Hollyoaks launches investigation after Rachel Adedeji racism claims

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Rachel AdedejiImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Rachel Adedeji has appeared in more than 200 episodes of Hollyoaks

Hollyoaks has launched an investigation after Rachel Adedeji alleged she witnessed racism on the soap.

The actress said a senior producer referred to black cast members using a racial slur and claimed black actresses were told to change their hair.

In a statement on Tuesday, Hollyoaks' producers said they were "deeply shocked and saddened" by the issues that had come to light.

They said they have "zero tolerance on racism" but "have further work to do".

On Saturday, Adedeji tweeted several claims about her experiences on the Channel 4 soap, which is produced by Lime Pictures.

The actress said she was told "You're all the same" by a make-up artist, and said black actresses on the show were "forced to drastically change their hair" after being told viewers wouldn't be able to tell them apart.

Adedeji, has appeared in more than 200 episodes of the show, but said in her four years on the soap she had only worked with one black director.

"Working at Hollyoaks is mostly positive, but the experiences I have encountered are a constant reminder of how difficult it is being a black woman in the industry," Adedeji said. "I am no longer standing for it."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Adedeji's co-star Kéllé Bryan said the show was launching a series of podcasts about racism

In their statement on Tuesday, Lime Pictures said: "We must stamp out implicit bias which means calling out racism wherever and whenever we see it.

"We will continue to add to our action plan as we continue and broaden our dialogue with cast and staff."

The action plan includes the following measures:

  • Contacting all cast and staff who have raised issues and addressing all concerns
  • Asking cast, staff and freelancers to share any other issues of concern or instances of unacceptable behaviour
  • Working with unconscious bias trainers to help address concerns
  • All BAME staff, freelancers and cast to be offered mentoring from Lime's senior management
  • Lime to be made "as diverse and inclusive as possible across all aspects of recruitment and talent retention, on and off screen"
  • Lime's BAME writers and directors schemes to be reviewed
  • A Hollyoaks podcast where the black cast will share their experiences on racism with their audience

Former Hollyoaks star Amanda Clapham supported Adedeji on Twitter, saying she witnessed "micro-aggressions" towards BAME staff on the show.

Clapham alleged one male black cast member was "disproportionately told off" for talking and messing around during filming, when a whole group of actors had been involved.

Andrea Ali, who plays Celeste Faroe, supported Adedeji but praised the soap's efforts on representation.

"I am beyond blessed to be a part of a team as diverse and as inclusive as Hollyoaks," Ali said.

"Celeste Faroe is a powerhouse and that representation of black women is not only one that I am proud of, but one that matters."

Last week, Hollyoaks announced it would address the Black Lives Matter movement by recording a series of special podcasts about racism.

At the time, actress Kéllé Bryan said: "We've been busy behind the scenes having lots of highly important conversations and we'll be kick-starting with a podcast all about racism - how we tackle it, how we face it and, most importantly, how we overcome it."

But in her statement, Adedeji said: "Putting out a podcast and asking your black cast members to teach you how to tackle these issues is the bare minimum. Do better."

On Monday's Loose Women, Bryan addressed the backlash she'd received from the podcast announcement, but said there was no bad blood between herself and Adedeji.

"Myself and Rachel have spoken and we have shared our feelings... I'm supporting her and she's reached out to me also. We'll just work through this, hopefully, internally.

"She meant no harm in her post in terms of me personally."

Hollyoaks is set to resume production in Liverpool this week, with the cast expected back on set in July.

Adedeji first shot to fame as an X Factor finalist in 2009, finishing in ninth place. She joined Hollyoaks in 2016.

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