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TV LIFE: A real tryst of Tate!

CHARITY Tate is mad, bad and dangerous to know. Originally one of the Dingle clan, she had a lesbian affair with vet Zoe Tate and then married her lover's brother Chris.

Traumatic? Maybe. But for actress Emma Atkins, who plays the soap tart with a heart, it's just one labour of love.

The 27-year-old actress confesses: "Emmerdale is my dream job - I just never thought I'd achieve it. Originally I had a three-month contract. Then it just kept getting renewed and I ended up playing this huge part.

"Playing Charity is the best experience I've ever had. Everybody says I must have seen it all and done it all. But I'm sure there is more around the corner for her."

That might be the case, but Atkins says there's one scene from Charity's past which always proves to be a talking point.

"Everybody always asks me about the lesbian kiss but it wasn't all it was cracked up to be," she says. "When you are stood in front of 35 crew with sound booms and lights shining in your face you don't think ooh, that's saucy. You are just kissing a woman instead of a man."

While she enjoys a torrid time on screen in real life Atkins, who lives in Manchester, is enjoying being young, free and single. It's three years since Charity first rolled into Emmerdale when she turned up for the funeral of her cousin Butch.

"I have to admit that I was terrified when I first got the part," says Atkins. "Even now I can still recall my first day. I had to meet one of the directors and then visit the set. I was so nervous I thought I was going to be sick."

Luckily, it didn't take long before she started feeling at home. Her first-day nerves were calmed when she met actors Steve Halliwell and Jane Cox, better known as Zak and Lisa Dingle.

"We had lunch together and just got on really well," she reveals. "But when I first came into the show it felt like my whole life was turning upside down."

And it is hardly surprising that it was such a traumatic experience as Atkins was still a final year student studying drama at Salford University when she landed the role.

"I had six months left to complete my degree when I got the part, so it was really hard work. I had to juggle my assignments with learning my lines.

"But when you're faced with that sort of situation you either do it or you don't. So I just had to knuckle down. I had to work hard and I even managed to get a first class degree.

"I suppose I'm pretty motivated and driven. If I wasn't on set stealing Eric Pollard's wallet I would be driving up to the Lake District to type up my college work.

"It was non-stop for six months, but it was well worth it."

Atkins, who comes from near Kendal, Cumbria, began to get noticed about three years ago. But she had only appeared in a couple of TV adverts when her agent called to say there was a part in Emmerdale up for grabs.

She says: "When I heard it was one of the Dingles I thought I stood no chance. I didn't look anything like any of them. But when I saw the script I fell in love with the idea of playing Charity.

"I went for the audition then heard nothing for a couple of weeks. To be honest I thought that was it. Then one day my agent called and said, 'Emma you've got the part'. I just went hysterical."

Although Atkins was excited by her coup she faced a bit of a problem relaying the news to her parents Lili and Ian as they were on holiday in Spain. She says: "I love playing tricks on them. So I called them up and said that I had some really bad news.

"My mum told me not to worry but I said it's not that kind of bad news - I'm officially a Dingle. We screamed down the phone at each other. I couldn't even speak to her because she was screaming so loudly.

"They love me being in the show. If I'm staying at their place my mum even helps me to learn my lines."

There is no doubt that Atkins loves playing the part and she shows no sign of wanting to flee the dale... just yet.

She says: "I know it has been a roller coaster ride for Charity so far. She has had so many gritty storylines and so much has happened to her - hopefully things can only get worse."

Emmerdale is on ITV1 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 7pm.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 1, 2002
Words:796
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