Former Hollyoaks star Sarah Jayne Dunn says female cast were ‘pitted against each other’

Sarah Jayne Dunn has claimed that female cast members were “pitted against each other” throughout her time on Hollyoaks.

The actor played Mandy Richardson on the Channel 4 soap from 1996 to 2011, before returning in 2017.

Dunn, 41, parted ways with the programme in 2021 after producers took issue with her appearing on the personalised content subscription site, OnlyFans.

In a new interview, Dunn opened up about the “pressure” she felt while part of the cast, as Hollyoaks was considered “the sexy soap”.

“The girls were pitted against each other,” she said on the The Matt Haycox Show podcast. “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.’

Sarah Jayne Dunn (Getty Images)
Sarah Jayne Dunn (Getty Images)

“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.”

In a statement, Lime Pictures stated that “nobody was compelled” to be a part of the photoshoots.

Their team message reads: “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.”

As Mandy, Dunn was one of Hollyoaks’s most recognisable faces. However, she left the programme after making an OnlyFans account, on which paying subscribers can access exclusive content – some of which is of an adult nature.

Soon after she joined the site in October 2021, Hollyoaks cast members were told they were not allowed “to be active on certain 18+ websites”. It was then confirmed Dunn was departing the soap.

Sarah Jayne Dunn (Getty Images)
Sarah Jayne Dunn (Getty Images)

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 on the podcast. After being told that her participation was going to be “OK-ed internally”, Dunn received “an ultimatum” after her OnlyFans profile went live.

“I was told ‘pull that down, or there will be consequences’,” she claimed. “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.”

She continued: “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.”

At the time of Dunn’s departure, the soap released a statement that explained their decision to part ways with the actor was due to the programme being a “youth-facing drama with many young viewers”.

The statement continued: “We take our responsibility to our young audience very seriously and therefore the show does not allow any Hollyoaks cast members to be active on certain 18+ websites.

“We had hoped we could reach a resolution with Sarah that would allow her to remain in her role as Mandy, but we respect her choice to continue to produce content on OnlyFans.”

Additional reporting from the Press Association