We have Strictly Come Dancing to thank!

Actress Lisa Riley has revealed why she finally agreed to return to Emmerdale as Mandy Dingle.

The 42 year old quit the soap in 2000, and made a brief return the following year. Since then, soap fans have speculated about a possible return, but it has taken over 17 years for Lisa to sign on the dotted line.

Explaining why she decided now was the right time for a come-back, Lisa says: “I was working for Strictly in June, doing a Q and A (Lisa competed in Series 10 of the BBC1 show, in 2012). There were 4000 people and they were asking, ‘When are you going back to Emmerdale?’ but I’ve had that since the day I left.

Emmerdale legend Mandy Dingle to return with MASSIVE secret after 17 years!

Emmerdale legend Mandy Dingle is back!

“But for some reason, they also asked ‘Why won’t you go back to Emmerdale?’ and I had no answer for that. So I thought ‘Well, why not? Will it do me any harm? Have I ticked my own boxes, career wise?’

“I’ve done so much, which has been great, and 17 years is such a long time and I’m interested to see where Mandy has been.

“When you see the reaction I’ve had, it’s been fantastic, and I think, ‘Thank God, I did make the right decision!'”

Lisa will be back in the fictional Dales village for a short guest stint starting on 7th January, when Mandy pitches up at the wedding of Marlon Dingle and Jessie Grant.

The couple tied the knot on Christmas Day, but as the service wasn’t legally binding, they have a church wedding to make their union official.

Mandy’s return is set to come as a huge shock to ex husband Paddy Kirk, now in a relationship with Chas Dingle. And Paddy and the rest of the Dingle clan are floored when it’s revealed that Mandy has a sixteen year old son, Vinny.

Show bosses aren’t revealing what has brought Mandy back, and whether Paddy is her son’s father. But if he is, that’s sure to cause tension within his and Chas’s relationship; the couple having recently lost their own child, daughter Grace.

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Mandy returns in the New Year for Marlon’s wedding – part two

Adds Lisa: “The initial offer was for a longer period, but because of work and my commitments, the original storyline has been flipped.

“It won’t be what people expect – which is even better. So it leaves things very much open for the new year, shall we say…”

Emmerdale airs weeknights at 7pm on ITV, with an extra episode at 8pm on Thursdays.

Picture credits: Main image: David Fisher/BAFTA/REX/Shutterst, Strictly: BBC, all others ITV