|Portrayed by||Joseph Thompson|
|First appearance||23 January 2012|
|Last appearance||16 October 2013|
|Introduced by||Emma Smithwick|
|Occupation||Doctor (until 2013)
Club Owner (2013)
Doctor Shirley Paul Browning is a fictional character from the British Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks, played by Joseph Thompson. He made his debut screen appearance during the episode broadcast on 23 January 2012 and was introduced by Emma Smithwick. Browning was introduced as part of a storyline featuring Mercedes McQueen (Jennifer Metcalfe) in which he "shows her the benefits of 'selling her services'". Browning and Mercedes later begin a relationship, which Smithwick called a "union of the dark soul mates". Thompson said that Browning and Mercedes "are excited by how dangerous the other is" and are "kindred spirits" who have an "undeniable connection between them". When Lynsey Nolan (Karen Hassan) is murdered in a whodunit plot Browning becomes a suspect before it is later revealed he had killed Lynsey. Browning is described as having an "incredible capacity for Sleaze" and as someone who "needs to be in control and is not afraid to use underhand tactics".
Thompson was nominated in the "Newcomer" category at the 2013 National Television Awards. Laura Morgan of All About Soap felt that Browning was an "obvious suspect" in the investigation for Lynsey's murder although Inside Soap journalist Sarah was shocked at the revelation of Browning as Lynsey's killer, saying she had overlooked him as a suspect. Anthony D. Langford from AfterElton hoped that the character would not be revealed to be Lynsey's killer due to his enjoyment of Browning's relationship with Mercedes and their "blistering chemistry". Thompson's departure was announced on 9 August 2013 and the character left on 16 October 2013 after being killed off as part of the show's 18th anniversary.
Casting and creation
On 19 December 2011, Digital Spy announced the introduction of the character saying that a "charming doctor arrives on the scene" during a new storyline featuring Mercedes McQueen (Jennifer Metcalfe). It was later announced that Browning would return with Mercedes to be "heading back into the arms of sleazy Doctor Browning again".
The official Hollyoaks' website describes Browning as being "affectionately known as 'Doctor Sleaze'", explaining that he has an "incredible capacity for Sleaze". They add that the character's "driving motivation is his obsession with Mercedes. He's a man who needs to be in control and is not afraid to use underhand tactics to assert his power over the situation". Jaci Stephen of the Daily Mail called him a "caring doctor" but later dubbed the character "Doctor Dubious". Browning has also been labelled a "grade A nutcase", a "slimy charmer", "devious", "shady" "creepy", "sleazy", "twisted", "scheming" and "hunky".
Relationship with Mercedes McQueen
On 19 December 2011, Digital Spy announced that after a difficult year for Mercedes a "charming doctor" arrives and "shows her the benefits of 'selling her services'" which leads her down a "dark path". Metcalfe explained that when Mercedes learns that Silas Blissett (Jeff Rawle) will not face trial she goes in to "self destruct mode" and contacts Browning for sex once again. Mercedes does not take money from Browning for sex this time although she "hates herself" for it. Metcalfe told Katy Moon from Inside Soap that their night together makes her character "feel awful but she's looking for any distraction, any way to escape her demons". Metcalfe told a journalist from The Sun's magazine TV Buzz that Mercedes believes Browning "will help her move on" from her ordeal. Hassan told Dominique Marjoram from OK! that she enjoyed the storyline in which Browning "took advantage" of Lynsey and Mercedes. Metcalfe said that she and Thompson "loved" the episodic block which established escorting because it was "brilliant to film". She branded Thompson a "really good addition" to the cast and revealed that he had returned for a longer second stint, which sees Browning "stir things up".
Hollyoaks producer Emma Smithwick said that she was initially nervous about the "union of the dark soul mates, Mercy and Browning, but their chemistry is so watchable - that story is pretty dark". Mercedes begins to "fall for the charms" of Browning, believing she has "landed on her feet" when he invites her to a charity ball. Metcalfe commented that Mercedes begins to think he could provide her with the WAG life style she has always wanted. She added that Mercedes still wants Riley but she "craves a bit of danger". Thompson also commented on this, saying Browning offers an "exciting alternative" for Merceds compared to Riley. On the relationship Thompson said: "He knows what makes her tick, and the two of them are excited by how dangerous the other is". He went on to explain that Browning initially agreed to pretend to be in a relationship with Mercedes to help make Riley jealous but "he's fallen for her and will do whatever it takes to be with her. He thinks if he spends enough time with Mercy, he'll win her around". When Browning sees Riley kiss Mercedes "it becomes a question of how much he can take" and he decides he must "make a quick move" to prevent them reuniting. He takes Mercedes to a shooting range, Thompson explained that there she "realises there's an undeniable connection between them". He added that the couple are "kindred spirits" and Mercedes spending time with him will make her rethink their relationship. To dissuade Riley from reuniting with Mercedes Browning gets Riley intoxicated and then warns him off of Mercedes. Thompson said that "it seemed to be written in the stars that Mercedes and Riley will get back together - but Dr Browning won't let that happen". Thompson claimed that due to Browning having incriminating evidence on Mercedes he has "real power, she thinks she's in control, but she might just be underestimating Dr Browning..."
Lynsey is found dead by Brendan Brady (Emmett J. Scanlan). Her death sparks a "whodunit storyline" as a "number of suspects had a motive for wanting to get rid of her". A promotional image revealed six suspects for the murder which did not include Browning. Daniel Kilkelly of Digital Spy said that although Browning is not an official suspect fans of the serial had speculated that Browning could be Lynsey's murderer due to his issues with Lynsey. A series of interactive videos released by the official Hollyoaks' website later listed Browning as one of seven "main suspects" for the murder, with viewers able to interrogate the suspects. On 17 August 2012 during E4's first look episode it was revealed Browning had killed Lynsey when Jacqui McQueen (Claire Cooper) finds the murder weapon, Lynsey's scarf, amongst Browning's possessions. Hollyoaks' official website said Browning's motives in killing Lynsey were "presumably to protect Mercedes". The aftermath of Jacqui's discovery, including Browning's explanation of his motives and kidnapping of Mercedes, boosted Hollyoaks ratings.
Mercedes reunites with Riley who cheats on her with Mitzeee, leading to Mercedes kidnapping her and Riley's son in revenge. Mercedes is arrested and shortly after Riley is shot dead. At her trial Browning is called forward as a witness when her lawyer Jim McGinn (Dan Tetsell) blames Riley for Mercedes' actions, claiming he abused her so she prevented Riley from seeing their son to protect him. Browning arrives for the trial where he claims Riley was also responsible for killing Lynsey. Metcalfe revealed that Mercedes is shocked when she sees Browning again as she does not know how she will react until she sees him which takes both of them "back in that moment when he was dragged away from her. She really did fall for him hook, line and sinker". The actress opined that Browning is her character's soul mate as he "gives as good as he gets" which is "really good" for Mercedes.
On 9 August 2013, Daniel Kilkelly from Digital Spy confirmed that Thompson had left Hollyoaks. The actor would soon film his final scenes and his character will make his on-screen departure in the Autumn. Kilkelly stated "Digital Spy understands that it was always the plan for Browning to bow out in the latter half of this year, as Thompson is keen to explore other acting opportunities." Browning's exit storyline is being kept secret.
Browning pays Mercedes for sex and asks to keep seeing her and gives her more money. When Lynsey resuscitates a DNR patient; Browning tells her that the department are investigating the incident, he admits he forgot to write the patient's DNR request on their notes. He threatens to report Lynsey and Mercedes tries to convince him not to. Mercedes discovers Browning is married and threatens to tell his wife of their relationship if Browning reports Lynsey for resuscitating the DNR patient. He later promises not to report Lynsey who is later given her job back as a nurse. Mercedes later calls Dr Browning and arranges a meeting. She sleeps with him again for money and the next day he goads Lynsey about it. She warns him to stay away from her because Mercedes is not well and accuses him of taking advangtage. He later treats Carmel McQueen (Gemma Merna) for her burn injuries and catches Lynsey attempting to view Walker's (Neil Newbon) medical records.
After discharging Mercedes from hospital, Lynsey is found dead and Browning confirms her time of death. He forges Mercedes' discharge papers so it appears as though she left hospital after Lynsey's murder. He moves into the flat next door to Riley Costello (Rob Norbury) to be closer to Mercedes. He blackmails Mercedes with the papers and tells her that she can make Riley jealous if they pretend to be in a relationship. His wife, Helen Browning visits Mercedes and warns her that Browning will ruin her life. She has a black eye and Mercedes uses this to give Riley the impression that Browning has been hitting her. He tells Riley that Mercedes is lying and she leaves him. Browning finds Mercedes and they share their secrets about bad deeds. He tells her that he loves her no matter what she has done and they become closer. Jacqui McQueen (Claire Cooper) discovers Lynsey's scarf in his office desk and assumes that he is the killer. It is later revealed that Browning went to threaten Lynsey into keeping quiet about Mercedes stalking Mitzeee. They argued and he strangled her, not knowing that Walker was watching. When Mercedes finds out the truth, Browning kidnaps her and drives off. He suggests that they go abroad and Mercedes agrees, but the police arrive and arrest him. At the trial for Lynsey's murder Browning pleads not guilty and is later acquitted when he blames Riley for Lynsey's murder, after Riley's death. Browning surprises Mercedes on Christmas Eve and spends Christmas with Mercedes' family. Mercedes is thrown out by her family and Browning proposes marriage to her which she accepts. When Mercedes' mother, Myra McQueen (Nicole Barber-Lane) begins feeling ill, Browning suggests she come and see him at the hospital as she may have a serious illness. He carries out some scans on her and switches her results with another patient so it appears as if she has cancer. Browning suggests that Myra may not have long to live so should remain close to her family and make up with Mercedes.
When he tells Myra that she's not going to die, Jim McGinn a lawyer, suggests that Myra could sue and get a lot of money. When Browning hears this he asks his boss if he'd make sure he didn't get fired in exchange for anything. His boss, Davies, says that he'll make sure nothing happens to Browning in exchange for one night with Mercedes. Browning says that that was a ridiculous idea, but when Mercedes finds out, she tells Browning that she'll do it, but then stop dating Browning.
When Mercedes goes, she decides to video everything that happens, but Davies finds out and proceeds to try and rape Mercedes. Browning saves the day and Browning the pair go off to marry in Las Vegas. Browning returns weeks later and tells Myra that Mercedes has gone missing. The two tested each other whilst in Vegas by flirting with other people but never actually going through with anything. Browning states that his flirting with a woman in a red dress caused friction and that himself and Mercedes had gotten into a fight. The woman shows up in Hollyoaks revealling herself to the audience as evil Clare Devine who met Browning under the identity of "Cassandra". It is shown that Clare has kidnapped Mercedes and plans to use her to extort money from Browning. Clare attempts to convince Browning to buy Chez Chez with her after the departure of both Brendan Brady and Cheryl Brady. Clare admits her true identity to Browning who is suspicious of her, ripping up the deed to the club after she pretended the two had had sex. It is then revealled that Clare and Mercedes are working together in an attempt to each get what they want: Clare wants money and Mercedes wants to see how far Browning will go to get her back.
For his role as Browning, Joseph Thompson was nominated in the "Newcomer" category at the 2013 National Television Awards. Jaci Stephen of the Daily Mail pondered whether "Dr Browning ever do a full day’s work of, well, doctoring? While the rest of the NHS claims to be underpaid and overworked, Dr Browning is having a breeze. If ever he has the incentive to write a prescription, please put out the bunting". Stephen's colleague, Claudia Connel felt that soap operas could help give David Cameron ideas to improve the NHS, noting that "Dr Browning in Hollyoaks is even good enough to leave his office unlocked so patients can help themselves to whatever they fancy. Drugs? A butcher’s at someone else’s medical notes? Fill your boots".
Laura Morgan of All About Soap felt that Browning is "dodgy" and that he is a "fairly obvious suspect" in the investigation for Lynsey's murder. She added that Browning "might not be a murderer, but you can't deny there's something not right about the preying practitioner". Morgan explained that Browning has a hold over Mercedes due to him having proof Mercedes was in the village when Lynsey was killed although she though that Browning "could he be trying to cover his own tracks by shifting the blame onto someone else". Morgan went on to say that after Browning sees through Mercedes scheme to solve the problem, "the devilish doc advised Mercedes she was better to keep him on side [...] we’re going to see a lot more of Dr Browning in the next few weeks. There’s going to be some interesting clues about his past, but will any of these lead us to be convinced he’s a cold-blooded killer?" Morgan's All About Soap colleague Carena Crowford felt that was "something suspect" about Browning. She said Silas was left alone with "the dodgy doc, and the next thing they knew the old man had knocked Browning out, stolen his shoes and run away. Come on, are we really expected to believe Silas could take out young, strong Dr B alone? Or is this evidence they’re working together...?" After it was revealed Browning killed Lynsey, Morgan said she "had the dastardly doc's card marked from day one, but have to admit that tonight's big reveal has left us a bit cold". She said that the murder was "a crime of passion, but there’s no way Mercy is worth killing for. [...] Disappointingly, it also transpired that Dr Browning has zilch to do with Silas's epic return. It was a mere coincidence that the medical man was caught up in the serial killer’s escape from hospital. We think it could have made a brilliant twist if Silas had been schooling Dr B, and getting him to carry on his work while he was behind bars".
Inside Soap journalist Sarah commented Lynsey's killer is revealed to be "none other than dodgy Dr Browning! Who saw that one coming?" She went on to add that her colleague had guessed the "menacing medic" to be responsible for the "despicable act" but because Browning was not one of the original suspects listed she had overlooked him as a suspect. Anthony D. Langford from AfterElton praised Browning's relationship with Mercedes, saying he is "loving the dysfunctional affair between Mercedes and the bad Dr. Browning. Their scenes are hot and they are so suited for each other. The games they play with each other are a hoot. I pray he's not Lynsey's killer". Upon the reveal of Browning as Lynsey's killer, Langford said he had predicted Browning as the killer but that he "hated that it turned out I was right". He went on to comment that it had previously "mattered little" to him that Browning could be responsible for the murder "but over the past several weeks, much has changed. The more I got to see the good doctor and his blistering chemistry with Mercedes, the more I liked him. Yes, the doctor is a bit twisted and a bad boy, but he was perfect for a twisted girl like Mercedes. I loved their scenes — they were hot, hot, hot. I really thought they made a delicious and fun couple. But now it’s all ruined with Browning being a killer".
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