Tom Cunningham

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Tom Cunningham
Tom Cunningham.jpg
Hollyoaks character
Portrayed by Ellis Hollins (2003–)
Duration 1999–
First appearance 31 December 1999
Created by Phil Redmond
Introduced by Phil Redmond
Hollyoaks Later (2008)
Classification Present; regular
Occupation Student
Home 17 Basswood Road

Thomas "Tom" Cunningham is a fictional character from the British Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks, played by Ellis Hollins. The actor took over the role in 2003 and has played the character ever since. With Tom being a young child for most of his tenure, his early years featured minimal storylines, including the numerous death of his family, being abused by Clare Devine (Gemma Bissix) and having various guardians including Steph Cunningham (Carley Stenson) and Jack (Jimmy McKenna) and Frankie Osborne (Helen Pearson). However, a turning point came for Tom when it was announced that he would impregnate his girlfriend, Peri Lomax (Ruby O'Donnell) and deal with Peri's subsequent decision to give the baby away for adoption. Minor storylines have also included his friendships with Nico Blake (Persephone Swales-Dawson) and Dylan Jenkins (James Fletcher) and his relationships with Peri and his foster sister Jade Albright (Kassius Nelson). Tom is currently the sixth longest character in the show after over 16 years on the show.


The character has been played by Ellis Hollins since 2003. The actors drama teacher Judith Barker learned of the part through an agent friend and put him forward for the role.[1]


Tom is born on Millennium Eve 1999 to parents Gordon (Bernard Latham) and Helen Cunningham (Kathryn George). After Helen and Gordon are killed in a car crash in 2004, Tom's older half sister Mandy Richardson (Sarah Jayne Dunn) becomes his legal guardian. Some time after, Mandy cannot cope looking after Tom, so gives custody to Tom's half brother Max Cunningham (Matt Littler). Max and best friend Sam "OB" O'Brien (Darren Jeffries) raise Tom in their flat. Tom runs away from home after overhearing Max tell OB he believes Tom will be better off in care. However, Mandy finds him by his parents' grave.

Max starts a relationship with Clare Devine (Gemma Bissix). When Mandy's baby daughter Grace dies due to sudden infant death syndrome, Tom looks for a mother figure in Clare. After Clare and Max marry, he soon begins to see through her. After Tom overhears her on the phone to her father, who she previously claimed was dead, Clare begins to manipulate Tom and makes Max believe Tom is lying. Clare draws on the walls of Max's flat and pours water on his bedsheets and blames Tom's misbehaviour. After Max tells Clare he wants to accompany her to a fertility clinic, Clare poisons Tom's food so he is ill and Max cannot come. Max has a heart attack and grows more ill when Clare stops giving him his medication. At Christmas, Clare takes Max and Tom to a lakeside, where Clare pretends Tom has fallen into the water. Max tries to save Tom and almost dies, but is revived by OB. Max finally sees the real Clare and apologises to OB and Tom. Weeks later, Clare tells Tom that he was the cause of his parent's death, and would eventually kill Max. Clare calls a social worker, who arrives just as Tom shouts he does not want to be near Max, and takes Tom into care. Tom refuses to see Max, but after Max threatens Clare, the brothers meet and Max explains that Clare was lying. Tom then moves back in with Max.

Max begins to get close to Steph Dean (Carley Stenson), who Tom develops a crush on. Max and Steph eventually become a couple, despite Tom's jealousy. While OB takes Tom swimming, he flirts with Summer Shaw (Summer Strallen) and Tom nearly drowns, but is saved by lifeguard Simon Crosby (Simon Lawson). Gilly Roach (Anthony Quinlan) tells Max that Simon has images of Tom in his swimming costume on his computer, believing he may be a paedophile. When it is revealed that Simon is not a paedophile, Max and OB fall out. However, Tom makes them make up. Max tells Tom he is going to propose to Steph, which he does by putting the ring in a hot cross bun, which Tom eats. Steph and Max watch as Tom is given an x-ray. When Steph sees the ring, Max asks her to marry him, which she accepts. Steph and Max get married. As Max and OB carry a jukebox for Steph later that day, Tom plays on a road. Max notices Niall Rafferty (Barry Sloane) speeding towards Tom, so pushes him out of the way. However, he is hit by the car himself, and dies beside Steph, OB and Tom. Tom blames himself, but OB convinces him that he did not kill Max, and Clare was wrong. Mandy and OB discuss custody of Tom, with Mandy initially agreeing to take responsibility for her brother. OB however decides he wants to become Tom's guardian, but Tom tells OB that Steph needs him more. In Max's will reading, he leaves his estate, £500,000 and MOBs to Steph and Tom. Steph grows closer to Niall, but ends their romance when she catches him angrily grabbing Tom. Following this, Steph and Tom decide to begin a new start, so leave Hollyoaks. Tom and Steph return, having spent several weeks with Steph's sister. Steph is worried for her and Tom's safety after learning Niall killed Kieron Hobbs (Jake Hendriks) and Tina McQueen (Leah Hackett) and tried to kill several others. Steph takes Tom on holiday to Scotland with her brother Craig Dean (Guy Burnett). Unknown to Steph, Niall follows them to Scotland, where he kidnaps Tom. After Tom escapes, he alerts Steph and Craig. Steph tells Niall she does not love him in a confrontation on a cliff. Niall, seeing what he has caused, then kills himself. Steph and Tom then visit Steph's father Johnno, and then, return to Hollyoaks the next day.

Steph begins dance classes, which Tom and niece Holly Hutchinson (Lydia Waters) attend. There, they are bullied by Persephone Hart (Elizabeth Hadley). The situation is quickly resolved by Steph and Sarah Barnes (Loui Batley). Steph's stepbrother Darren Osborne (Ashley Taylor Dawson) takes Tom to The Dog on one occasion, which ends up with Tom getting drunk and having to have his stomach pumped. Tom befriends Gilly, who falls in love with Steph and proposes to her. Tom overhears Steph and Nancy Hayton (Jessica Fox) discussing Steph's cervical cancer, which upsets Tom as he again blames himself. Steph however, reassures Tom that she will be fine. Steph is later told her cancer is terminal, which again upsets Tom. He then sings at Steph's wedding to Gilly.

Mandy returns to Hollyoaks to see Steph about custody of Tom when she dies. She takes Tom to Relish for lunch when he sees Warren Fox (Jamie Lomas) at the window, despite Warren's death in 2009. Tom tells Mandy, who tries to convince him that he did not see him. However, Tom later confides in Frankie Osborne (Helen Pearson) about what happens to people after they die and he begins to believe that he is seeing Warren's ghost. Steph is killed in a fire at Il Gnosh. Tom stays strong to begin with but later begins crying over her death. Tom, Frankie, Jack Osborne (Jimmy McKenna) and Darren then watch a farewell video from Steph which she filmed weeks before.

In January 2011, Tom hears somebody in the kitchen, so warns Jack to investigate. When he does Jack gets a blow in the head by the intruder. The intruder starts to confront Jack, but Tom gets hold of a cricket bat and hits the intruder on the head unconscious. The intruder appears to be a woman when Jack removes the hood she is wearing and Tom fears that he might have killed her. The girl is revealed to be Frankie's granddaughter Esther and she eventually moves in with the family. Tom finds Esther's presence hard to deal with, especially as he is going to court for his attack on her. However, when he is cleared, he begins to accept Esther and the pair now get on well.

There was further trauma for Tom when Gilly was arrested for raping Jacqui McQueen. Tom stood by Gilly and was relieved when he was found innocent. Gilly later came to live with the Osborne's however Tom began getting bullied at school because of Gilly. Gilly decided it would be best if he moved out. In November 2011, Tom was devastated when Gilly left Hollyoaks after admitting that he had indeed raped Jacqui.

When Sienna Blake (Anna Passey) frames Nancy for trying to kill Oscar and Charlie, Nancy is taken in to a mental institute and Darren and Sienna begin a relationship. Tom realizes that Sienna had framed Nancy after catching her trying to breastfeed Oscar. When Sienna begins faking a pregnancy, Tom realizes what she is doing and catches her on video with her fake baby bump. Upon finding out about Tom's video, Sienna kidnaps Tom and keeps him in the basement of her mother's house. Sienna lies to Tom that he is the cause of an explosion in the village and Darren is dead. She tells him that the police are looking to arrest him and she is keeping him safe. When Sienna brings Tom food in a box there is a newspaper underneath which shows Darren in a picture. He then hides the newspaper under the bed which Sienna finds and yells at Tom. He finds a small hole in the wall and pulls pieces off it covering it with a poster when Sienna comes. When he is breaking the wall, he hits a security wire causing the alarm to go off. Dodger Savage (Danny Mac) gets a call about it so he sends his father Patrick Blake (Jeremy Sheffield) who knows about Sienna's fake pregnancy, down to check on it. When Tom is running away he runs into Patrick but gets away. When Sienna arrives back to her engagement party, Darren gives her a ring. Nancy brings in Tom and Nancy attacks Sienna. Darren pulls Nancy away but then she grabs at her, ripping her dress exposing her fake pregnancy to the crowd.

Sienna kidnaps Charlie and Oscar and then goes back to Tom saying if you scream the police will take me away and you won't find out where Oscar and Charlie are. So he leaves with Sienna and she takes him to Roscoe garage but just before he goes in, he throws Charlie's toy on the ground. Dodger laters sees this and tries to open the door but it's locked. He hears a car running as Sienna is trying to poison them. The police arrive and Tom is yelling for help. When the door is opened, Sienna drives out and tries to hit Darren with the car but Dodger gets in the way so she swerves and crashes. Tom then runs out and is greeted by Esther and Ruby Button (Anna Shaffer). Darren then runs over to him and hugs him. On his 14th birthday, Tom is shocked as Frankie and Jack have agreed to adopt him.

After Sienna is released, Tom and Peri Lomax (Ruby O'Donnell) start a bullying campaign against her, and Peri helps Tom to set Sienna up by kidnapping her niece Rose and planting her in Sienna's flat, but he forgives her after learning about her past. After Peri discovers that she has a brain tumour, Tom helps her escape from the hospital. They kiss and she faints from the tumour and they go back to the hospital, where she undergoes a successful operation. In August when Peri is due to leave for New Zealand, in a conversation Tom references her as his girlfriend. Later Peri asks if he meant it and then states she always wanted to be his girlfriend.

When Tom tries to comfort an upset Peri the two end up having sex, but soon after say that they should never mention it again and that it won't happen again. Days later Cameron Campbell later reads a text message talking about the night they slept together, Cameron later confronts about it in front of the whole school leaving peri and tom humiliated. Tom begins to believe that Peri is cheating on him with newcomer Dylan but is shocked when Peri tells him that she wasn't cheating on him but that she is in fact pregnant. After the two reconcile and admit that they love each other Tom accompanies Peri to her pregnancy scan, Peri runs out upset afterwards but Tom stay's behind receiving scans of their baby. Later when he shows the scans to Peri he tells her that though he knows it will be difficult he wants them to keep the baby and raise it together, though Peri disagrees saying she just wants things to go back to normal. While Tom intends on becoming a father to his child, Peri would rather have their baby adopted. The two eventually agree to have the baby adopted once it is born.

Tom and Peri talk to Leela's cousin Angela and her husband Mark when they say they would like to adopt the baby. After having a meeting with Angela and Mark, they agree to give their unborn child to them. Tom is still very unsure about the adoption as he holds back tears looking at the baby scan. After Peri bans Tom from the next scan, Tom becomes depressed and buys legal highs from Dylan. He goes to the scan high and knocks over medical equipment as Peri and Angela look on confused. After Dylan dies in a car crash, Tom and Peri make up, but Tom blackmails Peri's father Cameron Campbell into stopping the adoption with the information that Cameron killed Peri's grandparents. When Cameron fails, he decides to upload the video confession through the schools video system, but changes his mind. Harry Thompson accidentally sends the video out, and Peri gives birth to a baby girl just as Cameron is arrested. Tom says goodbye to his daughter in hospital, and Peri overhears. When Angela and Mark come to see the baby, Peri decides to keep the baby and tells Mark and Angela. Peri also decides to move in with Frankie, Jack and Tom when Peri and Leela fall out. It is later revealed that Tom and Peri have named their daughter in honour of Steph Dean, Tom's former sister-in-law and legal guardian.

In October 2015, Tom is being bullied by an unknown assailant because of his parental responsibilities towards his daughter. The culprit is revealed to be Peri, but Tom is unaware that she is responsible for posting pictures on-line, humiliating him. When Peri attempts to abandon Steph outside Angela's doorstep, it becomes clear of her post-natal depression. Tom is angry at first about Peri's attempt (the baby was returned by Angela) and is even angrier discovering Peri is his online bully, but he forgives her after Nancy tells Tom she could be going through depression. Tom later befriend Alfie Nightingale, but turn to shocked that he discover that he was his nephew, since Alfie was his half-sister Cindy's son.

In 2016, Jade Albright moves in with the Osborne's, Jade finds out she has Cancer and also finds out her boyfriend Alfie Nightingale also does. Tom Comforts Jade with the rest the Osborne's helping her through Chemotherapy. When Alfie is banned from seeing Jade after causing her to collapse, Tom begins to comfort Jade and begins to like her. Despite the fact Jade and Alfie still love each other and Jade is trying to get Tom back with Peri. Peri begins to notice Tom's feelings towards Jade and starts to grow closer to Tom again. Prior to this Tom helps Jade and Alfie see each other but Alfie's dad Mac Nightingale stops them.

Tom was later shocked, when he saw his half-sister Jude (Davina Taylor) came back to the village, and never forgive her for being there for him since he was young, but Jude told him that she left the village in 18 years to escape the trouble for what she has done.Tom later consider leaving hollyoaks to go visit O.b in London but is stopped when Nico Blake poisons him. Tom later goes on the run with the Osbourne's after jack tells them that somebody is trying to kill them. Tom brings Steph with him. It is later seen that tom appears with a letter to Eva, he is then seen to run off into the woods.


Ruth Deller of entertainment website Lowculture included Tom in one of her monthly columns featuring popular and unpopular soap opera characters. Criticising Tom she states: "For a little while, it seemed as though the Birdseye Botherer had disappeared from the planet, but no, he's back to taunt us, this time with his underage drinking and the overreaction to it. He's been nine for about two years now, and still acts like a toddler. Still, I suppose he won’t need to grow up much given the general IQ of the male populace of Hollyoaks."[2] The character was voted 'Soaps Greatest Ever Child' in a 2009 Inside Soap poll and has been nominated for several awards at The British Soap Awards and Inside Soap Awards.[3][4][5] At the 2012 Inside Soap Awards Hollins was nominated for "Best Young Actor" and has won the award in 2005, 2006 and 2008.[6] Hollins won "Best Young Performance" at the 2006 and 2014 British Soap Awards.[7]


  1. ^ Kilkelly, Daniel (28 October 2016). "Hollyoaks star Ellis Hollins on Tom's Halloween terror, evil Nico, and growing up on screen". Digital Spy. (Hearst Magazines UK). Retrieved 9 November 2016. 
  2. ^ Deller, Ruth (30 November 2009). "Soapstar Superstars: November". Lowculture. Archived from the original on August 20, 2011. Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  3. ^ "BSA 2007: The Winners". Digital Spy. (Hachette Filipacchi UK). 27 May 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "'Soaps Greatest' lineup revealed". 25 June 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "BSA 2008: The Winners". Digital Spy. (Hachette Filipacchi UK). 4 May 2009. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  6. ^ Kilkelly, Daniel (9 July 2012). "Inside Soap Awards 2012 - longlist nominees in full". Digital Spy. Hearst Magazines UK. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  7. ^ Dainty, Sophie (25 May 2014). "British Soap Awards 2014 - winners in full". Digital Spy. (Hearst Magazines UK). Retrieved 25 May 2014. 

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