Emmerdale’s Cain Dingle has led an extraordinarily dramatic life, while actor Jeff Hordley has also had his fair share of turmoil to deal with.
Although things are rarely peaceful among the Dingles, their ever-complicated family life has been especially rocky of late, with Cain’s half-brother Caleb Milligan (William Ash) having shared not one but two passionate smooches with Tracy Metcalfe (Amy Walsh), who unfortunately happens to be the wife of his nephew Nate Robinson (Jurell Carter).
The chemistry between the pair is palpable, and it’s unclear how much longer they’ll be able to keep their wild feelings for each other from becoming the talk of the village. Indeed, just this week, Cain came within a hair’s breadth of catching the pair locking lips at his birthday party, nearly spotting their risky embrace just outside The Woolpack toilets.
As Cain begins to harbour suspicions about Caleb and Tracy’s newfound closeness, we take a look at actor Jeff’s life away from the Yorkshire Dales, from a difficult diagnosis to juggling parenting duties with his co-star wife.
Oldham-born Jeff began experiencing symptoms of Crohn’s Disease when he was just 20 years old but didn’t receive an official diagnosis until shortly before his 26th birthday, having previously believed he had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This diagnosis proved to be particularly distressing for Jeff, as his own mother had died from the illness when he was just nine years old.
In a column penned for the Mirror back in 2015, Jeff recalled: “Lying in a hospital bed being told I had Crohn’s Disease was one of the most frightening experiences of my life. When I was just nine, my mum had died from the very same illness. My reaction was, ‘Am I going to die too?’ It was a week before my 26th birthday. I’d suffered stomach cramps and diarrhoea for six years but it had never crossed my mind there was a connection.”
After suffering ‘episodes of horrendous stomach pains and vomiting’ for some years, Jeff’s condition worsened at the age of 25, when he was still in his final year of drama school, causing him to drop from 12 stone to just nine stone. At the time, he worried about how his then-girlfriend Zoë Henry would react, but she couldn’t have been more supportive.
Jeff continued: “I was a young boy when she passed away in 1979, but I’ve since learned her death was caused by a complication of surgery rather than the illness itself. The doctors assured us things had moved on and it’s now treated with steroids and anti-inflammatories to calm the bowel and prevent damage.
“However, they told me I’d need surgery to remove the diseased part of the large bowel. And they warned I might need a colostomy bag, on a temporary basis, to give the gut a chance to heal. That was a big deal. Zoë and I had been together for only 18 months after meeting at drama school. I was worried about how she’d react. But she was brilliant and said, ‘Listen, this is going to be fine’.”
After getting engaged in 2002, Jeff and Zoë – who plays vet Rhona Goskirk in Emmerdale – tied the knot in the summer of 2003, and went on to welcome daughter Violet Ava, in 2005, and son Stan, in 2008.
Zoe Henry Twitter)
Sharing parenting duties
In order to make things easier for them in the early days of parenting, Emmerdale bosses ensured made sure Cain and Rhona’s storylines were filmed at separate times, so they could divide childcare duties. In a previous interview with Lorraine Kelly, Zoe revealed: “We often do line learning together. This time, Jeff’s been amazing. He’s just taking the weight of what’s going on at home. Obviously, we’ve got two kids, two dogs, we’ve got an allotment and he’s just managing all of that. He’s about to get busy as I sort of quieten down so we’ll swap the baton then.”