Hollyoaks spoilers follow.
Hollyoaks star Angus Castle-Doughty has spoken out about the show's radical misogyny story, which is being explored through newcomer Eric Foster.
Viewers have seen Eric's disturbing behaviour intensify in recent episodes, as he became fixated on Cleo McQueen.
The story is also exploring incel culture, with Eric telling his sister Verity that he considers people such as Cleo and Joel – who had reunited – 'pointless'.
The term 'incel', or 'involuntary celibate', refers to people who define themselves as unable to get a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one.
Speaking exclusively to Digital Spy about the storyline – which is a first for soaps – Angus, who plays Eric, said: "I feel a huge weight of responsibility taking on Eric, and in all honesty, it's an honour to be involved, precisely because I think it's such an important issue that we simply are not engaging with enough.
"After two years of various degrees of isolation, our society is more online than ever. The advisor on this storyline, feminist writer Laura Bates, did research into how algorithms dictate the media we consume and our auto-cue on YouTube which suggests more radical content per view, we are now faced with a vital responsibility to engage and educate young people; their fears, their anxieties and their viewpoints or risk losing more and more to anti-feminist, radically misogynistic ideas."
"I think there is the Hollyoaks canonical backstory, like Eric's family and what we've heard about in the show," Angus said when discussing Eric's past. "Then there is the backstory I've made my own choices on. The first you already know, the second are my secrets!"
A few weeks ago, Eric was responsible for giving schoolboy Charlie Osborne some disturbing advice, which led to a humiliating ordeal for his teacher Olivia.
When asked if Eric will continue to have a worrying influence on Charlie, Angus said: "Maybe! I think part of the importance of this storyline is exploring how people fall into such a subculture. That would be interesting to explore."
Eric's misogynistic views and resentment towards woman haven't gone unnoticed by a worried Verity but it's clear that even she may only be seeing half the story.
Discussing whether Verity realises the severity of what's going on with Eric, Angus added: "I don't, no. I think Verity is being met with a completely different version of her brother, and one she doesn't at all recognise.
"There are elements of the old Eric in there, fighting to get out. But then he slips back down the rabbit hole, a place that offers easy answers to his fears and anger, and that quietens down the old, sweet, awkward Eric."
"I think Verity is fighting to look after someone that she loves, without any awareness of what is causing the behaviour, which makes it a difficult task for sure.
"Our relationship on the show is something that is deeply important to me; not only is Eva [O'Hara] a good friend and one of the best actors I've had the pleasure of working with, Eric and Verity's dynamic highlights how much we can miss in our relationships today, where there is a whole other world that people can exist in online."
Eric's story will continue in tonight's first look episode (May 12) at 7pm on E4.
Hollyoaks now streams first on All 4, with new episodes dropping each weekday morning. The show airs Mondays to Fridays at 6.30pm on Channel 4, and at 7pm on E4. Selected omnibus episodes are available via Amazon Prime Video.
If you've been affected by the issues raised in this story, organisations who can offer support include Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org) or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to visit mentalhealth.gov.
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