Sally Dexter says her Emmerdale alter ego Faith Dingle is left feeling ‘numb’ after receiving her breast cancer diagnosis.
Faith has been behaving strangely for a while, and in tonight’s instalment of the ITV soap we finally learnt the extent of her situation. The character went to the hospital to meet with an oncologist, where she was informed that her cancer had returned.
Daughter-in-law Moira Dingle (Natalie J Robb), accompanied Faith to the appointment after the latter confided in her. While her condition is treatable, she was told that it isn’t curable. And speaking at a recent press event, Dexter explains how Faith feels in the wake of this news.
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“I think she’s absolutely shell-shocked. Her response is: numb," the actor reveals. She also adds that Moira’s presence influences how Faith reacts in the moment.
“She can’t take it in. And in a sense, Moira being there relieves her of having to react. It’s Moira who reacts emotionally; and funnily enough, I think when somebody else cries or is emotional, you aren’t. Well, certainly it is with me, it does tend to get passed over to them.
“In some ways it’s not a good thing, because really, if Faith was on her own with the oncologist, I think there would have been a different reaction.”
Asked whether Faith is relieved that she’s not completely on her own with the secret now, Dexter says: “Yes. By the same token, I think she wouldn’t have liked to have that big emotional response. She’s relieved that Moira does it for her.”
Despite being thankful for that support, Faith isn’t ready for anyone else to know about her illness. Explaining why that is, the star muses: “I think she feels if she reveals her worst fears, suddenly she will be a different person in other people’s eyes.
“They will not see her, they will see her condition rather than her as a person, and they’ll treat her differently. It is that thing of, if she lets Cain and Chas know, she’s fearful that, particularly with Cain, he will pity her but still despise her,” Dexter notes.
She adds that Faith is also fearful that her family won’t be interested at all. “I think there is that chance in her mind, that she thinks that the worst outcome is that they find out that she’s got cancer, and they don’t care – she’s alone. And that’s probably the hardest thing of all.”
Dexter tells us that the filming process for these scenes was tricky for one particular reason. “The first time that we do a line run, the emotion comes splurging out, and if you’re not careful it splurges out of you completely."
“You’re left wretched and wracked by them and totally empty – after you’ve had a good cry that happens, doesn’t it, you feel kind of relieved and empty.
“You have to be very careful you don’t do that on the first read through, so it’s a question of holding it back, and back, and back; because they do a wide shot, they do a mid-shot, they do a long shot and then they come in for a close up,” she reveals.
“So you’ve done the same point of emotion about six times before you come to the point where you’ve got to really let it rip; so that can be challenging! Because some of the scenes are so well-written, that it’s difficult not to just have a gut reaction to them from the word go, and let that run out.”
Watch the moment Faith returned to Emmerdale last year