Home and Away spoilers follow for UK viewers.
Home and Away star James Stewart has spoken to Digital Spy about last-minute rewrites in Theo Poulos's recent storyline.
The Summer Bay soap has been exploring Theo's past, with the upsetting revelation that his father Dimitri was violent towards him when he was a child.
In the early stages of the story, Theo's aunt Leah Patterson was away from the Bay to visit her son VJ. In real life, this was because Ada Nicodemou – who plays Leah – couldn't come to work due to local lockdown restrictions.
This meant that it was Justin who noticed the signs of Theo behaving strangely due to his traumatic history with his father. Although Theo initially resented Justin's interference, they started to establish a bond, resulting in a changed dynamic before Leah returned.
Asked whether it was always the plan for Justin to be so involved in the story, James told Digital Spy: "While Ada was off in lockdown, Leah went to help her son over in Cyprus, which left our very good and adaptable writing team, Theo and I to play with in terms of storyline.
"I think they did great. It's a really lovely bond that Justin and Theo have found together.
"If you are going to go through a pandemic or a time where half your team can't come to work, I think we found some gold in there."
Discussing Justin growing from disliking Theo to liking him, James continued: "Justin sees a little bit of himself in Theo. He is a young man and with a little bit of a push in the right direction he could really do something with his life.
"Theo came into Summer Bay dramatically, but Justin is now starting to take him under his wing a little bit and it's a fun storyline to play."
In this week's episodes on Channel 5, Dimitri is back in the Bay and there's a frightening moment as he lashes out at Justin at the garage.
As Justin is knocked unconscious, Dimitri flees from the scene – leaving Theo and Leah horrified when they find out what has happened.
James continued: "Every actor loves to pretend they can fight and I had a ball. I grew up in a college of theatre where Wednesday afternoon was like a fight class.
"It is very easy to act out swinging and punching someone, but it is not very easy to make it look like you have just been hit in the face, fall to the ground and make all the noises.
"The scenes were a lot of fun but serious. At the end of the day, those scenes had a serious tone and it felt important.
"In the aftermath, Dimitri has to go to a therapist and deal with some of his past. It is definitely the turning point the family needed."
The repercussions of the story will continue to play out for a while longer, even after Dimitri has been punished.
Justin becomes concerned when he notices signs that Theo is wary around him, expecting him to react like Dimitri whenever something goes wrong.
James said: "Theo starts treating Justin a little bit like an authority figure, someone who might have done what Dimitri would have done.
"Once Dimitri is gone, we see the repercussions of a young man growing up afraid if he did something wrong this would happen. So it's the ironing out of the creases. I really liked the timeframe of the story.
"In real life, Matt Evans – who plays Theo – is a really great kid too. He loves to study, he loves to practice, he loves to ask questions. He likes to get things right. He doesn't want to impose on people."
James then joked: "And obviously, he's got a six-pack, he can sing, he can also write – and he's got curls in his fringe."
Home and Away airs weekdays at 1.15pm on Channel 5 and 6pm on 5STAR. First-look screenings air at 6.30pm on 5STAR and the show also streams on My5.
Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 (www.nspcc.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline on (1-800-422-4453) or the American SPCC (www.americanspcc.org).
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