Former Casualty star Gillian Kearney has joined the cast of ITV's Emmerdale. The actress will play Finn Barton's estranged mother Emma, who he manages to track down after 22 years of absence.
"As an avid fan of Emmerdale, I'm delighted to be playing Emma Barton. She's a fascinating and complex character and I'm excited to find out what lies ahead for her," said Gillian. "The team at Emmerdale have all made me feel really welcome and I'm loving being part of such a brilliant show."
When Emma arrives in the village, viewers will be eager to see how she reacts when she discovers that James also fathered a son, Adam, with her sister-in-law, Moira.
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Gillian Kearney says she's 'delighted' to be playing Emma Barton
Kate Oates, Emmerdale series producer, said: "I’m thrilled to welcome Gillian to the show. The arrival of Emma Barton has been long awaited, so her arrival is sure to cause fireworks in the volatile Barton family!"
Gillian, who is best known for her roles in Casualty and Brookside, will be on screen from January.
Gillian Kearney pictured on the red carpet in 2009
The news comes after Sammy Winward has reportedly decided to leave the soap after 13 years to focus on other acting opportunities.
The 29-year-old apparently broke the news after filming this year's Christmas scenes, in which her character Katie remarries Andy Sugden (Kelvin Fletcher), leaving ITV bosses "gutted" by her decision.
"Sammy is the Michelle Keegan of Emmerdale, so everyone is gutted she's leaving," a source told The Sun. "She's hugely popular and her character has been a big part in the show overtaking Eastenders."
The insider said the producers "haven't decided yet" how Katie will make her exit, but added, "Emmerdale loves a big death because it's great for their ratings."