Emmerdale star Steve Halliwell talks to TV Times magazine about acting out Zak’s mental breakdown…

There’s a moment this week when Zak Dingle is teetering above a 60ft drop following his nervous breakdown. You’re terrified of heights – how did you cope with the fear?
“I did a course in Buddhist meditation some years back. I do it when I feel the need and when I want to unwind. I have known people like Zak, men who would never talk about things and shoulder their illness alone, but that’s not me.”

Zak’s current mental breakdown was sparked when he bludgeoned his own son Cain…
“It was always about family for Zak; so doing that to Cain was against everything he thought he was. It puts his whole character into question and that’s affecting his mental health. But of course, he cannot accept that it’s a mental problem. In his eyes, depression is for weak people. It’s a case of ‘Get on with it, life’s tough.’ He used to be a physically fit person too, but now he doesn’t feel physically well any more.”

Has it been tough playing this other side of Zak?
“It has. But I must say, I was worried about the scenes on the moor which are screened this week. But I was helped by stunt double Franklin Henson. We get the glory, but people like Frank deal with all the danger.”

Do you ever think about retiring?
“Whenever I think about it, I realise there is something to pay for! At the moment I am funding my granddaughter Angelina’s education at a private school. She was having a tough time at her old school and this new one provides a holistic education.”

When did you first realise you enjoyed acting?
“It’s funny, because I’ve realised it was as a child. My mum was a religious nut and wanted myself and my brother to be too. We would go along with it and ‘act’ to keep her happy, but outside of the church and home I was a normal rough-and-tumble street kid. That’s how I learnt to act.”

What’s the reaction you get from viewers about playing Zak?
“They used to come up and say things like, ‘You were so funny with Shadrach the other day’, but now it’s ‘I have really enjoyed your acting’, which is nice!”