What kind of a reaction have you received since taking on the role of Brendan?
"Going out and about at home in Ireland and here in Liverpool, it's been nothing short of fantastic. People are very hospitable, very kind and very positive about the whole thing. It's all very good - it means you must be doing something right. But to be honest, my concern isn't so much what the reaction is, but rather carrying on delivering Brendan Brady on the screen. He's a very Marmite character - you either love him or you hate him. But so far, it's been very welcoming - especially Liverpool as a city."
Brendan is such a complex figure - how would you describe the character?
"He's very unpredictable and I've often described him as a sociopathic, homophobic gay man. He's very complex and very interesting - even when he's nice, you don't know when he's going to flip off. And when he flips off, he can very easily switch straight back to being nice. It's like the movie Chopper where Eric Bana played an Australian serial killer - a guy who would stab someone umpteen times in the stomach, and once he'd finished, he'd apologise for it! So he's the kind of individual who's not wired like most people."
Does that make Brendan a challenge to play?
"Absolutely. But it's a challenge in a completely positive way. There's nothing more exciting than doing something that you haven't yet done before and trying to push it, trying to find different angles and trying to find different parts of your character. Because Brendan's so complex and because he's so tapped, in a weird way it gives you the freedom to do or try anything - because Brendan as a character is capable of anything. For example, when I'm on set with the crew and the other cast members, I'm given such liberties in terms of my performance, and I can't thank them enough for that. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't - you just take a risk, and if you don't take a risk, you never know. As long as you keep doing that, it keeps it interesting and fresh - and hopefully it evokes a reaction in the people who I'm acting with."
"Well, in the past I'd gone to Hollyoaks for different parts, but for various reasons it didn't pan out. When I went in for the reading of Brendan, they had a scene written out that had nothing to do with this storyline, it was just based on Brendan Brady as a character. But from this two-page scene, I could tell straight away that Brendan swung both ways. I said that to [producer] Paul Marquess, who was in the room at the time, and he confirmed it. After I did my audition, Paul spoke to me about the kind of character that Brendan was - and it wasn't that stereotypical gay storyline, which wouldn't interest me in the slightest. It was the fact that he was a self-loathing gay man that was immediately a turn-on for me - it would be for any actor. When something begs more questions than it gives answers, then you're hooked."
What happened next?
"I wanted the role straight away - especially knowing that he was this bad guy with different principles. Things aren't good or bad for Brendan - he lives by his own moral code. While he is very tapped and sociopathic and a self-loathing individual, there are certain qualities in him that I admire, and also certain qualities that I can identify with."
Before their night out, does Brendan realise that Ste has feelings for him?
"Yes. Brendan is a king manipulator. He lulls people into a false sense of security - it's like a fly being drawn to the spider. Because he's such a king manipulator, he can talk the underwear off this fella and he's very confident. So yeah, he definitely knows. He sees Stephen as a young, vulnerable guy who has no male friends, who hasn't had a father figure, and who - like Brendan - is a father himself. So Brendan can play with that."
Can you talk us through Ste and Brendan's first kiss from Brendan's point of view?
"Brendan is manipulating Stephen - he knows that Stephen fears him, looks up to him and in some ways admires him. When people walk into a room and command an audience, if you're let into their circle you feel slightly privileged - so Stephen is thrilled that he can go out with this guy and be his friend. Brendan takes Stephen out, gets him drunk while not drinking too much himself, and after 'coincidentally' forgetting his money, brings him back to his apartment. Then he gives him some fine Irish malt and manipulates Stephen into making the first move. It's a great scene and Kieron [Richardson] killed it that day - he was really good. Stephen kisses Brendan, but then Brendan goes on the offensive and tells Stephen to leave - so he runs home broken, confused and frightened."
"Brendan sends Stephen down to the cellar at the club to get some crates and follows him down. It's the kind of place where there's nobody around and nobody can hear you scream. He walks in, locks the door and refuses to let Stephen leave. Brendan walks over to him like a predator sussing out his prey, corners him and invades his personal space. Then he slowly gives him a kiss, then another kiss and smiles. He lets Stephen know that there's excitement and danger - there's an element of eroticism about the whole thing. Then they just give into a full-blown passionate kiss…"
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