EastEnders’ James Farrar says his character Zack will face ‘painful’ reactions to his HIV diagnosis

Actor James Farrar says Zack faces "painful" reactions to his HIV diagnosis.

EastEnders character Zack Hudson is set to reveal his positive HIV status to the residents of Walford, but actor James Farrar says not everyone will be supportive.

The character discovered he was living with HIV in scenes back in January, after friend Brett, who Zack had shared steroid needles with, disclosed that he was living with the virus.

Fans of the BBC One show have watched Zack grapple with the diagnosis, though he managed to muster the courage to tell his friend Sam Mitchell and partner Whitney Dean, following the loss of their baby.

This week, Farrar’s character will share his status with sister Sharon Watts and best friend Martin Fowler, to positive responses. Next week, though, fans will watch as he reveals his HIV diagnosis in an incredibly public, impulsive way – while stood in the packed Queen Vic pub, after a confrontation with Ben Mitchell.

James Farrar as Zack in the Queen Vic in Eastenders.
James Farrar’s character Zack will reveal his HIV status after a confrontation with Ben Mitchell. (BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron)

According to Farrar, Zack sadly won’t receive the support he has done from his friends, with the actor stating that the community’s reaction will be “painful”.

Speaking to Radio Times, the EastEnders star shared that the square’s response “breaks Zack down”.

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“It’s painful and there are some ignorant comments from the residents of Walford,” Farrar said.

“Zack experiences all of these judgments for the first time and it breaks him down through the lack of understanding, but it helps him filter out the people he doesn’t need in his life.”

Ever since Zack’s HIV storyline began airing on the soap in January, the number of people searching for information about the virus has soared by 75 per cent, according to the UK’s leading HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust.

Ian Green, the charity’s chief executive, commended the show for “starting conversations in living rooms across the UK”.

“Today, if you test positive for HIV, effective treatment means you cannot pass on the virus to partners and can expect to live as long as someone who is HIV negative,” Green said in a statement.

“Someone like Zack is able to live a normal and fulfilling life thanks to the incredible advancements around HIV.”

Reflecting on how the storyline has helped to raise awareness, Farrar said: “I love the fact that we can see statistics that there has been a rise in testing… I like to think that we’ve played a part in opening up that conversation again. It fills me with absolute joy because that’s what this is all for.”

EastEnders broke new ground back in 1991, during the height of the AIDS crisis, by introducing the first ever soap HIV storyline.

Character Mark Fowler revealed the diagnosis to mum Pauline on Boxing Day 1991, in one of the show’s most-watched episodes ever.

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