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'Hollyoaks' Steven Roberts interview: 'George storyline gets darker'

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Steven Roberts as George Smith

© Channel 4

Hollyoaks' homeless teenager George Smith faces a desperate situation next week after being forced to leave his squat.

Too proud to ask for help from his fellow sixth formers, George stops attending college and faces up to the harsh realities of life on the streets with Phoebe (Mandip Gill) still by his side.

As the situation becomes increasingly dangerous for the pair, they meet a woman named Deena who offers her support. However, just as things seem to be looking up, it becomes clear that the danger is far from over.

Here, actor Steven Roberts - who plays George - chats to Digital Spy about the gritty storyline.

We've seen you on our screens in Hollyoaks for a few months now. How are you finding your time on the show?
"I'm really enjoying it, especially with George's storyline becoming a lot more serious now. He's not so much the joker anymore, and I think this story has perhaps explained why George is the way he is - he's been covering up this big secret. I'm particularly enjoying how the story is becoming a lot darker, and you'll see that in the episodes that are coming up."

Were you excited when you received the first scripts for this storyline?
"Yeah, the first I heard of it was when I met with Emma Smithwick, our series producer, and she talked me through the way the story would be going. I was really excited when I found out that it would be a homeless story. I knew it would be quite hard-hitting due to the issue we were dealing with.

"As the story progresses, it also becomes a lot more about the character - so I think we'll find out a lot more about George and how he deals with different situations."

3257: Callum, Phoebe and George
Was Callum right when he speculated that George was kicked out by his parents because he's gay?
"That's not necessarily the reason, because it's not something that George has confirmed himself. He just doesn't really want to talk about it, because that's taking him back to his home life again. As far as George is concerned, it's not something he needs to discuss because he's moved on from there. But I wouldn't necessarily say that's the defining reason."

How long has George been homeless for?
"Well, Phoebe is a lot more experienced with this compared to George. She's been telling him what to do and where to go, while George is quite new to this. He's been living rough for about seven or eight months.

"The way I see it is that, when George first left home, he took his bare essentials with him and probably had some money that he could take away too, allowing him to stay in a hostel. But over time, that money has run out and his situation has become more desperate - and as a result, he's become more dependent on Phoebe."

What's your take on the friendship that George has with Phoebe?
"It's quite interesting to see George's dynamic with Phoebe, compared to the dynamic he has with some of the other characters. In front of his fellow sixth formers, George has a bravado that he can put up - he'll pretend that everything's fine, and he'll just try to fit in, albeit while being quite camp and outrageous.

"But with Phoebe, it's a lot more serious, down-to-earth and they've got this brilliant friendship. It's a friendship that puts them in quite awkward situations sometimes, but in many respects they are each other's lifelines."

3257: George and Phoebe
Phoebe seems a bit shifty at times. Does she definitely have George's best interests at heart?
"I think she does for now - the two of them are definitely looking out for each other. Who knows what could happen in the future, but at the moment, Phoebe loves George like a brother and their relationship is very strong. But, at the same time, Phoebe has done this for a lot longer and she's a lot more ruthless than George."

George and Phoebe will soon end up on the streets when they have to leave the squat. How does that come about?
"George and Phoebe get removed from the squat by some other people who want to stay there. So it's a case of another party stamping their ground on George's squat, and forcing the two of them out. Obviously George and Phoebe have got no real right over that space, and when they're threatened by people who are bigger and stronger than them, they have no choice but to leave."

Hollyoaks 3268: George, Graham and Phoebe
What happens next?
"Up until now, George has been able to stay at the squat while continuing to attend college and keep up his front. But now he finds himself literally sleeping on the streets, with nothing more than cardboard to sleep on and a cheap sleeping bag.

"You'll see that he looks a lot rougher, because it's cold, damp and very bleak. People may think that things have been bad for George so far, but it's about to get a whole lot darker."

Why doesn't George confide in Callum over his latest setback?
"Well, George really does appreciate the support that Callum has given him so far. Callum has kept his secret, made things easier with his other friends like Maddie and Tilly - and without that, George would be in dire straits.

"But I think George is quite proud at the same time, and he wants to look after himself. Also, George feels like if people know what's going on, his secret could spread or he could be tracked down. That's something that George can't really deal with at the moment."

Another character also comes into the situation, doesn't she?
"Yes, we meet a woman called Deena who tries to help George and Phoebe. But Deena might not be all she seems! She's a very manipulative character and she hasn't got their best interests at heart, put it that way."

Have you had to do much research for this storyline?
"The issue was something that I didn't really know that much about to begin with. But there are charities like Shelter and Centrepoint, who have their own websites. Hollyoaks are working with them at the moment as we move forward - especially with Centrepoint.

"Over the next few weeks, we're going to try to raise awareness of the problem of homeless teenagers. It's not something that's really reported and you don't really see it in the papers. So I think it's nice that Hollyoaks are bringing this to the forefront, as it's a very real issue."

3254: George and Callum
What's your take on the George and Callum friendship?
"I think it's really nice, as George has really broken down Callum's barriers - and likewise Callum with George. I don't think it's the most likely of friendships, as they're very different in a lot of ways. But I think they've found the best in each other, and they've seen other's vulnerabilities. Because of that, they've built up a friendship that really works."

We seem to see a different side of George when he's with Callum, don't we?
"Definitely. As much as George loves Maddie, Tilly and the rest of the sixth form gang, they don't know his situation so he's still putting up his front. But with Callum, he can be the more serious George and he doesn't have to make everyone laugh or fall back on the persona that he's created for the gang. Callum gets to see the real George, I suppose!"

What do you make of George's unusual fashion sense?
"I don't mind it, as it's all part of the character. In that respect, it helps me to create something that's not like myself in real life. He definitely has a loud fashion sense, but good for him if he enjoys wearing those things. I wouldn't wear them myself, though, as it's a bit too loud for me!"

The scene you did with Emmett Scanlan (Brendan) in Price Slice was a memorable one!
"That was really good. Our producer Emma has said that she wants to incorporate the village a lot more, and have us all crossing paths with other characters. It was obviously really great to do a scene with Emmett and to break out of the sixth former 'bubble' that we'd got ourselves in. It was quite a random scene, but people seemed to like it!"

Are you glad that the sixth formers seem to be mixing with different characters in general now?
"Yeah, I think the sixth formers as a group can maybe be quite threatening to some of the other students, but I think it's just because they've been grouped off together. I think it's nicer now that we're interacting with some of the school students like Ruby and Esther.

"And I think it's been nice for Jono, Neil and George to find jobs in the village. It's been nicer to interact with everyone else rather than just being seen as the group who hang around outside college bickering!"

> Read all the latest Hollyoaks spoilers and news

Hollyoaks airs weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel 4 with a first look screening at 7pm on E4. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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