Hollyoaks will air a storyline about far-right radicalisation to try to raise awareness of the issue in the UK.
The Channel 4 soap has worked with experts and charities to help tell the story, where Ste, played by Kieron Richardson, becomes radicalised by newcomer Jonny, played by Ray Quinn.
The number of people referred to the government’s anti-extremism programme because of right-wing extremism went up by 28% to 968 in 2016-17.
The storyline will begin in January.
“It’s vital that we get beyond the caricatures and understand the way extremists really operate,” says Jamie Bartlett, an author who worked with Hollyoaks on the story.
Jamie, who shadowed movements with extremist views for his 2017 book Radicals, adds that far-right groomers exploit “legitimate personal grievances”.
That’s what happens to the character of Ste, who blames Dr Misbah Maalik for the death of his sister Tegan.
“Having the chance to see the storyline unfold slowly over time will help viewers understand the reality of these groups: why and how people end up getting sucked in,” says Jamie.
Hollyoaks writers also took advice from the organisation Exit UK, an independent group which helps people who have become involved in far-right groups.
About 16% of referrals to the government’s anti-radicalisation programme, Prevent, were because of far-right concerns in 2016-17, official figures show.
That compares to 61% of the 6,093 people who were referred because of Islamist extremism.
Kieron Richardson, who plays Ste, says: “At first, hearing this story, I was unaware of what radicalisation was or meant.
“After a lot of eye opening research, I’m nervous, honoured but most of all excited for this very different soap story to be told”.
Hollyoaks’ storyline is the latest in a series of soap plots which tackle big social issues.
Earlier this year, EastEnders aired a storyline about knife crime and worked with Brooke Kinsella, whose brother was stabbed in 2018.
Coronation Street’s recent stories have included male suicide and male rape – which the show says received a massive response from viewers.
Channel 4 says it will provide programme support around the Hollyoaks episodes to do with far-right extremism.
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