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'Hollyoaks' James Sutton talks John Paul's return - interview

By
James Sutton aka 'Ryan Lamb'

© Rex Features / David Fisher

Hollyoaks welcomes back one of its best-loved characters next week as John Paul McQueen returns to screens after a four-year absence.

As has been widely reported, John Paul has a chance meeting with Brendan Brady (Emmett Scanlan) in Dublin, before heading back to the village to join his family in time for Christmas.

Digital Spy recently caught up with James Sutton, who plays John Paul, to hear all the gossip on his Hollyoaks comeback.

How does it feel to be back on Hollyoaks after four years away?
"It's been good and really nice. I'm starting to settle in now and the cast are lovely. There's a lot of new people - I'm struggling to learn everybody's names! But a lot of my old pals are here too, including the rest of the McQueen family, so it's been great so far."

How did the return come about?
"I always thought that at some point I would probably come back, because I had such a good experience the first time around and there's also the fact that I live in Liverpool, where the show is filmed. It was just a matter of timing, really.

"I'd often said 'never say never' and that I would come back if the storyline was right, but I wouldn't have come back just for the sake of it. What happened was that Bryan Kirkwood returned to Hollyoaks as executive producer, and we'd always stayed in touch anyway. We went out for dinner and he told me that he'd had an idea for a storyline for John Paul. It sounded appealing, so I said yes!"

Hollyoaks Christmas 2012: Behind the Scenes

© Lime Pictures



Was Bryan's return the main factor which influenced your decision?
"Well, I think Bryan is someone who really gets it - he understands soap so well, he really cares and he invests a great deal into the storylines personally. He oversees everything and he's very hands-on, which is fantastic.

"Obviously he's been away and had experience over at EastEnders, and he's come back really hungry to make Hollyoaks as successful as it can be. I think that energy and passion really rubs off on people. It's very hard to hear someone speak so eloquently and passionately about the show and not buy into it!"

What kind of a reaction have you seen from fans since your return was announced?
"It's been really positive. I've seen a lot of tweets from people who seem excited to see John Paul again, which is really nice. I used to get a message every day saying, 'Are you coming back?' and now I can finally say that I am!"

Because John Paul is so fondly remembered, is there a pressure that comes with revisiting the role?
"Yeah, I think so. There is a certain amount of pressure but it's pressure that I put on myself more than anything. I want to do the best job I can, and I don't want to let anyone down. It's not that I think I will let people down, but I did have such a good run last time and I don't want to mess it up.

"What I can say is that I feel really good and really positive about what we're doing. John Paul's character has moved into a different direction now. He's a different person and that's a lot of fun to play with. The dynamic within the family has changed too, and there's also a lot of new characters in the village for John Paul to interact with. It feels different than it did last time, but in a really good way."

As John Paul's relationship with Craig Dean was so popular, some viewers are naturally disappointed that they've split up. How do you feel about that?
"I think it's great that people are so invested in it. It makes me feel really proud that what we created has had a lasting appeal for people - I think that can only be a positive thing.

"I think the fans are really going to enjoy where things are going with storylines for my character and the people that he gets involved with. There's a lot of really exciting material coming up."

We first see John Paul in Dublin, don't we?
"Yeah, I went over to Dublin to do some filming there, which was fantastic. My first scenes are with Emmett Scanlan, who plays Brendan, and that was really nice. I've known Emmett for a while and we've always got on pretty well. He's a top guy and we've done some really nice stuff, which I'm really excited for people to see because I'm quite proud of it.

"There was an amazing crew for those scenes, including Steve Brett, who is one of my favourite directors. It was a really nice way to come back into it."

John Paul and Brendan at the bus station

© Lime Pictures



Hollyoaks does have some new fans, so there'll be some people who've never seen John Paul! Can you remind us of his place in the family?
"Yeah, it is funny that a lot of people will never have seen me or heard of the character! That's actually really nice, because for some viewers he'll just be a new guy in the village who has some history there.

"John Paul is the voice of reason in this family of women with crazy, big personalities. He's always been very close to Jacqui, as she's the eldest in the family and helped to bring him up. John Paul shares a father with Carmel and Michaela, so he's close to them as well.

"He's kind of the one who sits there and lets this chaos erupt around him and shakes his head a lot! He's the quietest one in the family, but he's also the most sensible."

Have you been filming mainly with the McQueens so far, or will John Paul make some new friends?
"I can't really say too much, but I have made some new friends and I've had scenes with some of the established characters, which has been really nice. I've also got some stuff coming up with some people who I haven't worked with before, which is always really exciting.

"I've also done a lot with the family, because when John Paul comes back, the McQueens are in turmoil. There's all sorts of things going on with Mercedes, with Myra and it's all chaos."

Will John Paul stay single for a while, or is it inevitable that they'll pair him up with someone?
"I don't know yet! I'm really open to whatever they want to do, but I am conscious that the last time I was here, a lot of my storylines were relationship-based. There's a lot more going on now with John Paul. Like I say, he's a different person now - he knows who he is and what he wants.

"I think when we see John Paul, he's had a pretty horrific time with Craig over in Dublin and I don't think he wants to be with anyone just now. He feels a bit lost, so he needs to come back into the bosom of the family."

John Paul at the bus station

© Lime Pictures



Liverpool radio host Pete Price - a friend of yours - recently said that a future storyline for John Paul has never been used on a soap before. Is that an accurate description?
"There might be some truth in that, but I can't really confirm or deny that statement! Pete is a great friend of mine and I think he was stirring the pot somewhat, but I do have some really exciting stuff coming up that I can't wait to shoot and can't wait for people to see."

When we last spoke, you were just about to launch your pop-up acting company Broken Leg Workshops. How's it all going?
"It's been fantastic. We've recently run a workshop in Leeds, which was a huge success. It's a really nice thing to be involved in, because there are so many people out there who want to act and see what it's like in front of a camera.

"It's rare that you get that opportunity, because most drama groups focus on theatre. We've got some big plans for next year and it's really nice for me to do something different."

> Read the latest 'Hollyoaks' spoilers and news

Hollyoaks airs weekdays at 6.30pm on Channel 4, with first look screenings at 7pm on E4. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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