Hollyoaks fans were left swooning as Mandy Richardson got down on one knee for a romantic Valentine’s Day proposal.
But actress Sarah Jayne Dunn reckons you’d never catch her being so dramatic.
The soap favourite prefers her loving gestures to be more understated – unlike Mandy, who proposed to boyfriend Darren in a shock move this week.
Sarah, who has been married to husband Jonathan for three years, says: “I don’t like massive romantic gestures so a proposal like Mandy’s would definitely not be my thing.
“We leave each other silly notes – that’s romance in our house. And gestures like, ‘Oh you put the bins out – brill!’ ‘Oh you’ve done the dishwasher – amazing!’
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“For me, that’s romance. They’re the things that tick my boxes.”
Sarah, 39, reveals she has been pulling out all the stops for Jonathan during lockdown by wearing sexy clothes for nights in.
She says: “We have a cooked dinner, we open a bottle of wine and I put a dress on. It’s a conscious effort to feel more myself.
“I do spend a lot of time in what my husband calls my ‘uniform’… my joggers, jumper and with my hair scraped up, no make-up. That’s a normal day when I’m not working.
“But some days, it’s important to put on my make-up and do my hair because I want to feel nice – for me and for my husband. You need that boost of morale.”
Lockdown has undoubtedly been tough for everyone, but it’s not just at home that Sarah has been able to keep the spark alive with her husband.
Because of Covid, Jonathan now joins her for romantic scenes at work after he was asked to be a body double for her on-screen partner Darren, played by Ashley Taylor Dawson.
Sarah, who is mum to four-year-old Stanley, says that she initially struggled to get her head around being with Jonathan in front of the cameras but she has now got used to mixing her home and work life.
“It was odd as it crosses that line between Mandy’s world and my world,” she explains.
“Suddenly I’m there facing my husband as Mandy and it feels weird. But we need that intimacy in the scenes. It meant we could have a hug rather than look at each other awkwardly.”
And Sarah reckons that Jonathan took it all in his stride, too.
“He enjoyed it,” she says. “He was an actor as well and we met when we did a theatre production.
“He was the perfect person to get in as he’s not fazed by it.”
Covid has made it difficult for Sarah to play Mandy, whose daughter Ella – played by 12-year-old Erin Palmer – is hiding the fact that she’s killed someone.
“I’ve found it difficult doing the scenes with Ella as I’m playing this protective mum and all I want to do is wrap my arms around her,” says Sarah.
“It’s been great for Erin to have her moment. She has really shone.”
Sarah says that watching Erin has brought back memories of when she joined the Channel 4 soap back in 1996.
“I was 14 when I started on the show,” Sarah recalls. “I was thrown in at the deep end and thought at the time they must trust me as they’ve given me something really important.
“Erin looks at me like one of the oldies. It makes me feel old – and grateful!”
After 10 years on the show, Sarah took a break from Hollyoaks to explore other acting opportunities – but she couldn’t stay away for long, returning five times for short stints before coming back for good in 2017.
“It feels like two seconds since that first day on set, but time flies. It’s been 24 years,” Sarah says.
“I thought I was leaving after two episodes. I literally went in, did my scenes, got everyone’s autographs, said thank you very much and went off.
“I don’t think I’d dared to dream so big. If someone told me back then that I’d be nearly 40 and still doing the same role and still loving it, I’d have gone, ‘Shut up!’
“It’s been the best thing that has ever happened to me – apart from my son Stanley.”
Sarah will be celebrating her milestone birthday in September – and reckons she’s in the prime of her life.
“I have gone, ‘Oh, I’m almost 40’ as I realise how fast time has flown. But at the same time, I feel the fittest I’ve ever felt,” she adds.
“I feel the healthiest, I’m in the best place. I’ve known myself better than I ever have.
“I’ve got my boy, and that’s amazing. There’s so many positives.
“You look at people like J-Lo and Kylie, who look incredible, and they’ve gone past 50 and I think, ‘Why would I worry about 40?’
“They look better than they ever have and that’s where I’m going! It’s all a state of mind and confidence.”
Sarah is not sure whether she’ll be able to spend her birthday with her nearest and dearest but she knows just what she’d like to do.
“I hope lockdown’s lifted for then as I wanted to go away with the hubby and Stanley and one with my girls as I haven’t had one in years,” she says.
“But it’s good to be turning 40 and have my health, especially during these times.”