ITV Emmerdale: Real life of Cain actor Jeff Hordley with chronic illness, co-star wife and why they don’t film together


Fans know him as Cain Dingle but Jeff Hordley couldn’t be more different from his Emmerdale character.

The actor has appeared on the ITV soap as part of the famous TV family since 2000.

Cain first arrived in the village to attend the funeral of his late cousin Butch.

And in the 22-years he has been on-screen, the Emmerdale hardman has been through it all – from being involved in kidnap and arson to discovering his uncle was his dad and having a child, Debbie, with his cousin Charity.

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Life off-screen has, of course, been much different.

Jeff, who was born in Oldham, attended North Chadderton Comprehensive, before he went on to gain a degree in Theater Arts (Acting) from Manchester Metropolitan University School of Theater in 1997.

But before finishing up his degree, in 1996, Jeff was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.

The working actor at the time had been suffering from stomach cramps and diarrhea for six years when he got the news.

Speaking to the Express, Jeff recalled: “Even though I tried to avoid foods that upset my digestive system, such as coffee and Chinese takeaways, I was still sick and tired and I kept losing weight.

Jeff as Cain with Emma Atkins and Charley Webb who play Charity and Debbie in 2003

“I was a drama student in Manchester and sometimes I had to miss lectures because I was too tired. I even had to drop out of my final year plays.”

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After several hospital tests, Jeff was given the news he had been somewhat fearing.

“When I was just nine, my mum had died from the very same illness back in 1979,” Jeff added to the publication. “My reaction was, ‘Am I going to die too?'”

However, the then 26-year-old was reassured by doctors that his mother’s death had been caused by complications in surgery.

The Express reports that Jeff had an operation to remove part of the large bowel and was put on medication to manage the chronic illness but suffered a relapse several years later.

Jeff has played Cain for 22 years this year

in 2002, Jeff collapsed at a theater, haemorrhaging blood.

He soon recovered but made changes to his lifestyle.

In 2009, Jeff became an ambassador for Chron’s and Colitis UK.

On their website, the Emmerdale star says: “You are not alone if you are suffering from Crohn’s or Colitis… although sometimes you might feel as if you are.

“I was scared it would stop my acting career from taking off. Luckily it didn’t. Following surgery, medication and diet control, I’ve been playing the role of Cain Dingle since 2000.

“I know it’s embarrassing to talk about it, but even simple solutions like being near a bathroom at work can make such an improvement – so don’t be afraid to step up and be counted. Take a look around the Crohn’s & Colitis UK website and join up!”

Jeff and Zoe back in 2018

Many fans also know that Jeff, 52, is married to Emmerdale co-star Zoe Henry, who plays Rhona Goskirk.

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The couple first met in college in 1994, before tying the knot in 2003.

Jeff and Zoe, 48, share two children together, daughter Violet who was born in 2005, and son Stan who was born in 2008.

Fans went wild back in December when the pair finally shared a rare scene together.

But Jeff has previously told Soaplife: “We don’t film at the same time so we can share the childcare.

“I don’t think we’ll ever have a storyline together – Cain and Rhona are too different. Cain thinks Rhona’s a bit of a snobby cow. For me and Zoe, it works well.”

And the pair haven’t fallen out on set.

“We’re not the type of people to harbor grudges,” he said on Mike Artistik’s Ego Podcast last year.

The real-life couple had a rare scene together back in December

“I can honestly say that we’ve not been on set and said, ‘I’m not speaking to you at the moment.’

“That’s never really happened.”

Back in 2006, Cain took a break away from Emmerdale.

“From 2000 until 2006, I’d only been four years out of drama school. I hadn’t ticked all of the boxes that I wanted to tick,” he told Mike Artistik on his podcast.

“There were a couple of places where I wanted to work in London. I wanted to fulfill those things. So for three years, I did that.”

Jeff returned as Cain in 2009 and hasn’t looked back since.

Zoe when she was in Coronation Street

As for wife Zoe, she joined the soap as Rhona a year after Jeff was cast as Cain.

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However, she was only on-screen for a month and then didn’t return until around eight months later.

In 2007, she appeared in a rival ITV soap Coronation Street as Casey Carswell, a friend of Claire Peacock’s who ended up stalking the mum after having an affair with Claire’s husband, Ashley.

She then ended up kidnapping their son, Freddie, and was found on the edge of a balcony.

Zoe ended up returning to Emmerdale as Rhona in 2010 and has stayed in the role ever since.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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