Created 10th January 2004
Updated 28th May 2004

About Leah Bracknell -
Emmerdale's ZoŽ Tate

Leah Bracknell
Born: 12th July 1964

The current Zoe Tate fancard

A Huge Big Thank you to Paul Berridge who has made various profiles and photos availabe to me. They were previously on his Beckindale site (that is no more). This is one of those profiles - although the coloured boxes and information after 2001 have been added.

As the daughter of a film director, working in front of or behind the camera was always on the cards for Leah Bracknell. Her late father, David Bracknell, directed children's television programmes and films, including the acclaimed Childreds Film Foundation productions Cup Fever and The Chiffy Kids. As a first assistant director on major feature films, he was also responsible for sequences such as the aerial flying scenes in The Battle of Britain.
'I wanted to be an actress from the age of five,' says Leah, who, since joining Emmerdale in 1989, has seen her character, ZoŽ Tate, rise from student to fully fledged vet and come to terms with her sexuality, realising that she is attracted to women rather than men.
'I used to hang out with the technicians when my father was making films and inevitably you pick up the whole atmosphere. I spent years bullying him into giving me things to do until he finally let me appear in The Chiffy Kids. His attitude was, "If you're serious, go to drama school." So I did, and then I went to New Zealand for a year. My father was working on the film Savage Island in Fiji and I pestered him to let me do something, so I helped out in the wardrobe department.'
On returning to Britain, Leah formed a cabaret act with a friend, did modelling and appeared in TV commercials - some of them made for the Middle East. She acted in stage plays and had small roles on TV in The Cannon & Ball Show and The Bill. Then came the part of ZoŽ Tate, daughter of millionaire Frank and stepdaughter of his secretary turned-second wife Kim. On graduating from Edinburgh University, ZoŽ joined the Hotten veterinary practice Bennetts but resigned after discovering it was responsible for experiments on animals and left Britain to become a flying vet in New Zealand.

Archie Brooks
Returning later, she set up her own practice in Emmerdale. When she found it difficult to consummate her relationship with Archie Brooks, ZoŽ asserted that she would never love any man and was a lesbian.

 

Click here for Sophie Wright She found a partner in interior designer Emma Nightingale, but Emma's old flame Susie Wilde took her from Emma, only for that partnership to end with Susie's infidelity. ZoŽ later fell for nanny Sophie Wright and later still, Trucker Frankie Smith.
'It wasn't really until ZoŽ came out as a lesbian that she got interesting,' says Leah. 'When she was despatched to New Zealand, I had left to have a baby and did'nt intend to return. But Morag Bain - the producer at the time - asked me to come back for a couple of months and I stayed.
'I've really found it interesting the way the writers have developed the stories since ZoŽ came out. When she had a live-in lover, Emma, and the "wedding" ceremony, it prompted a huge response from people. All but about six of the letters I received were positive. Some would identify with the character and use me as a confidante.
'I've read quite a lot of literature - people's accounts of coming out and telling their family - to understand what it might be like to tell someone close to you something quite difficult for them to comprehend. That part of her character is something o social interest - it's an issue you can't neglect.'
Leah juggles her working life with being mother to the two young daughters, Lily and Maya, she has with her partner, director Lyall Watson. 'It's harder now that the programme goes out three times a week,' she says. 'The hours are much more irregular.'

Cover Story: Zoe gets more like her evil brother every day;Emmerdale's Leah Bracknell reveals why she is ready to play hardwith scheming Charity.(Features)


Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland); 1/18/2004

Byline: By STEVE HENDRY

Emmerdale star Leah Bracknell claims yoga provides her with the perfect escape from her screen alter-ego, schizophrenic vet Zoe Tate.

At the end of a long hard day's filming, Leah, 39, likes nothing better than meditating at home amid the soft light of candles and the smell of burning incense.

And the stunning actress deserves to relax after a hard day on set playing Zoe who is also a lesbian and a single mum as she's usually involved in the Dales-set soap's biggest story lines.

This week she's right in the thick of it again when her screen sister-in-law and former lover Charity (Emma Atkins) goes on trial for the murder of her brother Chris Tate (Peter Amory).

The court case is the biggest in the soap's history and is a week-long white knuckle ride with plenty of dramatic twists and turns, not least being Charity's attempt to seduce star witness Zoe and persuade her to plead her innocence to the jury.

It doesn't quite compare to Henry Fonda's pleas to his fellow jurors in classic courtroom drama 12 Angry Men. But it does result in one furious vet who ends up hell-bent on revenge.

Leah revealed: ''Charity can't go too low, can she? There's no depth to which she won't sink but I think Zoe will play just as hard. She can give as good as she gets.

''They do share a kiss but it's not the start of something this time. It's Charity playing on Zoe and trying to make her change her story in court.

''But I'm sure there's mileage in their relationship you can't take pills for something like that.

''They are great characters and because they have a history you have no idea whether they are using each other or not.

''It's a transitional period for Zoe. She's got her illness under control, she's had the death of herb rot her to deal with and we've got the outcome of the trial to come.

''What happens after that is one big question mark. But whatever happens to Charity will have a huge impact on Zoe.

''Does she stay in control of the Tate haulage empire? Charity's pregnant so what happens with the baby? Is it Chris's? There's still a lot to go for in 2004.''

The jury may be out on Charity's future in the hit soap but Leah is practically a lifer in the Dales.

She's been in Emmerdale for 14 years and is now one of the show's longest-serving stars a fact which still takes her by surprise.

She said: ''I frequently count the years with disbelief and astonishment. It's one of those things where they give you a nine-month contract in 1989 and you think, 'Great, was waitressing two weeks ago and didn't have any money so it's nice to get offered a job'. Then suddenly it's 14 years later.

''I remember when I joined seeing people who had been here 15 or 20 years and thinking would never do that.

''But it goes fast if you are having fun and getting good story lines. You grow up with the people around you and both the cast and crew are a lovely bunch of people. It's not hard to stay.''

Leah admitted she has no intention of moving on and has just signed a new contract. Her long-term future in the village is secure for some time yet especially as Zoe shows no signs of putting her feet up.

As well as her ongoing love/hate relationship with Charity, burying her brother and taking over the running of his haulage business, she is also the mother of a baby fathered by the young village mechanic she barely knows and coping with schizophrenia.

She said: ''It's been an eventful couple of years. They always like to present me with challenges and it certainly keeps me off the streets.

''It's nice to be in the thick of things. mean, I like animals but if had just been consigned to the vet's all this time wouldn't be here. But as long as they set me challenges and I have had a few why walk away? It would be daft.

''I like the way Zoe's developing at the minute. I think people thought she might have gone under after Chris died perhaps become ill again and not be able to cope.

''But she's done the opposite and emerged on the other side more like him than ever. She's got the manipulative Tate blood running through herveins. I like to see that because underneath it all she can be quite a person she's very much got these two sides to her. It's enjoyable to play them both.''

Leah's portrayal of Zoe's descent into mental illness earned her critical plaudits and won her the Best Actress gong at last year's Soap Awards, breaking the EastEnders and Coronation Street stranglehold.

But despite picking up so much praise for her portrayal of Zoe's torment, Leah revealed she has no great desire to perform such harrowing scenes again in the near future.

She said: ''The writers did such a good and sensitive job with Zoe's illness that there would be no point in going down that path again.

''You've seen her at rock bottom, you've seenthe impact it has on her friends and family, you've seen what it's like to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

''But schizophrenia doesn't go away she's on medication all the time and if she stops taking medication it can come back.

''It was very interesting, eye-opening and challenging to do and I would be concerned if they suddenly dropped it altogether.

''It's not gone away, it's part of her. She has the occasional wobble and people still mention it in the village but that's right, that's how people do react to it.''

But when playing the vet gets too much, Leah can always turn to her love of yoga to help her unwind and stay fit.

She has even released her first fitness video, Yoga and You, which was filmed in Ibiza. And she is her own best advert for it. Leah, 39, is a mother of two daughters Lily, 11, and Maya, six who radiates good health.

It's a measure of her enthusiasm that she has even released it, as she usually prefers to keep a low profile away from the glare of soap stardom.

She said: ''I'm not a great one for the celebrity lifestyle. I just come in and do my job.

''It's very odd to think that when you walk out of the door people think they know who you are. It's certainly not what I would have planned for myself.

''But I am happy and I'm delighted with this video. It's taken me a long time but I've finally got another string to my bow.''

COPYRIGHT 2004 Scottish Daily Record &Sunday

 

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