It takes a lot to reduce Cain Dingle to tears, but the death of his mother is so momentously sad it’s even made Emmerdale’s toughest cookie crumble.


Faith Dingle’s battle with terminal cancer, and devastating decision to end her own life, has made for unflinching viewing right up until her final scenes, in which the much-loved matriarch dies in the arms of her son after years of estrangement.

Her passing poignantly heals a painful family rift, and is one of the big moments of the soap’s 50th anniversary celebrations, with the actual milestone on October 16th being marked with a special hour-long episode. It also gives Jeff Hordley the opportunity to explore the emotional side of a character he’s played for over 20 years, who has gone from brooding bad boy to one of Emmerdale’s most iconic leading men.

“When characters become whole and more humanised and you see their weaknesses, you understand them even more,” says the star, speaking exclusively to “Faith walked out on Cain when he was a kid which scarred him, and he always felt let down by her. Every time he let her in, she let him down. He just wanted his mum to love him and it took so long to forgive her, now he finally has and she’s gone which is why it’s so tragic.”

Cain, Moira and dying Faith in Emmerdale
Cain stays by his mum's side in her final moments. (ITV) ITV

Facing death with the uncompromising passion by which she lived her chaotic life made force-of-nature Faith’s farewell genuinely touching and, surprisingly, even uplifting at times as she ticked off a bucket list and ensured she went out with a bang.

More like this

Hordley sings the praises of co-star Sally Dexter, bowing out as his on-screen mother after over six years in the role, admitting saying goodbye to such a cherished member of the cast fuelled the sadness of the situation.

“Sally brings such warmth to Faith and we are losing a really big ray of light from the show,” he reflects. “She is a big fan favourite and none of us wanted her to leave, myself included. Her last scene was so beautifully written it was easy to connect with the emotion and lose yourself in that moment. The director, Mike Lacey, did it all as one continuous tracking shot, rather than break it up for close-ups, which helped with the flow. That was a very brave decision, fortunately we managed to get it in one take. There were only a few of us on set which made it feel a bit like a pressure cooker – but a nice warm one!”

Faith’s passing sees Cain find a degree of closure around his tumultuous childhood, defined by the violent outbursts of an alcoholic father and the aforementioned abandonment by a misguided mother. However, while it closes one door, it also opens up yet more possibilities for a character who has already enjoyed a consistent stream of sensational storylines since he was introduced back in 2000.

Prior to joining Emmerdale, Hordley had spent a few years as jobbing actor notching up a handful of TV drama credits, including two guest roles in ITV soap stablemate Coronation Street. “I played a night club manager in a story with Mike Baldwin, then a theatre director with Roy and Hayley Cropper,” he recalls. “With smaller jobs you get used to being on a set and working quickly, but you’re only in for a few days and feel like you’ve been spun around 10 times then pushed off! It can feel disorientating.

Loved this Big RT Interview? Check out these...

“Straight away at Emmerdale the cast and crew were so lovely they made me feel at home. That was the draw for me, I thought: ‘I like it here!’ In my head I told myself I’d do two years, which became six. I left for a bit, did some theatre, came back in 2009 and the rest is history.”

Cruel, callous Cain was brought in as the village villain as part of a new generation of the ever-popular, and always expanding, Dingle clan, alongside his cousin, cheeky Charity, played by Emma Atkins. “Me and Emma went through the experience of joining the show together and were as thick and thieves, and still are to this day. Members of the Dingle family, like Steve Halliwell (Zak), James Hooton (Sam) and Jane Cox (formerly Lisa), took me under their wing, as well as Nicky Evans, who played Roy Glover, he really looked after me.

“I still have fond memories of those early days, particularly Cain’s affair with Angie Reynolds the copper, I loved working with Freya Copeland who played her. I’ve been blessed with good storylines and these last six months have been gifted some of the best stuff I’ve ever had, which I hope I’ve grabbed with both hands. As long as they keep writing it I see no reason to go anywhere. I’m proud of my commitment to this show, and I really care about it.”

When asked if his alter ego has ever frustrated him, Hordley tactfully concedes there was one plot twist that doesn’t sit right in retrospect, back in Cain’s baddie days before he matured into a calm, if grumpy, patriarch.

“When his daughter Debbie was dating Jasmine (played by future Doctor Who companion Jenna Coleman in her breakthrough role), Cain didn’t approve and decided he would get back at her by stealing her girlfriend – looking back now, I don’t think he would’ve done that. He loves Debbie too much to hurt her. But Cain is flawed, so I just have to find the reasons behind what he does. No one gets through to him like Debbie does, and I’d love Charley Webb, who plays her, to come back.”

Soap actors often describe the working environment as being ‘like a family’, but in Hordley’s case it’s no cliché – he’s been married to co-star Zoe Henry (Rhona) for almost 20 years. The couple, who have two children, Violet and Stan, have managed the enviable feat of keeping a low profile and protecting their privacy, while being two of the most recognisable faces on TV.

Despite playing such a tortured soul, laid-back Hordley is disarmingly grounded and thoughtful, which the actor partly puts down to a calming pastime, which is as far away from Cain as you can get… “I like being on my allotment,” he smiles. “It’s a little place of solace. I’ve got a glut of chillis at the moment so I’ll be making loads of chilli jam and giving them out as presents. If you’d told me in my 20s I’d get really into gardening in my 40s I would’ve laughed!”

While we digest the unexpected image of Cain Dingle making up a batch of flavoured jam, talk returns to Emmerdale’s golden anniversary. Hordley acknowledges the importance of the achievement in an evolving TV landscape that has seen continuing drama placed under increasing pressure as audiences move away from linear viewing.

“Things are changing but I hope and believe soaps will continue to have relevance, because they tackle difficult subjects that get people talking and inspire discussions. Faith’s right to die, Marlon’s stroke, Ashley’s dementia – when soaps get it right with well-written, well-told stories, you remember why they have a place in our society.”

The open-ended narrative of soaps means there’s always another curveball around the corner for your favourite characters to cope with – and Cain is no exception. Even though he’s just endured the loss of a parent, and is about to be in the eye of a destructive storm set to rip through the village, Hordley hints at more drama on the horizon for Mr Dingle.

“Beyond Faith’s death, there is another big thing coming up for Cain at the end of October, probably the biggest thing that has happened to him in a while. All I can say is I’ve been filming some scenes for the storyline today – and it’s intense!”

Read more:

Visit our dedicated Emmerdale page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide or visit our Soaps hub.


The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale now – subscribe now and get the next 12 issues for only £1. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.