Former Emmerdale actress Leah Bracknell has died at the age of 55, her manager has confirmed.
Bracknell, who played Zoe Tate in the soap for 16 years, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in 2016.
A statement on behalf of her family confirmed “with the deepest sadness” that Bracknell died last month.
“Leah had an energy and enthusiasm for life, a kind heart and much love to give to those around her,” it read.
“Leah continued to embrace life and faced her illness with positivity.”
As well as playing Tate, Bracknell also had television roles in Judge John Deed, A Touch of Frost, The Royal Today and DCI Banks, as well as performing on stage and in pantomime.
In February, the actress spoke of the debilitating effects terminal cancer had had on her, leaving her feeling like she was “trapped in a cage”.
“If only you could find the door and step out to freedom and life as it was before,” she wrote.
“If only you could wake from the nightmare: dawn breaks and you realise that it was all just a bad dream. And life is wonderfully normal again. Yes, if only.”
Her family have asked for privacy, but said “many aspects of Leah’s journey can be found on her blog.”
ITV drama boss John Whiston paid tribute to their “much-loved” former colleague, noting how her gay on-screen character blazed a trail.
“Everyone on Emmerdale is very sad to hear of the death of Leah Bracknell,” he said in a statement.
“Leah was a hugely popular member of the Emmerdale cast for over 16 years. During that time she featured in some of the show’s most high profile and explosive plots and always delivered a pitch perfect performance.”
He added: “Zoe Tate was one of soap’s first lesbian characters and Leah made sure the character was both exciting and credible. Leah herself was a very generous and caring colleague, much loved by cast and crew alike.”