Inside Emmerdale’s Zak Dingle star’s life from jail stint to homelessness

Emmerdale: Zak Dingle cries over Lisa Dingle’s exit

Life was not always easy for actor Steve Halliwell away from his career on the Yorkshire Dales-based soap Emmerdale. Steve joined the cast in October 1994 and he remained at the heart of the Dingle family ever since.

While the character of Zak was only supposed to be temporary, he ended up becoming one of the soap’s most recognisable villagers. Following the news of his death, his Emmerdale co-stars and loved ones have paid tribute to the father-of-three.

The Emmerdale team said on Friday afternoon: “It is with deep sadness and a heavy heart that Emmerdale can confirm that Steve Halliwell, our beloved Zak Dingle, has peacefully passed away. All our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones through this very difficult time, and we’d request that their privacy is respected as they grieve for his loss.

“Steve will forever be synonymous with Emmerdale. The proud defender and head of the Dingle family. Heart and humour in all he did, it has been and always will be impossible not to smile when you think of him.”

Away from the ITV soap, Steve experienced a colourful life, filled with highs and lows. He’s been through homelessness and was even put behind bars at one point in his life.

READ MORE ITV statement in full as Emmerdale star Steve Halliwell dies aged 77

The actor was born in Lancashire in March 1946 to parents Jenny and Fred Halliwell. He grew up in Bury alongside his older brother Clive, who was two years his senior.

Steve trained to be an apprentice engineer and held a number of positions before training at Mountview Theatre School as he wanted to become an actor.

Before joining Emmerdale, he battled alcoholism as well as depression which left him feeling in a dark place. This depression was part of his life for 50 years.

Speaking to TV Times, Steve shared: “Everything the Dingles had been through, I had too – trouble with the police, fighting, being evicted. And if there were any aspects of Zak’s life I hadn’t lived, I knew people who had.”

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He had to sleep rough in London at one point in his life and told the publication he “got very thin” and was “so hungry”.

Steve said it was illegal to be homeless and explained he was arrested for sleeping in an empty government building.

He added: “I was sent to Ashford remand prison for two weeks and then I was put on probation and sent home.”

This was the only time the actor got into trouble with the police, revealing it was linked to an incident with a gang he was once involved with. He said one gang member lobbed a brick through a shop window and someone called the police to report a “bearded youth running away” with alcohol.

The Emmerdale star explained he “took the rap” for the theft and was sent to a detention centre for three months.

According to other interviews with the star, Emmerdale helped Steve turn things around as he channelled his energy into the role of Zak. However, he ended up admitting himself to rehab in 2003 to help tackle his issues with alcohol. This caused him to step away from the soap for a period of time.

In 2018, the actor took a break from the soap to undergo heart surgery and have a pacemaker fitted. After an extended break during the coronavirus pandemic, Steve returned to Emmerdale in January 2021.

A quote from Steve’s family in the wake of his death read: “He went to sleep, peacefully with his loved ones around him. He was making us laugh to the end, the most amazing father and grandfather you could ever wish for, family was everything to him.

“We would like to thank the wonderful staff at St James Hospital and the Wheatfield Hospice for their love and kindness in his final days. He didn’t want sadness, just to rejoice in a life well lived.”

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