There have been a lot of ups and downs in Sophie Dillman and Patrick O'Connor's relationship lately, from car crashes and near-fatal poisoning to a few lingering questions about their future.
We are, of course, referring to their on-screen relationship in which they play lovebirds Ziggy and Dean on Home and Away.
The couple have faced adversity and come out the other side, giving their portrayers a much-needed breather after a blockbuster season.
"It's been a huge year!" Patrick, who plays Dean, tells TV WEEK at our beachside photoshoot. "I really enjoyed playing out the car crash scenes. It was an incredible shoot to be on and watching the car get flipped from behind the scenes was pretty impressive. Not to mention the beautiful locations of Yass and Wee Jasper in New South Wales."
Sophie adds that its' been a "manic" year for the actors of H&A, but one she is very grateful to have had in light of the global pandemic, which forced many Australians out of work.
"We were looking forward to getting into this year and leaving 2020 behind and that didn't happen," she says. "We've all had to adapt and change – including the storylines – but it's a real testament to how cohesive our team is. It's been a tough year but one I'm so proud of."
Sophie and Patrick, who live together in Sydney, know each other and their characters very well. But working together to bring their stories to light isn't as easy as one might think.
"It's actually really hard work," Sophie says. "Paddy and I are different to our characters so making their instincts seem natural when they aren't our own is a good challenge."
Plus, they value the importance of switching off at the end of each day with Sophie having described their home as a "sanctuary".
What they do have in common with Ziggy and Dean, however, is their love of the beach. The couple were both born in Queensland and hope to visit their families over the Christmas break. For Patrick, it's an excuse to indulge in all the season has to offer.
"Strangely the one thing that reminds me of Christmas being just around the corner is, Eggnog [laughs]. I picked up my first one of the season the other day!" Paddy says with a laugh. "But most of our family is up in Queensland and it'll be great to spend it with them after the last year."
As for Sophie, rest and recover is on the Christmas menu.
"It's a great time to unwind and be around people you love," she says.
While they can't divulge what is under the Christmas tree, Paddy jokes that he would love to gift Dean a new car – "it's time for a Holden SS Ute!" he says – while Sophie admits that her wish list typically leans on more towards the practical side, than luxurious.
"I don't quite remember if it was my worst gift, but I asked for a vacuum a few years ago," she says. "So I suppose it was my fault it was so boring [laughs]!"