It's life imitating art, but Emmerdale stars Eric Pollard and Brenda Walker are together off-screen too.

Eric is played by Chris Chittell, and he is the soap’s longest-serving actor. He’s played the role since 1986, and he has the show to thank for introducing him to his lovely wife.

He’s married to Brenda actress Lesley Dunlop, and the pair first met back in 2008 when she joined the cast. The duo may be constantly on and off again on Emmerdale, but their love appears to be rock solid in real life.

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Sadly, Eric has just been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and instead of sharing the health news with his wife, he's decided to break up with her. Fans are devastated and fear he might end up alone and regretting the decision to distance himself from her.

Who needs to act in love when you're really head over heels for your co-star? Daily Star has looked at their beautiful off-screen love story.

Chris Chittell and Lesley Dunlop
Chris and Lesley met on the set of Emmerdale

An engagement for the couple came in 2015, and they then married June 18, 2016 at St Peter’s Church in Coverack, Cornwall. The beautiful ceremony took place in front of their close family and friends.

Lesley wore an off-white gown and veil, and Chris looked dapper in a beige three-piece suit. Of course, seeing as it’s where they fell in love they were joined by Emmerdale co-stars Bhasker Patel, Sam Hall and Nicola Wheeler.

Chris told the Daily Record about their unusual way of meeting: “It was weird. Somehow we’d never met before and we just kept bumping into each other at work.

Chris Chittell and Lesley Dunlop
The couple may be on and off again in the show, but they're together in real life

“I can’t even remember if I asked her on a date or she asked me, but she is wonderful and we’re very happy.” Chris has two children with his ex-wife Caroline Hunt, while Lesley also has two children with her former partner, Christopher Guard.

The couple don’t have any children together. Being a real-life couple has had unexpected benefits for the soap, as social distancing has made steamy storylines very difficult thanks to Covid.

Chris Chittell and Lesley Dunlop
They got engaged and then married in 2016

However, due to being together outside of the show in their family bubble, it meant that Brenda and Eric could smooch in the show. Kisses onscreen were rare throughout the pandemic, in order to keep cast members safe.

The lovers had a romantic scene as they literally kissed-and-made-up after an argument, as Brenda discovered Eric was keeping a secret. Fans were thrilled to see some proper romance on-screen.

Chris Chittell and Lesley Dunlop
Fans have been delighted by their romance

One user on X, formerly Twitter, wrote enthusiastically: "Wow Eric & Brenda actually kissed , no camera trickery, a proper kiss” Another raved: " Eric and Brenda was proper cute and so happy they didn't have to distance as they are married, yay".

Someone else added: Well at least they can kiss properly seen as they’re married in real life” This viewer wasn’t used to all of the excitement: “Cathy and Heath standing so close. Eric and Brenda having a little kiss. These things are now strange to my eyes!”

The character of Eric was originally only meant to appear in Emmerdale for 12 episodes. Fortunately for Chris and Lesley, viewers soon fell in love with Eric, and the show extended his contract, and the rest is history.

Back in 2012, Chris said: “Emmerdale has been everything to me – and it still is. It’s been such a big part of my life and I even met my partner here.” He joked: “It’s never quiet, is it? I would hate to live in Emmerdale these days – you never know when the next disaster’s going to happen.” At least he found love thanks to the show.

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