A look back at JP's most memorable storylines in recent years
John Paul McQueen may not have been the most moral of characters in his last few years on Hollyoaks, but there’s no denying he’s still one of the good guys. And plenty of viewers were hoping he would get a happy ending in his final week onscreen. So it was a heart-warming moment when his closing moments on the soap saw him gazing at an incoming call from his ex-boyfriend Craig Dean. Although actor Guy Burnet didn’t reprise his role, this hopeful ending was the next best thing for viewers who once loved to watch the popular pairing dubbed as ‘McDean’.
Having made a decision to fly to Singapore to teach there, midway through the episode John Paul was seen looking around him in the centre of the village as ‘Epic Last Song’ by Does It Offend You, Yeah played in the background. Fans of Craig & JP’s story will remember that this was the song played to mark their special ‘sunset ending’ back in 2008. So even before there was a hint of a Craig reference, this was a great nod to the partnership and to John Paul’s character alone.
There were short but memorable goodbye scenes with old friend Nancy Osborne, who had kindly arranged his flight as a parting gift; and sister Mercedes: “The best big brother I never had”. His mum Myra was less enthused to wave him off but managed a last minute change of heart: “You go. You be brave, you be brilliant.”
But the most emotional moment came when John Paul talked to Sally St Claire – who had fathered him before transitioning – about his hopes and dreams as a young man. He was lacking the confidence to go out and see the world until a dose of tough love from Sally assured him he was more than capable. Last year’s big plot twist revolving around John Paul’s paternity was a shocker, but the characters bonded well. James and co-star Annie Wallace shone in this heartfelt scene:
“All I’ve got to show for the last ten years is a string of failed relationships.”
“That doesn’t define who you are!”
“Then what does?”
Wise words, but then again we were still happier in the knowledge that one of said failed relationships might have renewed hope!
James Sutton, who played John Paul on and off for eleven years, has delivered stand-out performances since returning to Hollyoaks late in 2012. And none more so powerful and affecting than the male rape storyline that saw John Paul brutally attacked by one of his students. James was praised for his sensitive portrayal in the aftermath episode of the teacher’s ordeal, and during the eventual trial that saw rapist Finn O’Connor found guilty after months of torment.
A particularly memorable scene came at the end of the trial week, when John Paul’s voiceover throughout the five days was revealed to be him talking to Finn in the prison visiting room. John Paul’s determination not to let the teen’s actions define or destroy him gave viewers and survivors a message of strength and hope at the end of a deeply effective storyline. James even became an ambassador for Survivors Manchester, an organisation that offers support to male survivors of rape and sexual abuse.
Later on in happier times, John Paul married Ste Hay but the marriage was far from stable. This pair had spent years strongly disliking each other, so it was a testament to two of Hollyoaks’ strongest actors in James Sutton and Kieron Richardson that their characters managed to form a rather believable sweet friendship. The big, emotional scenes between them always rang true onscreen as Ste and JP helped each other through the toughest of times; like the latter’s aforementioned traumatic ordeal and Ste’s drug abuse. Ultimately it was the romantic aspect of their relationship that would never live up to their previous partnerships (McDean and Stendan forever!); but this doesn’t take away from such consistently solid performances during that era.
There were many sides to John Paul; and as viewers discovered throughout his second stint in the village, being the most sensible McQueen sibling was just a small part of who he was. He had several love affairs over the years including with Ste’s father (before he had ever thought about Ste as a potential conquest), his cousin’s husband Lockie and the ‘emotionally stunted’ James Nightingale. He had also become a father through surrogacy upon his return, and kept his talent for sarcastic one-liners.
While his mostly-female family were running around causing comedic dramas, John Paul could always be counted on to assess the situation with an accurate witty remark.
“You must be mad! It’s like the female mafia in this house” – On Mercedes’ then-boyfriend Russ moving in with the family.
“Really going for that husband of the year award, aren’t you?” – To Darren Osborne on his hasty hospital exit while Nancy lay bed-ridden.
“And you’ve got grey hair”
“See…it could be worse!” – An attempt to cheer up Mercedes, who wasn’t having a very happy 30th birthday.
John Paul’s one-liners were always delivered with great comic timing. The tone was always just right and the dialogue could often steal a scene. Add that to his ability to carry the powerful storylines so well, and it’s easy to predict that actor James surely won’t be off our screens for too long.
Perhaps sometime soon we’ll be hearing Myra McQueen mention that her son has been joined in Singapore by Craig, and then we can officially call John Paul’s exit a happy ending. Not that jetting off for a dream job with little Matthew-Jesus wasn’t good enough, of course – but just humour us, will you Hollyoaks?