Seriously injured and trapped beneath rubble in the aftermath of the accident, Rhys slipped away with distraught wife Jacqui (Claire Cooper) by his side as there was not enough time for a fire crew to arrive to free him.
Andrew Moss, who played the role of Rhys, finished up at Hollyoaks just a few days ago after seven years with the soap. Here, he chats to Digital Spy about his long stint in Chester and why it was time to go.
How do you feel now that your time at Hollyoaks has come to an end?
"I've got mixed emotions about it. I'm really excited to get out now because it's literally the seven-year itch - I'm ready to move on and I would like to do other things. I probably could have stayed there for the rest of my life, and that's because the cast, the crew and everyone in that building are really close.
"Every day going into work there is a pleasure - I'd literally jump out of bed in the morning to go into work. So that's the sad thing, but I do need to move on and experience new roles and challenges, just for myself."
Were you pleased that Rhys was given such a dramatic exit?
"Definitely - that's something that I really do owe them for. I was bandying around that I wanted to leave and it was getting up to the time when I would have to go, and then this stunt came around. I was really keen to be involved, so it all timed really well and I'm very grateful that they've trusted me to do this.
"The big death scene at the end was another first for Hollyoaks, because they left the camera on Rhys and Jacqui for the whole scene and let it play out. Playing that scene was harrowing but lovely, and I owe them big time for trusting me to do it."
On the other hand, is there a part of you that wishes the door had been left open just in case?
"To be honest, I think it's a good thing that the door hasn't been left open. Acting is a precarious profession - you can go from working every day to not having a job for two, three or four months. Because I'm so comfortable at Hollyoaks and I love all the people there, it would just be so easy for me to say, 'Yep, I'm coming back'. So in a way I'm glad that there's no way back, but then again it's Hollyoaks, so never say never!"
Were the tears real in your death scene with Claire Cooper?
"Do you know what? They were absolutely real. Me and Claire work really well together. I know when she's going to speak, I know when she's finished, and I know what rhythm she goes at with the pace of the lines. We can do a scene together really quickly.
"What we decided for the final scene was that we didn't even want to rehearse it. When we read it together a few days before, we both couldn't stop crying. So we didn't want to rehearse it so much that those emotions weren't there anymore. We read it together once, and that was the only time we did until we actually did the scene on the day.
"Filming the death scene was really upsetting, but I think that really added to the emotions you saw on screen. When Rhys was saying, 'I don't want to die, please don't let me die', as an actor I was thinking about my time at Hollyoaks and being really sad to leave. So the emotions were all related to that and they were absolutely real tears!"
Last year Rhys went on a brilliant journey with the rape storyline and was 100% loyal to Jacqui. Were you disappointed that he went on to have an affair this year?
"I won't lie, as an actor I was disappointed over the affair because myself and Claire had worked so hard to make Rhys and Jacqui a strong, believable couple. I'd also put a lot of work into making Rhys a loveable character.
"But with all soaps, things have to happen and they sometimes have to happen quickly. To be able to get this ending, we had to split up Rhys and Jacqui and get the audience to dislike my character again, as upsetting as that was for me!
"I think the affair with Cindy was about escapism for Rhys as it all became too much for him when he found himself married and living at the McQueen house with a 16-year-old to look after. He wasn't ready for all that and it was a struggle for him, so he went back to his old selfish ways. The old Rhys was back!"
Do you think Rhys realised how much he loved Jacqui in his dying moments?
"Totally. What I think is that Rhys will always be in love with Jacqui. If this had all happened when Rhys had grown up a little bit more and he was ready to settle down, there wouldn't be a problem.
"The issue is that Jacqui wanted to nest now - she wanted the house, she wanted to have her adopted child Phoebe and be the matriarch of the McQueens. But Rhys wasn't ready to play that role yet - he didn't want to be a family man or settle down. That's the only way I could justify it when playing the scenes."
When did you finish filming?
"You won't believe this, but I only finished at Hollyoaks last week on November 6! What we do sometimes with these stories is that we'll add things at the last minute to make them even better. They rang me up and told me that they wanted to add even more to it, so I was filming right up until the episodes needed to be sent off to Channel 4."
Was it difficult to keep your departure from the show under wraps?
"In this day and age, it's very hard to keep a secret like this. All it takes is one slip-up on Twitter if you're talking to one of your fellow cast members. That's happened before and it's really upsetting. But I literally went round and told everyone that if anyone gave the game away, I'd go mad! So I think everyone was double-checking all of their tweets to make sure that Rhys's death came as a shock.
"The hardest thing for me is that I haven't been able to let people know that I'm available for work, so it'll be nice now it's finally public so I can get another job!"
Have you had a leaving party yet?
"Yes, we've had my big leaving party. It was disguised as Bronagh's 30th birthday as well, so it was actually a joint party for the two of us. That was why Bronagh arrived with a coffin in tow, to symbolise my passing! It was incredible and I had the best night of my life with some of the best friends that I've ever met."
Who will you stay in touch with?
"I'm not just saying it, I get on well with so many of them. I know for a fact that I'll stay in touch forever with Bronagh, Claire, Jess Forrest and Ashley Taylor Dawson. Ashley looked after me at Hollyoaks because he's been there even longer than me!"
What were your favourite storylines to film?
"I've absolutely loved working with Claire Cooper, and the rape storyline was really harrowing but great to be trusted with.
"My all-time favourite was probably when we did the anorexia storyline, because I think that's when we were at our peak. Myself and Emma Rigby received so many letters at the time, and I really believe that Emma saved people's lives doing that storyline. The writing team put so much research into it, and that was my proudest moment as an actor. I think we did it as well as it could have been done for a 6.30pm show."
What are your future career plans?
"I've worked solidly for ten years now on different shows, literally without any time off apart from a few short holidays here and there. I think I'm ready for a good, long break now so I'm going to maybe go travelling or take a little bit of time out.
"It sounds cheesy and clichéd, but I'd like to find myself again and remind myself of what people do when they don't have to work for 15 hours a day! So I'll have a bit of downtime and then I'm going to plan my career after that. I want to carry on entertaining, so it'll either be acting or maybe more work with my band. I'm toying with a few things at the moment, but you'll always see me somewhere!"
Would you rule out joining another soap?
"Not at all - I'm an actor and I'm not snobby when it comes to work. If somebody offered me a nice role on another soap, I'd definitely consider it. I'm not sure if I'd do it straight away after seven years on Hollyoaks, but I'd never turn my nose up at another soap.
"I want to go into Corrie actually as I only live across the road and loads of my mates work there, so that'd be an ideal job!"
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