EastEnders star Tamzin Outhwaite insists dating a toyboy 21 years her junior does not mean she is having a midlife crisis.
The actress, 49, says her relationship with personal trainer Tom Child, 28, is “unexpected and magic”.
She told Prima magazine: “People think I’m having a midlife crisis, but actually, not all men want a younger woman.
“Helena Bonham Carter has a younger guy, too. I love that.
“There’s Joan Collins, Sam Taylor-Johnson and Helena with younger men, so I’m in really lovely company.
“Tom’s very good for my mental and physical health. The other way around, no one says anything about a younger woman do they?”
Tamzin, who played Mel Owen in EastEnders, was married to actor Tom Ellis but they divorced in 2014.
The pair have two daughters, Flo, 11, and seven-year-old Marnie.
Since their split, she says she worries less about what people think about her and her life choices.
She added: “It’s a lovely feeling when you stop giving two hoots about what anyone else thinks.
“Getting to that point has been a gradual process. You’re never going to please everyone all the time, and I’ve realised I need to look after myself and my mental state.”
Tamzin also praised her new boyfriend for improving how she feels both physically and mentally.
“He reminds me to just breathe if I’m not having a great time. And he reminds me to sweat, to work out, because it makes you feel better.
“We exercise together, but it’s definitely something we don’t do enough. I’ve not been as good for Tom as he has been for me, probably.
“Tom and I both already had what we needed, so we enhance each other’s lives. I’m really happy.”
Tamzin found national fame in 1998 when she was cast as Mel Own in the popular BBC soap EastEnders.
She stayed until 2002 and then returned onscreen again in 2018 before leaving in November last year.