan. “A lot of young people are clearly not informed about HIV and that’s baffling to me because the information is out there and readily available. A decade ago it was still being called an epidemic and the terminology made it sound serious, but because the chat about it has changed there’s people who think the medication for HIV is good enough so you can live a normal life. But there’s still a harsh reality that comes with living with HIV. I don’t understand why people wouldn’t take precautions to save their lives.”

Richardson adds: “Our show appeals to a younger audience and if they buy GT to see us and then read why we’re doing this, it will hopefully teach those who are ignorant to the risks of unsafe sex. People go on nights out, get really drunk and think with their penis and not their brain. And if they haven’t got a condom they think it’s fine and they still have sex. All the gay bars I go to give away free condoms. I‘m surprised straight clubs don’t do it too because HIV isn’t just a gay problem.”

When it was announced in 2010 that Richardson’s Hollyoaks’ character was going to be involved in a same-sex relationship, the actor took the decision to confirm his sexuality publicly on ITV’s This Morning.

He told GT: “After publicly coming out, I received more letters and Tweets wanting advice or support, so I feel an added pressure because I don’t want to ignore them and I don’t want to say the wrong thing. But you kind of take on other people’s coming out stories.”

“It’s a struggle sometimes,” continues Brennan. “Because people forget we are individuals who are experiencing our own sexuality and developing an understanding of what that means. I know I still have a long way to go in terms of my own personal acceptance and living the way I want to. And you still get random people saying ‘there’s too many gays on Hollyoaks.’ Well the world is full of gay people! When I hear that, I know it’s important we’re still doing it and especially because we’re two openly gay men.”

The same-sex storyline also meant the spotlight would be on Richardson’s onscreen colleague PJ Brennan, he told GT: “It was a difficult time because I knew my personal life would come into focus a bit more. I didn’t want my career to be distracted by my sexuality. So I had to make a decision whether I’d be brave enough to compromise my career because of other people’s perceptions of what a gay actor is capable of playing. I still have a long way to go with my career and I hope I won’t be pigeonholed.”

Brennan adds: “Personally, I didn’t find it easy to come out at all. I come from a very conservative Catholic background. They love me wholeheartedly but I was scared of watching them adjust and a lot of their concerns and worries are so deeply rooted inside of me. That’s still something I have to work out to eventually be a happier, gay man and actor.”