BEHIND her quirky on-screen presence, British actress Emma Chambers, who died last week, faced a tough, lifelong battle.

BBC executive producer, Jon Plowman, revealed the cause of the 53 year old's death during an interview with Radio 4 in the UK, suggesting it was a heart attack that killed her.

"It's no age to have a heart attack, as I understand it," he said.

Earlier, Chambers' agent had said she died of "natural causes".

The beloved star endured a long battle against chronic allergies. She had to deal with asthma attacks, steroid injections and numerous trips to the hospital throughout her life, revealing she couldn't touch animals without suffering extreme allergic reactions.

Chambers, The Vicar of Dibley's loveable Alice Tinker, had spoken in the past about how pigs and a family dog lived at the family's farm.

But being around animals left her at risk of asthma attacks and the need for possible steroid injections.

During an interview with the Telegraph in 2002, Chambers opened up about her health battles, describing them as so severe she couldn't even touch animals for fear of ending up in hospital.

 

Dawn French described her late co-star as “the most loyal and loving friend anyone could wish for”. Picture: Supplied
Dawn French described her late co-star as “the most loyal and loving friend anyone could wish for”. Picture: Supplied

 

She recalled an incident when performing in a London play, the production was halted because there was a cat backstage.

Chambers recalled being in her dressing room when she spotted a cat and "nearly died".

"I had to dash up to wardrobe, I had to leave. I was itching, wheezy. My voice was husky the next day - from being in here for a few minutes - and I looked horrendous.

Emma Chambers with Dawn French. Supplied
Emma Chambers with Dawn French. Supplied

"So the poor cat had to go - it was either the actress or the cat. What a diva I am!" she said.

She also spoke about a scene in the The Vicar Of Dibley when she was had to act alongside farmyard animals.

"It was in the days when I used to go, 'Oh, I'm fine' - but, now, at the grand old age of 38, I don't do that any more. I shout 'GET THEM OUT!'

"I remember seeing a take afterwards and nearly dying with embarrassment, as I looked horrendous. My eyes were out here," she said at the time.

"People don't take it seriously. My mother would just say, 'Get on with it'. There was no understanding of how chronic allergies can be," said the actress, revealing she wasn't diagnosed until she was eight.

 

In spite of her condition, the animal lover lived on a farm. Speaking of her beloved basset hound Hattie, Chambers said: "The temptation to just pick up that big paw and kiss it is huge.

"But I can't. I cannot touch animals."

The actress, who starred in Notting Hill, also revealed she regularly underwent acupuncture every ten days to treat severe eczema.

She also sought help in alternative medicines to help her health issues.

Emma Chambers, Dawn French and Gary Waldhom. Picture: Supplied
Emma Chambers, Dawn French and Gary Waldhom. Picture: Supplied

There's been an outpouring of grief n the wake of the actress' death.

"Emma was a gifted comic actress who made any part she played look easy. She was adored by the cast and crew," BBC producer Jon Plowman said.

Agent John Grant revealed that she had died of natural causes and would be "greatly missed".

He said: "Emma created a wealth of characters and an immense body of work. She brought laughter and joy to many".

Dawn French described her late co-star as “the most loyal and loving friend anyone could wish for”. Picture: Supplied
Dawn French described her late co-star as “the most loyal and loving friend anyone could wish for”. Picture: Supplied

Her Notting Hill co-star Hugh Grant tweeted: "Emma Chambers was a hilarious and very warm person and of course a brilliant actress. Very sad news."

"Emma was a very bright spark and the most loyal and loving friend anyone could wish for," Dawn French said. "I will miss her very much."

 

Taking to Twitter she posted a picture of herself with Chambers on set.

She wrote: "I was regularly humped like this by the unique and beautiful spark that was Emma Chambers. I never minded. I loved her. A lot."

Chambers is survived by her actor husband Ian Dunn.

 

 

 

 

Emma Chambers and James Fleet tie the knot in The Vicar of Dibley. Picture: Supplied
Emma Chambers and James Fleet tie the knot in The Vicar of Dibley. Picture: Supplied

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