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Emmerdale actress Leah Bracknell, who played British soap’s first regular lesbian character, dies aged 55

The actress, who played Zoe Tate on the ITV series for 16 years, passed away last month following a battle with lung cancer.

By Will Stroude

Former Emmerdale star Leah Bracknell has died at the age of 55.

The British actress, who played British soap’s first regular lesbian character, Zoe Tate, on the ITV series from 1989-2005, passed away last month following a long battle with cancer, her family confirmed on Wednesday (16 October).

“Leah had an energy and enthusiasm for life, a kind heart and much love to give to those around her,” as statement from Bracknell’s family read.

“Leah continued to embrace life and faced her illness with positivity.”

Bracknell, who became a part of British TV history when her Emmerdale character Zoe came out as gay in 1993, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in 2016.


She documented her experience of living with the illness on her blog ‘Something Beginning with C’, and in her final Instagram post last month asked fans to sign a petition calling on he government to train and employ more staff to diagnose and treat cancer early.

Emmerdale producers paid tribute to the “hugely popular” Bracknell in a post on social media on Wednesday (16 October).

“Everyone on Emmerdale is very sad to hear of the death of Leah Bracknell”, the statement read.

“She was a hugely popular member of the Emmerdale cast for over 16 years. Leah was a very generous and caring colleague, much loved by cast and crew alike.”