Zak Dingle is to be left aghast next week when daughter Belle (Eden Taylor-Draper) reveals what happened in the run-up to her best friend Gemma's death. Zak explains he knows what guilt feels like, telling Belle what he once did to Cain. Reflecting on his own experience and concluding the only way to get through the turmoil is by confessing, Zak agrees to go with Belle to the police. But can he really stand by and watch his daughter surrender, putting her at the mercy of the law? Actor Steve Halliwell tells us more:
Does Zak suspect that Lisa and Belle have been hiding something since Gemma’s death?
Well, he suspects there’s something they’re keeping from him, but he’s not sure what. However, he does know that it somehow involves Cain…
Does he suspect what it could be?
No. He knows there’s been this terrible accident involving Gemma that resulted in her death, but he doesn’t think there’s anything else attached to that.
And, of course, Belle would be traumatised by that anyway…
Yes, exactly. Zak thinks he’s just trying to help Belle get over the stress of what has happened. He doesn’t know there’s anything else involved.
Can you tell us about why Zak involves Dom over for tea?
It’s because Dom is a grieving father. Zak has lost two sons and he thinks that he can maybe be a shoulder for him to cry on. He wants to tell him that he can get through this and that you can carry on following the death of a child.
And does he detect that Lisa really doesn’t want Dom to be there?
Yes, he can detect that, but he puts that down to Dom’s presence reminding Belle of Gemma. He’s just very worried about Belle. Zak knows she’s grieving and he just wants to help her get over losing her friend.
Tell us about the moment when Belle confesses all to her father?
In the end, Belle tells him that she pushed Gemma and that was how she banged her head and what resulted in her death. Belle then says that she’s harbouring terrible guilt about this.
In the end, Zak tells her that he ended up nearly killing Cain – up to this point, Belle didn’t know that her father was responsible for this. So in order to explain that he can empathise with her situation, Zak feels that he has to tell Belle about the situation with Cain and how difficult it was getting over that.
And, of course, for Zak, it was that act which caused him to spiral into depression…
Yes, Zak’s mental breakdown was as a result of that so he does understand that Belle needs some help with her sense of guilt.
So, how does Zak react when he realises that the family have kept all this from him?
He’s angry. Belle tells him that they feared the stress and shock would have led to another breakdown. Zak feels that he could have dealt with the news and that they needn’t have done that.
Does Zak feel that Belle confessing is the best thing to do?
Not in the first instance. He initially says, “I’m not taking a daughter of mine to the police”. But Belle goes on telling him about the state he’s in. And Zak thinks back to the situation he was in and how he could at least speak to Cain afterwards.
Belle points that she can’t make it up to Gemma – and it’s then that Zak realises that perhaps the only way Belle can get over her terrible guilt is to go and tell the truth to the police. But Zak doesn’t think that she’ll be charged with anything except death by adventure.
Lisa does say to Zak that she’ll never forgive him if Belle goes to prison – do you think all this will harm their relationship?
Certainly. Not for one minute did Zak think she would be charged with murder. But the police find what looks to be incriminating stuff on Belle’s laptop and put all this together to build a case for murder.
Is Zak strong enough to cope with this situation?
I don’t know what the writers intend to do in the future, but at the time of these episodes, Zak is doing reasonably well and is trying to be supportive. He does start to lose the plot a bit with the police, which is down to anger and frustration. But not to the point where he’s having a breakdown.
Could he cope if Belle went to prison?
That remains to be seen. It’ll certainly be difficult – she’s the lining light of the family and the one who was going to break the mould of the Dingles. So it would be a massive blow for both Zak and Lisa.
And how has it been working with Eden Taylor-Draper – who plays Belle – on this storyline?
It’s been fantastic. She’s so clever – she actually raises my game. Let’s put it this way: we even got applause from the crew on one occasion, which is quite rare. Anyone with a father or a daughter will understand the pain they’re going through. You know, some child actors are cute, but then when they get older the cuteness disappears and they’re not very good. But Eden is going to go on to be a really clever actress. She’s got the talent now but you can see how she’s going to deal with adult parts.