Kay has quite the resume. Not only is he starring in the upcoming 20th Century Fox feature Walk Like a Panther, which will hit theatres around the world later this year. His previous work in film includes the World War II drama Allies as well as the suspenseful horror flick White Settlers. Also having vast success in the television industry, Kay has worked on ITV’s celebrated series Coronation Street, BBC’s Shameless, Doctors, and Happy Valley. However, Kay’s first true taste of success came over ten years ago when he first appeared in the spin-off series Hollyoaks in the City back in 2006.
Hollyoaks in the City was a spin-off of the popular Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks. It aired on E4 in the UK August 2006 and BBC America the following year. Kay was a fan of the multi-award-winning original series, and knew he wanted to be a part of it. He was also eager to work with the writer and producer of the series, Daran Little, and upon reading the first few scripts, he knew the show was special.
“It had a great cast who all wanted to do well and make the show a success. I just knew that being part of this production would be fun, exciting and rewarding,” he said. “Working on this show was a very humbling experience for me as I was amongst a strong cast with years of experience. They were great and we often worked on scenes together to tweak and get the best out of everyone.”
Kay was initially approached by Little to come and audition for the show after the writer saw Kay perform. At the time, Kay thought it was a nice touch that a successful person in the industry would offer such an opportunity to new actors, and showed up to the audition ready to impress. The role he was auditioning for was quite small, but at the time, Kay was eager to work on an established set. After auditioning, he thought it went well, but did not hear anything for over a month. When he finally received a callback, it was better than he ever could have imagined.
“Dominic came for an audition and I was so impressed by his acting skills that I created a character especially for him, much bigger than the one he originally auditioned for. He is a natural, instinctive actor,” said Daran Little.
Little wrote the character of Shane specifically for Kay. Shane was a particularly devilish, naughty, and cheeky character full of charm and charisma, but with a seemingly vile and predatory nature. In one scene, he could go from kind and charming to openly manipulative. In every scene, Shane had a lot of drive, but he always had an agenda, never doing anything simply out of the goodness of his heart.
“Playing Shane was a real mixed bag at times, I’d probably go as far as saying one of my toughest tests to date. To get into his mindset I had to literally think right how far can I push myself with this character and what was the best way I can manipulate people,” Kay described.
In one pivotal episode, Shane’s character was front-and-center. In the episode, Shane attended a party and drugged a girl, and proceeded to rape her. The scene was essential to the show’s success, and had to be executed perfectly. Kay was required to show a range of emotions, and harness all of his unique abilities to tap into the elements of this character in order to do justice to this scene and make it a success. The director and producers were thrilled with his performance, but what was most important for the actor was demonstrating the dangers of what can happen to people at parties, which was what the show was trying to put across with that episode.
“This character was what particularly interesting and challenging to play. For example, he was the life and soul of parties and was popular and well-received. Then on the other hand did horrendous acts. That one scene had a lot riding on it and it had to be spot on it had to show a whole range of emotions to make it work. I had to show the audience exactly what could happen at a party and raise awareness of the dangers in society. It was an absolutely shocking and horrific scene to be a part of. I found it a real rollercoaster of emotions in playing him,” said Kay. “I think the story of the episode is hugely important as it gives a very clear and brutal insight into the dangers that come with social gatherings like these. Not just to young people but to people of all ages. I think that this episode hit all viewers very hard and I hope that it was very impactful,” said Kay.
Initially, connecting to his character was a challenge for Kay, as he normally tries to find connections with himself and those he is portraying. With Shane, he could not find many similarities. However, once he figured out a way to play the character, he was captivating. To play such a difficult character, Kay was given a lot of freedom to do whatever he wanted with Shane in order to be able to portray him. He also made sure to open up with his cast mates and not let the character get to him.
“We all became a very close, tight-knit crew. Working on this was very similar to working on other television productions, very fast paced, two cameras on the go at all times, all hustle and bustle. The writing was great so it made the whole process smooth and slick. It was very rare that a line wouldn’t sit right with you, everything just flowed well,” said Kay.
Hollyoaks in the City was, in a way, the beginning of Kay’s burgeoning acting career. Now, over ten years later, he looks back at the experience as a turning point. Not only was he given the opportunity to show what he was capable of, he took it and impressed not only his colleagues, but his audiences. Now, those who saw are true fans.