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Hollyoaks spoilers follow.
Hollyoaks star Gary Lucy has spoken out about tonight's devastating Luke Morgan twist.
Luke was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in December 2019, and his condition has started to deteriorate in recent months.
Tonight's hour-long special (June 6) saw Luke fall off a cliff during a poignant moment with his partner Cindy. Sadly, his family will ultimately be told there is nothing more they can do for him in the aftermath, bringing an end to Gary's 24 years on the show.
Digital Spy recently caught up with Gary, who plays Luke, to hear all about why he pitched Luke's heartbreaking story, what it was like filming his final scenes, and what life after Hollyoaks holds for him.
How are you feeling now your time at Hollyoaks is over?
"Once the dust settled, pretty good really. Because obviously now I'm able to be down to see my kids, and not have that phone call on any given day where they say, 'Right, something's changed. We need you in', and just have the extended time with my family. Through lockdown, I think everyone kind of reevaluated a lot of things, and thought, 'What's everything about, really?' I have worked away a lot for a period of about six years. And to have the luxury now of being able to pop up to school and pick them up and take them for a pizza or whatever – it's just lovely, and on that side, it's great.
"As far as the immediate end to the character and my time in Hollyoaks – it was obviously very emotional, because I started there in 1998. I was 17 at the time. I was a young boy, really, and I've grown up with a lot of these people both in front and behind the camera.
"I've seen their progression in their careers, and they have with me, and also with our personal lives. When I started at 17, kids certainly weren't on my horizon, or in my thoughts, and now I've got four, and that goes for quite a few of us there. It has been lovely. It was just a really lovely thing to come and revisit and come back to. It's been heartbreaking to say goodbye for the final time."
Did you always know this story was going to lead to the end of Luke?
"Yes. Lovely Bryan Kirkwood [former producer] wanted me to come back after my fourth stint. My first stint was 1998 to 2000, and then for the next one, I came back in while I was doing Footballers Wives and they made the schedule work for me.
"And then all those years later, I came back in under Bryan Kirkwood, who wanted to revive Luke and bring him back in to explore the effects of not having dealt with such a traumatic event with the male rape. So I came back in for a short period in between doing the Full Monty tour, and then afterwards he said, 'I'd love to have you back again, would you consider it?'
"I said I'd absolutely love to and so we talked about it, and basically I suggested a young dementia story – frontotemporal dementia is the medical term for it. It had never been done before and that is what Hollyoaks is all about.
"It is leading the pack in regards to groundbreaking and heavy stories. Luke's male rape being another one obviously back in the day, which was huge and so important. This was a great opportunity to come back and to ultimately finish with another story that is a first basically – young dementia, especially."
"I know other shows have done dementia stories and I know Emmerdale had a story with Ashley's character, which was amazing. But it happens to young people as well. For instance, one of the guys I went to school had it and no-one really understood what was going on. It's just heartbreaking."
Did you have any regrets about leaving as the end got closer?
"No. It was the right thing to do, absolutely the right thing to do. My grey hairs are coming through now, more and more! It was time. But what a fantastic place it is, and what a fantastic group of people. I’ve only got fantastic memories to take with me. It was time though. "
What sort of reaction have you had from fans?
"It's all been really positive. Obviously, I say 'positive' – it's still heartbreaking because people that have either had parents or cousins or uncles or whatever relatives that have suffered with it, or are suffering, they're thanking us for covering it. They're like, 'It reminds me of my uncle or my dad when this happened. It's bringing back memories. At the same time, thank you for that, because I'm really struggling to know how to cope with it. When I'm watching Ollie and Cindy and Zara and how they're managing, it's helpful'. That is the best thing about these TV dramas and soaps. They play an important part in people's lives."
Has it been challenging to play?
"It has. Without wanting to bore you, we were always taught that acting is reacting, and with this particular condition, especially when he's anxious, stressed, or confused, Luke has these moments where he's not really there.
"By doing that, it means I'm not really listening as Luke is kind of in his own world. I've been through something similar myself as my nan is in a home now with it and it's that vacant, staring off into the distance thing which is really difficult. It was difficult to do and pitch in and hope that you what you were doing is right."
What were the Mallorca episodes like to film?
"I mean, what a gift. It was so lovely of them to not put me in a cab and give me this wonderful kind of send-off instead. I hope it breaks everyone's heart, because that was the intention, really. It was fantastic being there in the sunshine with all my friends, because that's what they are – they're not just work colleagues, they're my mates, and people I've known since I was 17. That was 23 years ago now. Do you know what I mean? It's pretty amazing really."
How did you feel about the nature of Luke's death in the end?
"Well there was that beautiful scene where he takes Cindy up to the cliff, where there are beautiful views and everything. There's a table set up, and a romantic dinner for the pair of them. He's got the wedding band there and everything and it's all lovely. But there was that running theme throughout the episode where he kept having that dream, and he can’t understand what it means, but he knows there's something to it.
"He's trying to piece it together, like: what does it mean? There's something there, but he can't quite see it, and he can't quite touch it, but it's in the dark. Anyway, he obviously put his hand out, looking for the ring, and he can't find the ring and he was back in the moment, in the present, but still standing too close to the edge. He literally just slipped and that's it. It's the end of story. He falls to his death, if you like."
Viewers are obviously aware Luke's exit will be playing out this week, but do you think there will still be an element of shock in regards to how he actually dies?
"Yes hopefully. That was certainly the idea, so I hope so. It's all very heartbreaking that he and Cindy didn’t get their happy ending as well. Their time was cut short in the end."
What was your final day on set like?
"Well, I didn't have a leaving do. I mean, how many of them can you have? Don’t get me wrong – we were in Mallorca, and we had a wrap party. It was, obviously, the usual: gifts and flowers, whatever, for people; for key people that I work with every day, and also people that I've known for many years. It was enough to do it that way. The show continues, and a lot of these people I hope – and I'm sure – I'm going to continue to see anyway outside of work anyway."
Do you have any special plans to watch the episode?
"Yeah. I've done a lot of the voiceovers for it, like the ADR sessions, so I've seen clips. But we've got an evening with everyone invited – a bit of a party, I suppose, which we used to do pre-lockdown, for any kind of key episodes. So I'll be back up to watch it then with everyone else."
This one might be fairly obvious, but what has been your highlight of your time on the show?
"Yeah definitely the male rape story. It's the story that everyone remembers. From any other show that I've done, it always surprised me – people used to come up to me and always say that. They'd mention that story. I just think: what a gift, and what an amazing thing that I was able to be part of. It's groundbreaking and so important. And, obviously, if people remember it all these years on, then we obviously did a good job with it. "
What's next for you?
"Well, a summer with the kids would be nice. That's what I’m hoping for. And, you know, for instance, today, I'm going to go pick them up from school, and take them for a pizza. I've not been able to do that during the weekdays for so long. So I am looking forward to doing things like that.
"And then I've got a little project which I'm hoping will go ahead, and that will be probably around August time, which is a self-contained. I can't say what it is, but it's something completely different. It has a start, middle, and an end, and it doesn't drag on for three, five, or however many years, which is fantastic. I'm looking forward to that."
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.
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