Emmerdale star Emma Atkins reflects on playing Charity Dingle as soap celebrates 50th anniversary

‘Chaotic’ is one of the words we would use to describe Charity Dingle from Emmerdale, played by Emma Atkins.

Charity has experienced a lot throughout the years, and when we say that, we really mean it.

Charity has made a lot of blunders in her extremely untidy struggle to get by in life, from time spent in jail to a very perplexing and totally improper connection with her cousin Cain (Jeff Hordley).

Charity has problems, much like many other soap opera characters, but we still adore her, so why not? She should be present for Emmerdale’s forthcoming 50th anniversary; otherwise, it wouldn’t feel right.

With only a few weeks left, Emma Atkins has been talking about the background of her role, her sense of home on the soap, and Charity’s most traumatic incidents.

What was your first day on set like and who were your scenes with?

Even though it happened 22 years ago, I can still clearly remember that as one of the things. It was a location day, so Andy Devine, who played my uncle Shadrach, and I were outside filming on a bitterly cold winter day. I had a moment where I had to return Pollard’s wallet, which we had both stolen. It was now my turn to get it back after he had taken it from me.

I had to get pretty near to him because I was wearing a short “pleather” skirt when we were in this outdoor barn, which was embarrassing. Although Andy made me feel at ease, I was still apprehensive about having to do something so private. It was fun, but I doubt I’ll ever forget it.

How long was your original contract for?

A few episodes here and there over 3 months. I distinctly recall my agent informing me that because I was still pursuing my degree at the time I received the call, I was unable to process it.

I believed I had a role on a soap opera as a prominent character named “Charity Dingle.” One of the best moments in my life, in my opinion.

Has it changed your life?

Without a doubt, the profession has altered my life. Being a member of the Dingle family has given me a fantastic sense of security. I believe I will always be a Dingle, regardless of whether I left years ago or stayed. It’s a privilege.

What is your standout storyline?

My most memorable experience is a story from way back when it was made public that Charity had a daughter in secret who she had never disclosed to Cain.

When Debbie shows in and claims to be Charity, it was an eruption waiting to happen. However, Charity, being Charity, completely denies it! She must accept the reality. Working with Charley (Webb) and Jeff (Hordley) at that time was quite unique.

I’ll never forget the plot in which Chris Tate accuses Charity of killing him. He realized Charity was having an affair with his sister and had been intimate with Cain while suffering from an inoperable brain tumor, and he decides enough is enough. One distinct recollection I can clearly recall has myself in a boiler suit after Charity has been undressed and her finger prints have been taken. I recall thinking, “This is real, I’m in Emmerdale, being accused of murder!”

What is the most shocking thing that you remember Charity doing?

There are several actions she has taken that I am unable to fully defend, but one in particular jumps out: the agreement she made with Zoe Tate that she would essentially sell her child in exchange for her release from prison. Who would sell their own kid?

Charity and Cain’s love triangle was legendary. Did you enjoy working with Jeff?

I adore how people frequently draw attention to the background and “legendary chemistry” of Cain and Charity. The closest thing to a brother that I have is Jeff (Hordley). The more positive comments we received indicating that it was working, the more we wanted to improve. I do remember that period with nostalgia and have faith that it will someday come back. Some of my favorite memories involve their tricks, including donning wigs and robbing cars with Jeff! It was a lot of fun.

Charity has had some memorable weddings – which was your favourite?

Charity is the Liz Taylor of soap operas—been she’s to so many weddings! Of course, she didn’t follow through with all of them. I truly wanted to get married to Cain, but it never happened. I seem to recall that it was snowing and that I was wearing a crazy pink dress. It was quite emotional, but then there was this brief moment when she expressed her reluctance to proceed because doing so would alter their relationship and possibly destroy their chemistry. She also questioned the necessity of their impending nuptials.

That struck me as being especially special. The marriage to Chris Tate was quite special. The most amazing Moulin Rouge-inspired regalia was chosen by the costume designers.

I was out of proportion. There was so much going on that at one point I had trouble entering the facility. I recall it being really large. It seemed outrageous, but dressing up was so much fun.

Relationship wise do you miss working with any of the actors you used to have lots of scenes with?

Having been a part of the program for so long, you get to collaborate with some amazing talent. Leah Bracknell was undoubtedly one of my favorite people to work with; I miss her dearly. Together, we experienced some really intense and humorous things.

One was the covert relationship Chris Tate was having. We were both first really anxious about that, but as we discussed it and practiced our lines, I realized that this is a piece of cake since I am with someone who is so tremendously understanding, such a terrific team player, and such a decent person.

What is your favourite or most memorable scene?

It’s challenging to choose just one unforgettable scene because there are so many. It was always “handbags at dawn” when I worked with Patsy Kensit (Sadie), and I truly liked it. Sadie knocks Charity down the stairs at one point, causing her to land in a neck brace. We just used to corpse all the time, which was funny because there would be serious showdowns in the Woolpack and I couldn’t turn because of the neck brace.

Are you glad to be part of the Dingle family?

Being a Dingle feels pretty special. You can be sure that you will experience those priceless moments. A better group of people simply cannot be gathered.

You actually feel like you are part of this beautiful family when you are all there and celebrating something and there are these hilarious one-liners or someone says something wrong.

Favourite Emmerdale storyline not been involved in?

I was present for the entire lead-up to Emma Barton’s death in one particular plot, so I feel a little bereft not being a part of it. She was on top of the bridge in her white bridal gown when the vehicle crash that culminated everything occurred. She beheaded a chicken and trapped John Barton in the house.

Gillian (Kearney) nailed it in the role she performed. Sincerely on the edge of my seat, I was yelling at the television. I’m a part of this program and am enjoying it a great deal. In spite of how proud I felt, I was furious I wasn’t there.

What do you love most about Emmerdale?

Because of the people, I really do adore Emmerdale. I know I say it all the time, but it’s true. Not only are the cast and crew some of my most incredible friends, but they are also. It is definitely the folks.

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