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Sarah Jayne Dunn: Girls on Hollyoaks were pitted against each other

Actress Sarah Jayne Dunn says that female cast members on Hollyoaks were made to feel “really uncomfortable” were “pitted against each other” while working on the show.

The TV star, 41, left the Channel 4 soap opera in 2021 following a dispute with producers over the creation of a personal OnlyFans account.

At the time, Dunn said she had made the account to “take back some power and control” over her images, adding it was not her decision to leave the show.

Speaking on The Matt Haycox Show podcast, she said that there was “a pressure” placed on actresses in Hollyoaks “because it was always known as ‘the sexy soap’”.

National Television Awards 2019 – Arrivals – London
Dunn left the Channel 4 soap opera in 2021 following a dispute with producers over the creation of a personal OnlyFans account (Ian West/PA)

“The girls were pitted against each other,” she said.

“I didn’t realise at the time how much it affected me and the other actresses on the show.

“There was a lot of pressure put on us, there were a lot of expectations, and there was no care package put in place.”

Dunn recalled doing calendar and photoshoots with her female co-stars for the show, and being told it was “part of the contract”.

She added: “Some of the girls were really upset, not wanting to do the shoots, not wanting to be there, and feeling really uncomfortable with what was expected of us.

“A couple of the girls said ‘I don’t want to be a part of this. We’re not models, we’re actors – we don’t want to get in bikinis and be on a beach having our photos taken’.

“They were basically told ‘as part of the contract you have to do these things’ and ‘if you don’t do these shoots then you won’t be given other opportunities’.”

She added: “I think we were made to feel disposable. It was a case of, if you won’t do it – someone else will.”

Dunn rose to fame playing Mandy Richardson on Hollyoaks from 1996 until 2011 and returned to the role in 2017.

She made an account on OnlyFans – a website which allows users to share content with paying “fans” – in October 2021.

Shortly after Hollyoaks said cast members were not allowed “to be active on certain 18+ websites” and confirmed Dunn was departing the soap.

Dunn claimed to have spoken to the show’s production company, Lime Pictures, “which they’ve denied”, but was not given a response before she launched the account.

“I didn’t want to jeopardise my job,” she said.

“I went through the correct avenues, and explained it all. Their concerns were very similar to mine to begin with, so I explained everything to them.

“They eventually got back to me and said they were going to okay it internally, and that they trusted me as I’d been on the show such a long time. I thought that was that.”

TRIC Awards 50th Birthday – London
Sarah Jayne Dunn (Ian West/PA)

She added that despite not hearing anything back from the company, shortly after launching the account she was given “an ultimatum”.

She said: “I didn’t hear anything from work, but they knew about it. I hadn’t told them specifically when I was launching, but obviously we’d had these conversations.

“I was told ‘pull that down, or there will be consequences’. The consequences were never made clear. It was like, ‘you take it down, or else’.

“I said I wouldn’t take it down until they gave me a reason to. This was on the Thursday, and they said we all needed the weekend to think about it.

“The following week I received an email terminating my contract with immediate effect.

“I didn’t even get to go back to wrap up the storyline or give some closure to my character.

“I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to people I’d known for years, they just cut the cord like that.”

OnlyFans was founded in 2016 by British entrepreneur Tim Stokely.

In 2021, it announced plans to ban sexually explicit photographs and videos on its platform, but backtracked after a backlash from users.

The full episode of the Matt Haycox Show podcast with Sarah Jayne Dunn is available now.

In a statement, Lime Pictures said: “Duty of care for our cast and crew is of paramount importance to us.

“Hollyoaks adheres to strict protocols on set to protect and safeguard our team and we are unaware of any complaints from Sarah Jayne Dunn relating to the time she describes on the Hollyoaks set.

“The decision to cease Hollyoaks calendars was taken more than 10 years ago in 2013.

“Prior to 2013, nobody was compelled to take part in the calendar shoot. Hollyoaks cast who wanted to participate were able to do so on commercial terms.”