Emmerdale: Finn Barton dies – Joe Gill reacts to his character’s shock exit

The actor reveals he's known since February he'd be leaving

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Emmerdale have killed off Finn Barton following his dramatic shooting earlier this week.

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In shock scenes just aired, Finn was pronounced dead by doctors after flatlining in last night’s cliffhanger having been mistakenly shot by mum Emma Barton in the aftermath of her fiery showdown with love rival Moira in a burning barn. His brothers Ross and Pete collapsed in tears at their deceased sibling’s bedside.

Finn’s tragic exit marks the surprise departure of actor Joe Gill after four years in the role, and was kept under wraps so as to preserve the secrecy of this latest devastating twist for the Barton family. We spoke to Gill ahead of his shock exit to get the full story behind his jaw-dropping departure from the Dales…

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When did you know you were leaving the show?

I spoke to our producer Iain MacLeod back in February as I knew at the end of my next contract in October I would’ve been here four years, and I felt professionally it was time to move on. I’ve loved every second of playing Finn and being part of the Barton family, but creatively it seemed like my time had naturally come to an end and I wanted to play different characters.

Why was your departure kept a secret? 

We wanted to create a big stir and have maximum shock impact for the viewers, but it was very hard. Obviously a few core people knew and I could tell close family and friends, but I’ve lied so much over the last few months which I’m sorry about – I was only doing my job! Hopefully it was worth it to preserve the secret and make it a big surprise for the audience.

How did you feel about Finn dying?

When you tell the bosses you want to leave you put the characters’ fate in their hands, and part of me felt a bit sorry for Finn I’ll be honest. But it’s a case of whatever’s best for the show, and if it meant getting that impact then it was the right thing to do. Life has always been a bit tragic for Finn so it’s only right it should end in such a tragic way, it’s sad he always tried to see the good in people, including his murderous mother – and she’s the one who killed him! Also it draws a line under it and makes it more final, which is therapeutic in a way.

Did you steal any souvenirs from the set?

I don’t wear glasses in real life, but they are one of Finn’s defining features. We have three pairs – one we use in studio, one for exteriors in the village and some ‘stunt’ glasses for when we do action stuff. The stunt glasses don’t fit quite right so we don’t use them very much, so I was on location doing one of my final scenes and I saw them and thought “I’m having those!” If I ever miss Finn I’ll pop them on and look at myself in the mirror wearing his glasses… I didn’t even check with anyone before I took them!

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Have you been to your characters’ funeral?

Not quite, but something funny did happen along those lines once I’d finished filming. I came to the set with my family after I’d left to show them round as I’d never managed to bring them for a tour in four years, and I was faced with my own coffin! Very surreal. Part of me was tempted to get in it and jump out at the actors when they were doing a scene grieving for Finn…

Will you miss being part of the show?

Absolutely, I’ve not got a bad word to say about the place. It’s been such an incredible learning experience for me as an actor. I’ll really miss the Bartons, I was fortunate to be part of a great family who were always at the forefront of big storylines in the four years I’ve been around. I know I’ll keep in touch with the likes of Anthony Quinlan (Pete), Gill Kearney (Emma), Natalie Robb (Moira) and Mike Parr (Ross) but it will be strange not seeing them day to day.

What’s next for you?

I’m back auditioning and am very excited, anything is possible! Ideally I’d like to delve back into a bit of theatre which I’d done a lot of before I started Emmerdale. It was intimidating being on a studio set when I joined having been more familiar with stage work, now the thought of theatre frightens me a bit so it would be nice to get back to that to prove I can do it.

Would you consider doing shows like Strictly or I’m a Celebrity? 

Props to my old mate Gemma Atkinson, she’s smashing it on Strictly, but that’s probably not for me. Although I did some ballroom dancing in a charity event recently, I had to dance a pasa double and I was awful! If I did Strictly I’d end up embarrassing myself. As for the jungle, Adam Thomas is a very hard act to follow entertainment-wise, I don’t think you could get much better than him really!

You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of Emmerdale below.

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