Hollyoaks stars on ‘very important’ conversion therapy plot, as government stalls ban again

Carter (L) clashes with John Paul (R) as she discovers conversion therapy plot

John Paul McQueen is set to confront Carter Shepherd as Hollyoaks‘ conversion therapy storyline finally comes to a head.

The Channel 4 soap’s long-running storyline exploring the dangers of conversion therapy follows Hollyoaks High interim headteacher Carter, played by David Ames, as he implements his sinister scheme to “convert” gay villager John Paul (James Sutton) and others under the guise of a so-called self-help support group.

The storyline – inspired by the real-life experience of Hollyoaks: IRL star Justin Beck – began in September and will culminate next week as John Paul discovers Carter’s malicious intentions, juxtaposed with several LGBTQ+ characters across the cast coming together to celebrate their identity.

The banning of conversion therapy is currently a contentious topic in the UK, with the Conservative government repeatedly delaying plans to implement an outright ban after it was first promised by Theresa May’s administration five years ago.

In an interview with Digital Spy, Ames explained why this storyline was so timely and critical for people across the UK to watch.

John Paul (L) and Carter (R) in Hollyoaks.
John Paul (L) and Carter (R) in Hollyoaks. (Lime Pictures)

“It’s very important to be telling this story as it’s very of-the-moment,” Ames said. “It’s constantly back and forth in the news at the minute that our present government, under Rishi Sunak, is thinking of scrapping the ban on conversion therapy again, something they pledged to get rid of months, even years, ago.”

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There was no mention of the ban in the King’s Speech on Tuesday morning (7 November).

Ames’ words were echoed by co-star Sutton, who called the practice abhorrent. “It still goes on and as long as that continues, storylines like this have a place,” he said.

“It’s something that we take very seriously and we feel a sense of responsibility to the truth of it and to the people who are going through it or have been through it.”

Elsewhere, Ames emphasised the need to illustrate “quite how corrosive this practise is”. Carter’s approach is fuelled by religion, as he blames the various misfortunes in the lives of queer men on their “sinful desires and sins of the flesh”.

He continued: “Carter isn’t just a man with an evil plan, he too has been put in a position where religion has made him feel less-than and therefore it’s corrupted his mind and made him feel he needs to pass it on to those around him.

“Not only that, you see the effect it has on other men in this situation. Other people who are susceptible to those who they look up to, they’re shown the ‘way’ and usually this takes the guise of religion.”

Hollyoaks Dillon and Lucas
Dillon (R) and Lucas are also affected in the conversion therapy plot. (Channel 4/ Lime Pictures)

The inclusion of positive LGBTQ+ representation in the episode involving Ste Hay, James Nightingale, Sally St Claire, Peri Lomax and Nadira Valli, will be a “lovely” way to “celebrate the community”, Ames noted.

“We’ve got a long way to go, yes there is an ongoing battle [around] trans people,” he went on to say. “Equally, if we pull together, we are stronger than all of this and we’ll get through this.

“We will continue to grow and gain strength, we’re not going anywhere. We’ve been here all along, it’s just we’re not hiding any more.”

The Hollyoaks conversion therapy storyline will conclude on Friday, 10 November on E4 at 7pm and Monday, 13 November at the same time. It will also stream on Channel 4 (formerly All 4).