As Tom Cunningham turns 18 over Christmas, star Ellis Hollins picks out his best bits from his life in soap
Hollyoaks’ Tom Cunningham celebrates his 18th birthday this Christmas. Blimey, how time has flown! It doesn’t seem like five minutes since he was sat in the back of parents Gordon and Helen’s car in 2004 with his little woolly hat on.
“On the day of Tom’s birthday, the Osbornes put up photos around the house of him when he was a kid,” revealed actor Ellis Hollins, who, in real life, turned 18 in November. “Half of them I hadn’t seen myself, so it was a surprise for Ellis as well as for Tom.”
Ellis was just three years old when he joined the Hollyoaks cast, and had turned four when his first scene aired – so that’s a whopping 15 years he’s notched up. Here, the star recalls his favourite five storylines as Tom Cunningham:
Helen and Gordon’s car crash, 2004
Poor Tom was orphaned in 2004 when parents Helen and Gordon were killed in a car crash – which we recently learnt was caused by village newcomer, Milo. But the memorable scene might not have happened if it hadn’t been for some canny thinking from Ellis’s real life mum.
“I remember key moments in Tom’s life, and I remember when I was in the back of the car when his mum and dad had the crash and died,” said Ellis. “It’s funny, because I wouldn’t get in the car with strangers, so my mum had to lie across the back, out of shot, so I’d get in!”
Tom sets fire to the Cunningham house, 2005
The fire at the Cunningham’s was one of Hollyoaks’ Easter storylines in 2005. The storyline began when Mandy and Max decided to throw a party for Tom after a party he should have been going to was cancelled. During a game of hide and seek, Tom went into OB’s room, where he discovered boxes of fireworks and sparklers.
“I was 5 or 6, and the Cunningham’s house back then was on the cul-de-sac where they used to film Brookside,” revealed Ellis. “I remember that Tom lit the fireworks and went to bed, and set the house on fire, and fireman Ben had to grab me out of the window in his arms.”
Tom is kidnapped by Sienna, 2013
Most Hollyoaks residents get kidnapped at some point in their lives, and Tom’s ordeal came courtesy of Sienna Blake. She held Tom captive in the cellar of her childhood home when he rightly suspected that she was faking her pregnancy.
“When Sienna kidnapped Tom, it went on for so long and it was so great to film,” recalled Ellis. “He developed some sort of Stockholm Syndrome and there was a bit of a Shawshank Redemption way out. I was stuck in the same room for two or three months and I couldn’t cut my hair – and that’s when I discovered that I had curly hair, because I’d always had my hair cut short and never had it long enough to develop curls. So that was a surprise to me and everyone else!”
Claire Devine returns to the village – 2013
Tom was tormented by evil Claire when she was married to his half brother, Max, and when she returned to the village several years later, he was understandably terrified.
“I remember a scene when she came back and Tom saw her in The Dog car park and wet himself,” said Ellis. ‘That was interesting! It wasn’t me having a wee – they put a pipe down my trousers and it was connected to a bike pump thing, and then they pumped the water through.’
Hollyoaks High explosion, 2017
The soap has had plenty of dramatic stunts over the years, and in October, evil Mac Nightingale caused an explosion at the school when he caused a gas leak in the boiler room.
“I like all the stunts, and I had a really good time filming the school explosion,’ said Ellis. ‘The school wasn’t the school at all, it was scaffolding, so when we blew it up, we could take it all down again.”
Hollyoaks continues tonight at 6.30pm on C4.