Shoegazing, suicidal, accent-switching wheeler dealer Doug Carter is easily one of Hollyoaks‘ most nuanced recent creations. Wonderland sat down with Brooklyn-born actor Patrick Joseph “PJ” Brennan to discuss the character – curiously, the first screen role he ever auditioned for.

How privileged do you feel to have landed this role so early in your career?

I’ve benefited so much. Going to drama school [Brennan studied at London’s prestigious Central School of Speech and Drama], the focus wasn’t on camera technique, so when I was coming into this I was a novice one hundred per cent. The hardest idea is leaving what has become kind of a family for me – especially because I’m from New York and I’m very far away from my actual family. I value it every day. If you want to complain about something, as one does, I do try to pinch myself and say “you have literally no right to complain at the moment, you’re doing exactly what you’ve wanted to do your whole life and you’re getting paid for it, so shut your mouth.”

Doug Carter is in many respects your brainchild. How do you think the character has evolved through the years?

Originally, the character was actually Irish and that got switched around, because he was supposed to be coming over with Brendan and that’s how Brendan would have known him. The character of Doug has evolved from someone who has a lot more barriers on the surface. He was someone who bragged, always used to hook up with the ladies, made terrible decisions and was self-obsessed. That’s why he would do things such as dealing drugs – to give him a purpose and a place to be. I think Doug has actually started to settle down; make real connections with people.

So you feel he has more integrity now?

Yes, and he’s less willing to make bad decisions, though the decision that he made this week was probably one of his worst – but I don’t think bad judgments are as intentional as it used to be with him.

What do you like about playing Doug?

I like that he’s a good character – he’s still a good guy. He does make bad choices though and I think in a lot of ways the audience can relate to him with that. Doug’s probably a bit more cowardly than I am – if I have an issue or difficulty with someone I do like to approach them directly for a one-on-one conversation. I think Doug is someone who avoids that; he’s a bit of shoegazer. That would be something that I hope Doug will pull himself out of. With his ex-girlfriend, that’s always something that’s been lingering around and it got so bad he eventually tried to kill himself. He’s an avoider.

How do you see the character evolving further?

I think the business is almost a physical representation of what Ste and Doug want, which is a bit more responsibility, validation and purpose. I just hope for Doug’s sake, things go along that route and he eventually does realise that his life has value and that he can hold his head up high even though he made mistakes. I think it’s important to see someone go through the idea of finding purpose within themselves as opposed to finding it in someone or something else. I’d like to see Doug a bit happier, a bit more settled.

What kind of parts are you interested in exploring next?

Part of me would like to play someone with an accent. I focused a lot on it in drama school, because we did loads of non-American shows. I’d like to prove that I’m capable of playing something other than American. I don’t know, someone who’s maybe not so mainstream-normal, you know what I mean? I play characters that are very grounded in reality, whereas I’d like to play someone who’s maybe borderline sociopathic [laughs], something like that.

Words: Jack Mills