Veteran star Freddie Jones, best known for his role as Sandy Thomas on Emmerdale, has died at the age of 91. The actor made his last appearance on the ITV drama in February 2018 and, in one of his final interviews, gave his reasons to Radio Times as to why he’d decided to bow out:
“It’s about the balance of my life. The company generously offered me another 12 months. But I just thought, ‘I have no idea what I’m going to do in another bloody year!’ The drama that Ashley’s death [Jones’s screen son, played by John Middleton] gave me last year was monumental.
“But that’s gone now. I travel three hours by car, book into a hotel and then get up the next day to say maybe three sentences. And then do a three-hour journey back. I can’t justify staying, even though Emmerdale was very generous in asking me to.”
Jones’s death was announced by his agent Lesley Duff, who said that he’d passed away on Tuesday 9th July after a short illness.
Prior to his 2005 to 2018 stint on the ITV soap, Jones – the father of actor Toby Jones – had appeared in such Hollywood movies as The Elephant Man, Dune, The Man who Haunted Himself and Wild at Heart.
But it is at Emmerdale where he found a resurgence of fame and popularity, noting upon his exit that his overriding memory of his time there would be “a feeling of friendship. And overwhelming love from every quarter — props, lighting, make-up… nobody could have been kinder. My life will easily be more impoverished.”
Former co-stars have taken to Twitter to pay their respects to the actor. Katherine Dow Blyton, who plays vicar Harriet Finch, called him “a very special man”, while Samantha Giles (Bernice Blackstock) said that she felt “lucky to have worked with him”.
Mark Charnock (Marlon Dingle), who shared a dressing room with Jones for a decade, issued a statement in which he called Jones “an amazing man”, adding that he was “truly adored”:
“He would light up the set with his wit and charm and privately was the most hilarious, fascinating company. He’d worked everywhere, with everyone and his anecdotes were gold dust and like many others, I’ll treasure my friendship with him forever.”
Charlotte Bellamy, who played Sandy’s daughter-in-law Laurel commented: “I was in awe of his professionalism, humour and his zest for life. He spent his last working years here at Emmerdale where he was loved and respected by us all. The world is a poorer place without him.”
A spokesperson for Emmerdale said to RadioTimes.com: “Everyone at Emmerdale is deeply sad to hear about the death of one of the show’s most brilliant actors and favourite human beings, Freddie Jones. Freddie was part of Emmerdale for many years and he brought his unique, energetic, infectious twinkle to every scene he was in.”
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