Kai Owen has been lucky enough to work on some of the UK’s best TV shows, Torchwood, Waterloo Road, Doc Martin, but he’d never done a stint in a long running Soap. All that changed last year when he landed a part in one of the nations favourites.
How would it compare to other TV jobs? What were the hours like? Was it as big an operation as it appears? How quickly were scenes shot? Here, Kai Owen reveals all.
‘My year in Hollyoaks’ GUEST BLOG by Kai Owen
“I always fancied doing a ‘soap’, it sounded like it would suit my mentality; Knowing what I’m doing, when, can plan holidays, weekends off!! Bloody marvellous. And obviously regular work! Who knows? Maybe one day.
Luckily for me that day came last March 2015, when I was cast in a hard hitting storyline for Channel 4’s ‘Hollyoaks’, a 12 month contract, that’s coming to an end as I write this. The storyline was being supported by the NSPCC, a huge sexual abuse story. I was going in as the abuser. There’s a huge cast at Hollyoaks around 60 actors, loads of stories running, it’s on every night of the week. More than the main 3 of ‘Corrie’, ‘Enders’ and ‘Emmerdale’. So you can imagine, it’s mental! The schedule is mental. There’s always five units shooting, sometimes six.
We film at LIME Pictures in the lovely city of Liverpool. It’s about 20 mins from the city centre, it’s the old ‘Brookside’ studios. Most of the crew are full time staff and a lot of them have been here since the ‘Brookie’ days. There’s a brilliant family feel to the place, to a man they are so lovely and welcoming. We film Monday to Friday, and do the occasional Saturday, but you get plenty of warning when you’re needed on a Saturday. I live in London, and I stay in Liverpool during the week and head back on weekends.
When your storyline is heavy you are in every day and if it’s going to be on the telly over a period of weeks then you are bloody busy! You’ll be probably needed over a few units, each block is five Eps, a weeks worth, it usually takes about three weeks to shoot the block. But like I said you could be on a few blocks so you’re going from unit to unit, each time a make up and costume change, different director and crew. I had a few weeks like that but I’ve been concentrated on the one story so not too bad, a few of the regulars on here are in constantly. So busy, and very very tiring. But the atmosphere on this job is like nothing I’ve experienced before, yes the schedule is mental, one minute you think you’ve got the day off, next minute you’re called in, or you might think “ooh lovely, I’m done after this scene, I can pop for a pint or some food” and before you know it they’ve added a couple of extra scenes on for you!! So you need to get those lines down fast!! But it has been the happiest job I’ve done so far.
Everyone is so lovely the cast, the crew, the staff, the canteen (and I spend a lot of time in there)!! It’s a real bubble. It’s intense but the atmosphere is lovely. The city helps I must say, Liverpool, it has a heart of solid gold and the people are lovely. I get a cab to work in the mornings and as I live in London the joy of having a cabby who’s not rude, wants to chat and is a good laugh, totally sets up my day. If I’m doing a full day I’m called at 7:30am for Make up, you’re given a make up chair number, there’s about 18 chairs, you go to the one who’s Eps you’re on. Always a good crack in the make up room, great bunch, music on, always a buzz. Then I’ll go to costume, I share a dressing room with about 8 other lads, I’ll stick my gear on and head to the canteen for brekkie!!! (Said in a scouse accent)!!
On set for 8:30am, wrap at 6:30pm. The day is like any normal film shoot, but it’s fast! Bloody fast! We usually do about 7-8 scenes a day Sometimes more. There’s a line run, a block, a crew show then bang! action!, a good few set ups, different sizes and you’re on to the next one. The day goes quick, of course some larger crowd scenes can takes days but generally it shifts along at a pace. I like that.
People come and go at Hollyoaks all the time, new cast, old cast leaving, it’s a machine, a well oiled one, as crazy as the schedule is, it works for them. One of my best mates here, Jimmy McKenna has been on it for 20 years!! He loves it, settled in Liverpool, family here. There’s something about that, that really appeals to me. I like routine, I like knowing, planning ahead (what actor wouldn’t??) You can book your holidays like a normal job. It’s only been 12 months, but I’ve loved it since day one. It definitely suits my mentality. They certainly can’t bring my character back after he’s been sent down, but it is a soap and stranger things have happened.
It’s been a huge pleasure to play this storyline and an even greater pleasure being part of the show. It’s been great. Really great, I can totally see how you could get settled in a job like this and stay for years. I’m one of the senior members of the cast. There’s a lot of young, very talented actors on the show and I’m always saying to them, don’t stay too long you’re too good and you’ve got all your career in front of you. But, an older actor/actress 40+ maybe, married, kids I’d be very surprised if they didn’t fancy a good 4-5 year stint! Maybe more! I certainly would.”