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Alex Carter (Lee Hunter, 'Hollyoaks')

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Alex Carter (Lee Hunter), Hollyoaks

© Rex Features

Alex Carter has returned to Hollyoaks following a four-year stint on ITV soap Emmerdale, and next week fans will see his character Lee Hunter's comeback scenes in online spinoff Hollyoaks: Freshers. Following an apparent stint on a cruise ship as a Gareth Gates impersonator, Lee is spending the summer with new girlfriend Leanne - and it soon becomes clear that their relationship is a fiery one. Ahead of their move over to the main show later this year, Freshers re-establishes the character of Lee and gives fans their first glimpse of newcomers Leanne, Jamil and Doug. DS recently chatted with Alex to find out more.

How did the return to Hollyoaks come about?
"Well, initially I was speaking to Lucy Allan, who was the producer at the time and who I knew anyway from when I used to work there. We were talking about me coming back. She left and then Paul Marquess took over - I didn't even speak to Paul, but I was offered a contract and I took it. It wasn't the most traditional of returns, but it worked!"

What was the main appeal of returning to the show?
"I just wanted to get back on form, I suppose. I felt like the last 18 months of my time at Emmerdale had been really quiet. When you're performing, you want to feel confident in what you're doing, and in the last 18 months there I hadn't really been too sure. Hollyoaks just seemed like the right thing to do, really - get me back, get me busy, get me working and doing what I want to do."

How soon did you learn that your comeback scenes would air in the online spinoff?
"I can't even remember! But it was all a bit last minute because I was meant to be on holiday, and then I got a call asking me to come in and do it. I didn't even get told what it was about at first! But then they started to tell me what it was, and I thought it sounded like a really good opportunity to come back and get into the swing of things with the character. It seemed like a really good idea."

How would you describe Hollyoaks: Freshers - is it quite different to the main show, or similar?
"It isn't radically different, but the style of it is different - it's more aimed at the internet generation, and that's what it's for really, as the series is airing online. I haven't been able to see the finished product yet, but from what I have seen, it seems cool and you can tell it's aimed at the internet market, as well as trying to bed in the new characters."

Where has Lee been since we last saw him?
"In Yorkshire! (Laughs) I actually don't know myself. But there's some hints of what might have happened while he was away - apparently I might have been working on a cruise ship as a Gareth Gates impersonator! I must have offended somebody on the writing team for them to come up with that! So yeah, there are little hints like that. But Hollyoaks: Freshers doesn't really focus on the past - it's more about reintroducing the character."

What's Lee's first scene like?
"I can't even remember what my first scene was - we filmed it about two months ago! Actually, I think you see me going to a music festival, if I remember correctly. And it establishes the relationship between Lee and his possible fiancée, Leanne…"

What kind of role does Lee play in the spinoff - we know that he's in a relationship with Leanne, but does he have much to do with the other two new students?
"No, the students are doing all the cool stuff, and then there's me and Leanne just bickering and arguing! (Laughs) It's good though, we provide the romantic element of the show - but without the romance, which is quite nice!"

What's the relationship like between them?
"It's good - Lee thinks he wears the trousers, but she's got them - it's one of those! It's great. And Jess, who plays her, has been great fun to work with. I started working with her straight away, and it's been a breeze, really. We have a good laugh and hopefully that comes across on screen as well."

Has Lee changed much since we last saw him?
"Yeah, it's great really, because as he's got older he's become more confident and more arrogant - which makes him more of an idiot! That's great fun to play. So that's probably the biggest difference - the older he gets, the more idiotic he becomes!"

How easy was it to step back into your old role after so long away?
"It was surprisingly easy - I couldn't believe it. I actually didn't really think about it. A couple of people asked me whether I was nervous about going back, and I said no - and that's because of the scripts. Some of the scripts that I've got are some of the best that I've ever seen, regardless of what show they've been on. They're just absolutely brilliant. So as long as you've got good scripts, you can't go wrong. Well, fingers crossed you can't go wrong!"

You've returned to Hollyoaks at the time of a big revamp for the show, and fans are watching the changes very closely. Didn't that put you under any pressure?
"No, it didn't cause pressure really - I think I'd feel under more pressure if it was at the top and doing really well. But when the show is on its way up, it's a great time to join it, isn't it?"

What's the atmosphere like on set at the moment?
"People who are working on the show are definitely excited about the revamp, and the crew are enjoying it too. It's great, really - there's a nice wave of optimism around the place. Whenever I hear people talking about soaps, they're always talking about how great it is and how happy everyone is - and it's not always like that! But it is in this situation. There are obviously a lot of people leaving and they're in a different mindset. But there are so many new people that are happy to be working and so pleased to be part of the show. It's quite impressive."

Hollyoaks: Freshers launches online on August 26.

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