Faith Dingle has officially arrived in Emmerdale. Fans met the one-woman whirlwind last Monday when a mystery woman came to the village, but it wasn’t until Thursday that her true identity was revealed as Chas and Cain’s long-lost mum and Zak’s ex.
A minor character in the Dingle dynasty up until now who was last on screen 13 years ago, Faith has been promoted to regular status and familiar TV face Sally Dexter has been recast in the role. Described by her screen daughter as “a liar, a layabout and a letdown,” feisty Faith has already established herself as a force of nature – and Dexter’s description of her character gives you the idea they’ve barely scratched the surface: “She’s a cross between a wannabe Zsa Zsa Gabor, a deluded Blanche Dubois type – and there’s a bit of my mum in there too!”
Faith’s entrance was shrouded in secrecy, with the character only referred to as ‘woman in the barn’ for several episodes while she hid away from the rest of the village only encountering young Sarah, who had no idea she was her great granny. Eventually collapsing and carted into an ambulance in the middle of the village, the gathering crowd included Cain and Chas who confirmed who she really was.
It was hardly a happy family reunion, as Dexter explains: “The last time she saw her kids was a long time ago. They parted on fighting terms and there’s a fair old bit of bad blood when they see each other again, so they’re far from delighted she’s back in their lives.”
So what exactly does bring her back after all these years? “Faith has seen the fundraising page for Sarah’s cancer treatment online, and I think she’s had a bit of a health scare herself, all of which has put her life into perspective. She wants to see her family, touch roots and start to make amends.”
The first thing on her ‘making amends’ list was the surprise announcement that she was the anonymous donor of £20,000 to her granddaughter’s charity fund, using money she’d inherited from a dead ex-lover. Whether that’s true or just a handy way to get her feet under the Dingle table remains to be seen, but now her presence is out in the open Dexter’s delighted she can at last discuss the role. “I was cast last November and practically had to sew my mouth up to stop myself blabbing!” she laughs. “It’s been very difficult to keep it a secret.”
The actress is particularly pleased to join the Emmerdale gang as she has Yorkshire roots herself. “I do indeed, I was born in the East Riding of Yorkshire between Malton and Scarborough. I still have family in the area, and my mother is a big Emmerdale fan – she was orbiting around cloud nine for quite a while when I got the part! If I wander into the living room while it’s on, my mother says: ‘don’t talk to me, it’s my programme!’”
Being a Dingle means playing it big, bold and larger than life, and Dexter is already a fan of Faith’s signature look. “I tried on just about every sparkly item that has ever existed in Yorkshire when the costume department went shopping for her wardrobe, I felt like a Christmas cracker. Faith is totally bling, she has no shame and it’s wonderful.”
Her arrival was pretty spectacular, so what can Dexter tell us about what the show has in store for Faith in the future? “She caused havoc from the start and I think that’s how she’s set to continue. The word I’d use is ‘mischievous’ – she’s a troublemaker but I don’t think she’s nasty, but definitely a bit naughty.”
The Dingles are in crisis following Sarah’s diagnosis, and although Faith means well, Dexter’s not totally sure whether her presence will end up being a help or a hindrance. “I think she’ll do everything she can think of to help Sarah and the family. Some of those things may not be appropriate, but she’ll do them anyway!”
Dexter’s distinguished stage and screen career has included dramas such as Poldark and A Touch of Frost, and she’d previously worked with a recently departed member of the cast. “I was in the West End with lovely Bill Ward, who played James Barton,” she shares. “ Unfortunately he got pushed off a bridge before I started so we didn’t get any scenes together! I’m enjoying being part of the show hugely, it’s a fantastic place. It’s a very well oiled machine, and it’s amazing how hard everyone works and how much fun they all have!”
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