Soap Opera Legend Steve Halliwell Dead at 77

The actor played Zak Dingle in more than 2,300 of the long-running British soap opera 'Emmerdale.'

Steve Halliwell, the actor best known for his long-running role as Zak Dingle in the British soap opera Emmerdale, has died. The actor passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones, his family said in a statement issued by British public broadcaster ITV. Halliwell was 77. His cause of death was not disclosed.

"He went to sleep, peacefully with his loved ones around him. He was making us laugh to the end, the most amazing father and grandfather you could ever wish for, family was everything to him," the family shared, going on to thank "the wonderful staff at St James Hospital and the Wheatfield Hospice for their love and kindness in his final days. He didn't want sadness, just to rejoice in a life well lived."

Born in Lancashire, per the BBC, Halliwell worked in cotton and paper mills before retraining as an actor. He went on to appear in British series like Here I Stand, Heartbeat, and Coronation Street between the 1970s and '90s before joining Emmerdale in October 1994. Halliwell starred as Zak Dingle, the head of the Dingle household, in more than 2,300 episodes over 29 years.

"All our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones through this very difficult time, and we'd request that their privacy is respected as they grieve for his loss," ITV said. "Steve will forever be synonymous with Emmerdale. The proud defender and head of the Dingle family. Heart and humour in all he did, it has been and always will be impossible not to smile when you think of him."

John Whiston, managing director of continuing drama and head of ITV in the north, said Halliwell was "as wonderful off-screen as on...Steve Halliwell was one of those rare human beings who was as wonderful off screen as on. To millions of Emmerdale viewers he was the brawny but crafty Dingle patriarch who led the clan with a strong fist and a warm heart. To everyone who worked on Emmerdale he was a much loved friend and colleague, the undoubted father of the show, but also its fun mischievous uncle. We will miss him enormously." 

Many of Halliwell's co-stars have also since paid tribute, with James Hooton, who has played Sam Dingle, son of Zak, since 1995, writing, "a soap icon and a great friend has passed away today! Steve Halliwell was the first person I met when I walked through the door into the Emmerdale studios and we remained friends until the end! A truly loved character and a strong proud man, RIP Steve you will be sadly missed." Lisa Riley, who played Mandy Dingle, thanked Halliwell "for years of laughter," adding, "Adored, loved, respected by us all, a LEGEND in my eyes that's for sure-we have stories and memories to last for many more years to come." Halliwell is survived by his wife Val and their daughter Charlotte.