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Mat: Soaps today feature many diverse characters, it's the stuff of life. We've had a few disabled characters in the past but it seems Channel Four have been listening to those who have been saying for years we want a disabled character who just happens to use a wheelchair.
Liz: Yup. 19 year old student Hayley Ramsey aka Kelly-Marie Stewart has just arrived in Hollyoaks and is set to be an important central character in the teen soap. She joins us down the line from Liverpool.
Mat: Hi there.
Liz: How're you doing?
Kelly: I'm fine thank you, how are you?
Mat: Good thank you.
Liz: This is very exciting.
Mat: It's lovely to have you on the show. We just studiously watched one of the episodes that you're in and we're very excited.
Liz: I must admit we were a little bit like "Oh do we have watch it?" Okay then we did and it was like, "No don't stop it yet" "Well you've seen enough" "No, no keep it going." It's good stuff Kelly.
Mat: Before we enthuse a little more, which we certainly will, perhaps Kelly you could just explain to the listeners who your character is and how they fit in the show.
Kelly: Hayley comes in as Zak's sister and she's a really good character, she's quite bubbly and outgoing but the good thing about her is she's just a normal student. She's up for a good laugh and likes drinking, likes going out.
Mat: Pretty much like all the other people in Hollyoaks then?
Kelly: Basically yeah.
Liz: But she is a wheelchair user. She is a disabled person.
Liz: Like yourself yeah?
Kelly: Yeah that's it.
Liz: So how did they, I believe that Mersey TV built the character around you?
Kelly: Yeah. Well what happened initially there was men, women, there was older people than me, younger people than me who all went for the part and it was quite general the casting. So we cast for quite a long time I think maybe even up to 18 months that we cast for.
Kelly: Until initially it was just cut down to myself and two other girls - all totally different, all from different parts of the country but the only thing that we had in common was the fact that we were wheelchair users. That's why it took so long before I was actually onscreen because the script hadn't even been written.
Mat: I can't remember when I've seen a wheelchair user that's better normalised, I mean, it's a fully rounded character with full free dimensions, range or emotions, there's no pity. In the episode we saw you start off the morning after the night before of having had sex, you're drinking in it, you're trying to have a fight with someone - it's pretty full on.
Liz: There's tears, there's emotion. Actually shall we hear a clip.
[Playing clip: Aren't you going to tell this cracked cow who I am?
It's my little sister Hayley.
Your sister? You told me you only had brothers.
Look, Hayley, I'm sorry.
Family remember, but seeing as I don't exist.]
Liz: An intense bit of a clip there. Hayley's brother getting caught out there I think because he's denied to his girlfriend that he ever had a sister, and then you turn up.
Kelly: Yeah. Initially I think she just turns up to surprise him because it's his birthday. But when she gets there she realises that he's trying to keep her away from his friends and that's why because they don't know.
Mat: And your character is what how long a wheelchair user, it's quite a new thing for that character isn't it?
Kelly: Yeah I think Hayley's been in the chair for around two years.
Liz: And how does that compare with you, is that similar for you?
Kelly: I'm just coming up to three years so quite similar yeah.
Mat: How much of the characterising was based on your experiences then?
Kelly: I think that there are a few similarities within the fact that Hayley wasn't always a wheelchair user. So I think that's kind of where it lies although she's a lot more feisty than I am.
Mat: And what about your reactions I mean do you have siblings - brothers, sisters in real life?
Kelly: Yeah I've got a younger brother he's 18 but no he wasn't like Zak at all, he was brilliant.
Mat: So that's just story then.
Liz: Fantastic. Well I want to play another clip and this is where Hayley gets chatted up by one of Zak's friends.
[Playing clip: Of all the bars in all the towns in all the world.
I go and do a wheelie into your one.
You must be Hayley.
What gave it away?
Definitely the accent.
I always thought Zak was hamming it up but now I know people actually talk like that, you know, calm down, calm down.
God that was terrible.
I do a whole range of impressions. Do you want my Russell Brand?))?
Is that a euphemism?
Do you want a drink?
Go on then.]
Liz: A little bit hot in here now.
Mat: Ooh wee.
Kelly: She's not shy.
Mat: She's not is she?
Liz: I think that's really struck us...
Mat: Yeah it has.
Liz: ... when we saw it. And what I really liked was how when you're watching it it's very much you know they're not making a big focus of the fact that you're in a wheelchair but they're not hiding it. We see clips of you wheeling away, Zak's girlfriend pushes you away when she's a bit angry with you, so they use the chair. You transfer on to the sofa and sit on it, and it shows all of that but just in a very natural way.
Kelly: Well that's it. That was one thing that, obviously, I was keen myself to make sure worked because most of the times when you see people on screen and they are in a wheelchair they're just always in a wheelchair. So it was quite good that they listened to what things are really like that if you are in a room for four hours you do sit on a couch.
Liz: And someone was putting out that quite... people do like to see how we move as disabled people and how we live our lives and all that, so it shows that but it doesn't focus on it too much. It's just like, "Okay move on, there's a shot of it but now the dialogue and what's happening on screen is too interesting to really be obsessed about that.
Kelly: That's it, it had to be addressed the wheelchair initially the same as if she had like a black eye, people want to know why and whatever. But I think once it's initially been addressed I think she's just going to blend into everything that's going on in the soap.
Mat: Now that we've been told that most part of the Hollyoaks set have been made accessible for you. But apparently one part isn't yet, can you tell us a bit about that?
Kelly: Yeah the only part at the moment that I can't actually get to is actually outside the SU bar.
Liz: Is that the Student's Union bar?
Kelly: Yeah. I think it's called the Piesa or something.
Kelly: I probably said that wrong but the only problem is because the stairs are so... so many steps in order for them to get a ramp and for it to be done properly it would have went on for too long. And there wasn't actually enough ground space.
Liz: So what's going to happen is you've got... have you had a scene in there yet?
Liz: Okay. And what did you do, how did you cope with it?
Kelly: It was fine. The crew have got big muscles so they managed to get me up there.
Liz: Okay so you went for the lifted in option?
Mat: Do you mind that?
Kelly: No, no I don't mind it. I'd rather somebody give me a hand and me get there than me just be one of these characters who just can't go there. But it's something that they're looking into at the moment so that's good.
Mat: Just in general clubbing terms when you're out and you maybe go, there's a club that you want to go into but it's inaccessible, do you wheel away and don't go in or do you accept being carried up the steps, what's your policy on that personally?
Kelly: No I accept getting... if I want to go somewhere and where there's a will there's a way. If somebody offers to help I won't say no.
Liz: We were saying you know sometimes people you know different disabled people have different views on this one. Some are really no, no if it's not accessible it's almost unwelcoming and on principle or until they make an effort I'm not going to do it and won't be carried up or assisted. And others take a more pragmatic approach and are kind of well I want to do it and I want to get up there so I'll do it.
Mat: What about you Liz what's your take on it.
Liz: I used to be really principled and I'm really upset now that I'm not, no. Because I do comedy and most of the venues aren't accessible and it was that choice I guess similar to Kelly in a way, if you want to do the work, if I wanted to do the shows then I had to be carried up or have the chair carried up. But not an easy one.
Mat: So listen, Kelly, what's going to happen with the old fan club and hero worship and people going, "I think you're so inspirational" and stuff like that, how do you think you're going to handle all that?
Kelly: I don't know, I think I'm quite lucky because she is, although she's feisty and although she stands up for herself, she is quite a nice character, so hopefully the things should be quite positive.
Liz: And you're not going to be, please tell us you're not going be in the programme only to be killed off in a few months. Is this a long term thing hopefully?
Kelly: Hopefully yeah. I've just had a new contract so it looks like she's here to stick around for that little bit longer now...
Liz: Oh really?
Kelly: ... so that's good, yeah.
Liz: And I guess if they've bothered to put in all the ramps financially they can't be bothered getting rid of you anyway.
Kelly: Probably that's it, it's all the cost of the lift.
Mat: So what story lines would you like then to see your character involved in in the future?
Kelly: At the moment I think it's really good that you've seen the emotional side to her and her brother's relationship, so it will be nice to build on that and see them get their old spark back. I think it's good just seeing her enjoy herself now as she's cried quite a bit at the beginning, so just to see her just enjoy herself and have a laugh.
Mat: What else is coming up for Hayley in the near future? Is there anything you can divulge to us in about three or four weeks' time?
Kelly: I think she gets a love interest as such who sees her as a person and doesn't actually realise that she's in a chair at the time. So I think that that's going to throw a bit of a spanner in the works, because the love interest who thinks he falls for Hayley hasn't even really opened his eyes to notice the chair, which is a positive thing that he didn't see it initially, but his reactions leave a lot to be desired.
Liz: And tell us has that ever happened to you in real life?
Kelly: No because, obviously, I've been with my boyfriend for quite some time.
Kelly: I was with him beforehand and stuff like that.
Liz: Well congratulations. Do you want to give it a little plug - when's it on, how can we watch it?
Kelly: It's on channel four weeknights at 6:30.
Mat: And we'll be watching.
Liz: We will be tuning in. Thank you so much, Kelly.
Kelly: Thanks for having me.
Mat: Not at all.
Liz: Take care.
Kelly: Thanks. Bye.
Liz: Bye bye.
Mat: Bye bye.