Iconic Emmerdale couple Lisa Dingle (Jane Cox) and Zak Dingle (Steve Halliwell) prepare to tie the knot for a second time on Thursday 23rd May in a wedding hastily arranged in the shadow of the bride's terminal illness which means she has months to live.
Beloved matriarch Lisa recently returned to the village after a year away and revealed to the family her diagnosis of amyloidosis, which has left her with a severely weakened heart.
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Reunited with soul mate Zak, Lisa wants to spend her final days surrounded by the love of the Dingles and is thrilled when vicar Harriet Finch agrees to perform a wedding service with just two days' notice.
As the locals pull together to make an unforgettable big day, Lisa's bridal gown ends up covered in mud when she has to deal with some escaped pigs at Wishing Well Cottage en route to the church - but a bit of dirt can't dampen the couple's spirits as Cain walks his stepmum up the aisle.
With tragedy set to strike at any minute, and the specific date of Lisa's death unconfirmed by Emmerdale, could her wedding day be Lisa's last appearance? Cox and Halliwell discussed the character's imminent departure with RadioTimes.com, revealing the real reasons behind it…
Jane, what made you decide to leave Emmerdale after all this time?
JC: It was very hard but I'm 66 now and I felt I didn't want to be working at this pace so much in the future. I've got lots of other things I want to do, not necessarily acting, and if I didn't go now I probably never would. I love everybody here, it's been the best job and Lisa has been part of me for 23 years. And this is a story that raises awareness of a particular illness which will hopefully help people, and that's why I became an actor in the first place.
We know Lisa is being killed off; are you glad it's a complete full-stop on the character?
JC: I think it's better as it tells a complete story, and there are a lot of people out there dealing with terminal illness. When Lisa's diagnosis was revealed in the International Women's Day episode we had a good response from those pleased we were raising the issue. Lisa could go off to Spain or something but this way it gives a truthful end to her story. I will wave Lisa a happy goodbye.
How do you feel at losing your on-screen partner, Steve?
SH: I was sad initially but we are good friends in real life and knew Jane wanted to do other things, so I knew it was coming. Viewers will be very sad, they're one of those couples that, in spite of all their fallouts and divorce, they still kept this bond which we're seeing since Lisa came back.
Are you pleased they are getting married again?
SH: Yes, personally I was disappointed when Zak had the affair with Joanie as I felt he should've remained with Lisa, but that's not up to me and you do the story as best you can. It ended sadly with Joanie dying but for Zak, and the audience, it's been a long time coming him and Lisa getting back together.
Is it a happy event, despite the fact Lisa is dying?
JC: It happens quite quickly, Zak proposes out of the blue and the whole family is happy about it, yes. It's really cheery. All the Dingles want to make it a good time for them.
How will Zak cope without Lisa?
SH: Not well. The finality of death is something we all experience at some point, sadly, but it's good to explore bereavement as millions go through it. Zak will have to find a way but it won't be good. You've got to think about the family that still need you, I'm sure that will form part of it. But Zak has had nervous breakdowns before, I'm not sure what the writers will do. We'll see.
Do you hope he finds a new love interest?
SH: I think not! The stress of another relationship would be too taxing at his age, as it is for me in real life, I'm 73 and single! I think Zak will just want to look after his family, go down the pub and have a quiet life.
Has Jane's decision made you think about leaving Emmerdale?
SH: I've been very happy here and have no great desire to go out and have another challenge, as actors say. It was challenging enough surviving before I got this job! If they keep asking me to come back I will, I'll probably keel over in the Woolpack which is a good way to go!
Jane, what are your plans after your final scenes?
JC: I need to take stock and think about my life in a different phase. I want different adventures. I'm not ambitious with my career and am happy with what I've done to date, I've been in the business 48 years. It will be nice to have time to think about things, maybe write or paint. The world is out there to be explored and I'm happy to be living a simpler life and have time for friends.
When you're working flat out on a soap you don't have much time for anything else. Don't get me wrong, it's been a dream job, but I have to take the plunge.
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