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Hollyoaks’ Jessica Fox on the soap’s county lines storyline: ‘It will show that it can happen even in the best of families’

(Image credit: C4)

The star’s screen son, Charlie, will be one of the Hollyoaks teens exploited...

Hollyoaks star Jessica Fox, who plays Nancy Osborne, has praised the soap’s ambitious plot for 2020 which will explore the topical issue of county lines drug dealing, and says it will be an opportunity to show that it’s not just youngsters from troubled homes who are at risk of exploitation.

'County lines' refers to gangs from big cities that target young people and vulnerable adults to sell their drugs in the suburbs.

nancy hollyoaks

Trouble is looming for Nancy in 2020 (Picture: Lime Pictures)

Teen characters including Sid (Billy Price), Juliet (Niamh Blackshaw), Ella (Erin Palmer) and Nancy’s adoptive son Charlie (Behan) will be groomed by a gang that infiltrates the village.

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The storyline kicks off with an hour-long special episode set on New Year’s Eve – airing on 30th December – in which flash forward scenes give an ominous glimpse into the future, exactly a year on.

A knife will be seen being put into a police evidence bag, while Leela, who has agreed to foster Sid, will find a guitar smashed to pieces in The Dog car park.

Darren and Nancy in Hollyoaks

Darren and Nancy have no idea the turn their lives are about to take (Picture: Lime Pictures)

Meanwhile, police will be seen banging on the Osborne’s front door, as Nancy shouts up to Charlie to ask what he has done.

Says Jessica: "Charlie has always been such a nice boy. So for the audience, it’s going to be 'What has happened over the course of this year that has made this sweet, kind, thoughtful child into a criminal? How has that happened, why has it happened and what is Nancy’s stance on it?' And that’s all to be revealed…"

Asked if Nancy will blame herself for Charlie's situation, the actress adds: "Absolutely, 100%; I don’t know any parent who wouldn’t feel responsible, even if they’re not.

"But these things happen, and one of the reasons we want to do this storyline is to show that in can happen even in the best families; the most caring families, with strong people who think their family is impenetrable.

Nancy, Darren, Luke, Cindy and Mandy in Hollyoaks

New Year's Eve gets off to a good start... but soon drama hits (Picture: Lime Pictures)

"That’s why this storyline is so important. These groomers, these horrible monstruous people, can get into these kids’ heads and change them without them even noticing. To do this storyline with Charlie, in particular, is a great thing because he’s part of such a strong family.

"He’s got Jack, Nancy and Darren; he’s got a lot of love and support around him, but for some reason it just goes wrong."

Hollyoaks producers are working closely with The Children's Society on the dark storyline. The organisation’s recent findings reveal that arrests of 10-17-year-olds for possession with intent to supply Class A drugs increased by 49% across 17 police forces outside London over the last three years.

Hollyoaks airs weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel 4, with first look screenings at 7pm on E4.

Alison Slade
Alison Slade

Alison Slade has over 20 years of experience as a TV journalist and has spent the vast majority of that time as Soap Editor of TV Times magazine. 

She is passionate about the ability of soaps to change the world by presenting important, issue-based stories about real people in a relatable way.

There are few soap actors that she hasn’t interviewed over the years, and her expertise in the genre means she has been called upon as a judge numerous times for The British Soap Awards and the BAFTA TV Awards.

When she is not writing about soaps, watching soaps, or interviewing people who are in soaps, she loves going to the theatre, taking a long walk or pottering about at home, obsessing over Farrow and Ball paint.