Doug has been hiding his confusion in recent days, but as Ste grows close to new man Adam next week, jealousy leads to Doug confessing his love.
An argument between Doug and Ste later results in a kiss, but is Doug really ready for a relationship with another man? And will there be trouble ahead when Ste's ex-lover Brendan (Emmett Scanlan) finds out what's going on?
Digital Spy recently caught up with PJ for an in-depth chat about the new storyline. Read on to find out what he had to say!
When did you first hear that Doug would develop an attraction to Ste?
"It was ages ago - it was around late summer last year. At that point, the show had storylined up until Christmas leading up to the special Doug episode on Boxing Day. But we also knew that it would eventually lead to Ste and Doug becoming friends, starting a business and then potentially moving beyond that."
What was your initial reaction to the storyline?
"My initial reaction was a bit of trepidation because - even though it's 2012 - there's still a debate in the industry as to whether playing a gay character can typecast you, which made me a bit nervous. But in the end, I had loads of discussions with our producer Emma and we made the decision that we would do it - and we'd try to do it truthfully with as much justice as possible. After a while, you just have to throw any fears out of the window."
As the story was planned so far in advance, were there any early hints in the writing or your performance which viewers may have missed?
"I tried to slip it in sometimes, although I don't really think it was necessary. I think the fact that Doug let Becks go at the end of the Boxing Day episode showed that perhaps she wasn't the love of his life and he was prepared to let her go. That's obviously not an automatic prelude to Doug having a gay relationship, but it maybe showed their partnership in a different light."
The storyline has certainly got people talking as some fans seem really in favour of 'Stug', while others have reservations. What do you make of the viewer reaction so far?
"I anticipated all of the reactions that we've been getting. I usually try to stay off the forum on Digital Spy and reading feedback on Twitter, but I have been taking a look this time because I wanted to see if the reactions that I anticipated were the ones that we got. Not surprisingly, they were.
"In response to some of the reactions, I would love to have the opportunity to say that I wouldn't be interested in doing a story that was cheap, frivolous or just for a 'shock value' moment of a gay kiss. That is not what myself, the producers or anyone else has as a priority.
"I also don't think that the show is suddenly 'turning Doug gay'. The beauty of a soap opera is that you get to see the evolution and journey of characters. There's so much more to come, and we've really worked hard to make it believable and justifiable as to why Doug would be questioning his sexuality at this late stage, although he is only 20."
Knowing that the Ste and Brendan pairing has such a strong following, were you worried that some viewers would turn against Doug?
"Well, I've been lucky so far because the general public either has no feelings or positive feelings towards Doug - I've never really had much hate! I can feel the tide turning a little bit now, but it's fine as any reaction is good. If people are watching, that's what we want.
"I'm very happy that 'Stug' is getting some support and people have already given us a nickname - that's always a good sign! But I'm also confident that we've done the work, and hopefully people who are hesitant about it will come round. 'Stendan' is obviously a very watchable relationship. 'Stug' will be nothing like 'Stendan', but I think it's watchable in its own way."
Does Doug just have a crush on Ste, or are his feelings stronger than that?
"I think it's headed down the path of love - absolute genuine love. But what you'll see in the next few episodes is that Doug really doesn't understand any of it and he's struggling to get to grips with what he's feeling.
"Ste starts dating this other guy named Adam, and Doug develops a possessiveness over Ste as a result. Doug is trying to distinguish whether it's just jealousy because they've spent so much time together recently on the business. But I do think in the end, as time goes by, it could potentially turn into a loving relationship."
Why has Ste caught Doug's eye above anyone else in the village?
"I think it goes back to the fact that there are so many similarities between Ste and Doug. They both have a backstory with Brendan, they're both at the point where they want to turn their lives around, and they've been in close proximity - they've spent loads and loads of time together over the past few months. They hope that they can improve their lives and be happier than they were over the past year.
"There are also going to be moments where you find out what Doug's past is really like. Just because it hasn't been mentioned on the show before, Doug has had a whole lifetime - so there are moments that will be explained and discussed.
"I was recently quoted as saying that this story isn't a gay storyline, but I don't think I meant that in the way that it's come across. It is a gay storyline and I'm not shying away from that. What I meant is that it's a relationship that anyone can tap into and it shouldn't just be disregarded because of its focus on sexuality and homosexuality. I think when you get down to the bare bones, it's just a love story, really."
How easy or difficult will Doug find coming to terms with a possible relationship with another man?
"It certainly won't be easy. Doug is somebody who's quite hard on himself, so it will be a journey and there'll be some very deep low points. You'll have to watch, but there's a very genuine, truthful chain of events that occurs. But hopefully it will lead to Doug being a bit happier and more open."
It's obviously early days, but would Doug be able to accept Ste's children and family life?
"I think so, yeah! We've already had a few scenes where Doug's been to the house and met Leah and Lucas. Because Doug's had a difficult year, it's hard to remember the times when he was a bit more playful and fun-loving. Those moments will pop back up.
"I think the stuff with the kids is something that Doug would want. That's part of Doug's goals - finding purpose, stability and a reason to be around."
Doug and Lynsey's scenes were popular last year. Will their friendship be revisited?
"I can promise the audience that there is resolution to that. I always loved the friendship between Doug and Lynsey as well, and some of the scenes I'm most proud of have been with myself and Karen.
"In the coming weeks, there are very important moments between Doug and Lynsey. There's one scene in particular that I think the audience will appreciate, and it will be coming up on screen in the next month or so.
"Doug and Lynsey's friendship is important and I know that the producers are focused on developing relationships other than just sexual ones. Things like friendship circles are going to become much more important on the show."
It's inevitable that Brendan will find out about Ste and Doug at some point. What can the fans expect from that?
"Obviously there's a lot of drama that will be occurring! I don't think that Brendan is someone who would take that sort of information lightly. Also, Doug still owes Brendan £80,000 for the business - which Ste has no idea about.
"All of the elements are coming together to create the perfect storm, and I think the audience will love it - even the 'Stendan' fans. There's loads of stuff to go around for everybody and we haven't sold anybody short.
"If people are upset about 'Stendan', just be patient as there's loads of stuff coming up. We've been filming so much over the past few months and I'm very proud of it. I've seen some of it back and I think it's some of the best stuff we've done. Working with Kieron and Emmett is just a gift."
> Hollyoaks' Kieron Richardson teases Ste, Doug, Brendan future
> Read more Hollyoaks spoilers and news
Hollyoaks airs weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel 4 with a first look screening at 7pm on E4.