Hollyoaks‘ Kent Riley reveals there’s tragedy behind Zak’s surprise proposal to Michaela…

How does Caleb die?
“Caleb’s in the Army and has been killed in action. Zak’s mum phones to give him the tragic news and he’s heartbroken.”

Why does he tell Kris what’s happened and yet won’t tell Michaela?
“He goes into shock. He only tells Kris because Kris sees him wandering, looking lost just after he gets the phone call and is concerned for him. But even then Zak just flatly tells Kris his brother’s been killed then keeps on walking. He doesn’t want to talk or think about it because that will make it seem real.”

Instead he asks Michaela to marry him… Is it a genuine proposal or what?
“It’s not really a question of whether it’s genuine. It’s a snap decision. I think because Caleb was single, Zak feels a desperate need for stability and this is his way of trying to cope. It’s a hard thing to explain, but it’s definitely done through grief.”

How does he propose?
“He buys flowers and goes down on one knee, but it’s very strange. Michaela’s shocked and surprised… but she says yes.”

But he still doesn’t tell her about Caleb. Who does?
“Kris and she changes her mind about the proposal. She insists Zak needs time
to grieve before even thinking about marriage. She knows the proposal didn’t come from the right place and tells Zak they can wait as there’s no hurry.”

How does he react to that?
“He feels desperate. He gives her a ‘marry me or we’re finished’ ultimatum. He doesn’t really mean it though and instead they compromise and agree to get engaged.”

Does he love her?
“Yes he does but I don’t think they’re ready for marriage yet. They need to grow as a couple before such a big commitment.”

How are you feeling about this storyline?
“It’s emotionally draining because I have two brothers and I’ve had to force myself to imagine what it would feel like if I lost one of them. But it’s a challenge and I’m pleased to have such a big story.”