Verity Rushworth as Donna Windsor-Dingle (2009)
|Portrayed by||Sophie Jeffery (1993–97)
Verity Rushworth (1998–2014)
|First appearance||10 August 1993|
|Introduced by||Nicholas Prosser (1993)
Mervyn Watson (1998)
Kate Oates (2014)
|Classification||Former; regular (returning)|
Sophie Jeffery as the original Donna
Donna Windsor-Dingle (née Windsor) is a fictional character that appeared in the British ITV soap opera Emmerdale. She was originally played by Sophie Jeffery, and later replaced by Verity Rushworth in 1998. Donna was the third longest running character on Emmerdale at the time of her departure. She made her first appearance in the show in August 1993. It was reported on 8 April 2008 that Verity Rushworth had quit, as she wanted to avoid being "typecast", after being in the soap for a decade. Donna departed on 30 January 2009. It was announced on 8 January 2014 that Rushworth had decided to reprise her role and Donna would return in March. In an interview with Digital Spy on 11 March 2014, Rushworth confirmed that she will only re-appear for five months and will depart again once the storyline has reached its conclusion. 
Creation and Development
In 1993 as part of the new Windsor family, Donna Windsor was introduced in 1993, by series producer Nicholas Prosser who cast Sophie Jeffery in the role. Donna Windsor is the only daughter of Viv (Deena Payne) and Vic Windsor (Alun Lewis). Donna was a little spoilt as a young child, often getting her own way but she was not as devious as her half sister Kelly (Adele Silva), or as wild as half brother Scott (Toby Cockerell). In 1998 series producer Mervyn Watson recast the role to Verity Rushworth.
On 8 April 2008, it was reported that Emmerdale actors are heading for the exit after new boss Anita Turner took over. The report also stated that Verity Rushworth, who plays Donna Windsor-Dingle had told show bosses she wants a break after nearly eleven years on the soap, along with Jenna-Louise Coleman is also reported to be eager to leave her role as Jasmine Thomas. An insider told The Sun: "Both stars are contracted until December but they've warned bosses they don’t see themselves staying. Their final scenes will air early next year." A spokesperson for Emmerdale responded: "Verity and Jenna both expressed an interest last year in taking a break. Nothing will be confirmed until we begin contract negotiations for 2009.".
Both actresses told former series producer Kathleen Beedles separately last year that they would like to take a break from the soap. .". It was reported on April 20 that Emmerdale producers were hoping to dissuade Verity Rushworth from taking an extended break from the show. An official statement from the soap earlier this month confirmed that the actress, who plays Donna Windsor-Dingle, may decide to take time off when her contract expires. "Verity has been playing Donna for more than ten years so she's thinking about taking an extended break," an insider told the Daily Star Sunday. "It's only something that she's thinking about. No decision has been made yet." She's got some really exciting stuff coming and her contract doesn't run out until the end of the year, so there's still time to persuade her to stay. She'd be a huge loss..".
It was announced on 8 January 2014 that Rushworth would reprise her role as Donna, making her return in March.
Donna arrives in the village in August 1993 with her family from London. She finds the move unpleasant at first. On 30 December 1993, the Windsors visit Kim Tate's (Claire King) stables to see the horses and Donna wanders off. When a plane crashes into the village, she has to be rescued when the stables catch fire as a result of being struck by falling wreckage.
In 1994, while being given a ride on tractor by Michael Feldmann (Matthew Vaughan), the vehicle topples and Donna is left injured. Her mother, Viv, threatens to sue Michael's boss Joe Sugden (Frazer Hines). The following year, Woolpack bar manager Terry Woods (Billy Hartman) gets into trouble with his boss Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) after Donna gets drunk with her half siblings Scott and Kelly. One evening when her father Vic attempts to take a bb gun from Scott, Donna is shot in the head as a result but is only left with a scratch. When the knowledge of Viv's affair with Terry becomes common knowledge, Donna feels torn between her parents and she and Viv move into the pub with Terry but return when Vic and Viv reunite.
Donna is upset when Kelly runs away with her teacher Tom Bainbridge (Jeremy Turner-Welch) and more trouble was comes when Andy Hopwood (Kelvin Fletcher) leads Donna astray and persuades her to bunk off school and go joyriding in Leeds with Robert Sugden (Christopher Smith) and himself. A feud between the Windsors and Sugdens ignites as a result. Following Vic's murder by Andy's father, Billy (David Crellin) on Christmas Day 1998, Donna and her school friend Chelsea Cunningham (Elizabeth Ingram) begin bullying Andy at school, culminating in Robert, now Andy's adoptive brother, punching Donna in the face. Donna tries to blame Robert for the bullying but is unsuccessful. Chelsea is expelled and sent to a special needs school and Donna is warned if caught bullying again, she would suffer the same fate as Chelsea.
Donna begins a relationship with Marc Reynolds (Anthony Lewis) and subsequently loses her virginity. Viv catches Donna in bed with Marc and shortly afterwards, they split after Viv tells Marc's mother Angie (Freya Copeland) about them sleeping together. Later, Donna is upset to learn Marc is now seeing Eve Birch (Raine Davison). Donna, Marc and their friends are later involved in a hit and run accident in which leaves their headmistress, Jean Strickland dead. Marc is jailed for two years for causing death by dangerous driving. while Donna is sentenced to community service.
When Viv remarries nearly three years after Vic's death, Donna has reservations about her new stepfather, Bob Hope (Tony Audenshaw) but soon warms to him and they become close. Donna is upset when Viv and Bob separate in 2003 and in a desperate cry for help, she takes overdose which shocks Bob and Viv into reconciliation. Donna later begins a relationship with Robert (now Karl Davies), who believes it is just a casual fling but Donna feels more serious about it until Robert dumps her for Elaine Marsden. They reunite when the Marsdens leave the village but it does not last as Robert pursues Katie Addyman (Sammy Winward) behind Donna's back. Donna contracts chlamydia from with Robert, which causes him distress as he has the condition too. By this time, Robert and Katie are secretly seeing each other, despite her being engaged to Andy. When the affair is revealed, Donna feels deeply betrayed and ends her friendship with Katie. However they reconcile when Robert cheats on Katie with Sadie King] (Patsy Kensit) and find a common enemy in Robert.
Donna forms an attraction to widower Marlon Dingle (Mark Charnock) but he is not interested in pursuing a relationship and she dates Danny Daggert (Cleveland Campbell) instead. However, The relationship does not last long and they both agree to a mutual break-up. Donna begins getting close to Marlon again and they begin a relationship. After a year together, Marlon proposes, much, to the surprise of Donna, who accepts. They plan their wedding but they are overshadowed when Viv insists they have a double wedding as she and Bob are remarrying.Prior to the weddng, Donna strikes up a close friendship with Max King (Charlie Kemp), whom she enjoys flirting with. When Max is killed in a car crash, caused by Robert, Donna is devastated and Marlon tries to help her through her grief. She keeps a recording of Max's voice on her phone which she regularly listens to. On the morning of their big day, Donna confesses she has feelings for Max. After some soul-searching, Marlon decides to forgive Donna and they marry along with Viv and Bob.
Desperate to get their foot on the property ladder, the couple enter a competition to win the new show home on the King’s River development. They are successful and are delighted but shocked to discover they need a £10,000 deposit to clinch the prize. Viv, however, offers to help as she and Bob are desperate to have a baby and Viv asked Donna to be a surrogate mother and she would give them the deposit. A hesitant Donna agreed, knowing it was the only way she could get her own home, and eventually convinces Marlon. However, Marlon and Donna's house explodes on the day of the grand opening in July 2006 as a result of a gas leak. Three people are killed in the explosion and the body of murder victim Terence Turner (Nick Brimble) is discovered buried under the rubble at the site. Now homeless and discovering Viv was pregnant with twins, Donna returns her money, which she receives from Tom King (Ken Farrington) as compensation. Donna and Marlon face more problems when they are left looking after Marlon's cousin Lillith's (Amanda Hennessy) four children Luke, Matthew, Mark and Jon, following her arrest for armed robbery. Marlon decides the children should live with their paternal uncle as the current living arrangements are unsuitable. The children run away after being unhappy with their uncle and Social Services insist the children return to their uncle. After a failed escape attempt with the children, Donna and Marlon are arrested and the kids are put in foster care. They then make a formal application for guardianship but Lilith returns and the case against her collapses and she takes the children to Ireland with her.
Donna later joins the police force which, draws ire from her in-laws, the Dingles but Marlon supports her. Shane Doyle (Paul McEwan), Donna's colleague on the force, begins bullying her for her gender as well as her in-laws and their criminal records. Everyone Donna knows, including Marlon, likes Shane and enjoyed being in his company, leading Donna to doubt her instincts. During a party at the Woolpack, Donna decides to make a fresh start with Shane. He misundersands what she wanted, thinking she is attracted to him and kisses her. When he begins to force himself on her, Donna knees him in the groin and flees to Ross Kirk's (Samuel Anderson). house. Ross witnesses the assault. Donna plans to file a complaint but Shane, had guessed that she would do so and before she can, he tells Superintendent Charles Vaughan (Richard Cole) Donna had made a pass at him and is going through a crisis in her marriage. Vaughan tells Donna to wait before making any decisions as it could harm her career. To Donna's anger, Ross does not back her up, meaning it is her word against Shane's.
When Viv is arrested for fraud after being framed by conman Freddie Yorke (Keith Woodason), Donna and Ross pursue him but Donna loses control of the car and they crash. Ross saves her and they are rushed to hospital. Donna undergoes spinal surgery and a splenectomy as her spleen had rupture on impact. Donna is left immobile for a while, but regains the feeling in her legs. Donna is devastated when Viv pleads guilty to the charges and is sentenced to three years imprisonment.
After Ross reveals his feelings for Donna, They begin an affair but Shane, and later Paddy Kirk (Dominic Brunt) find out about. Ross accepts a transfer in London but returns when Shane's body is pulled from the lake. Donna, afraid Marlon will find out from the investigation into Shane's murder, confesses to the affair. An Angry Marlon then implicates Ross as Shane's killer. Donna and Marlon separate briefly but reunite on the condition that Donna never sees Ross again. Donna, however, visits him in prison and Ross told her of his suspicions that Jasmine, Debbie Dingle (Charley Webb) and Marlon's brother, Eli (Joseph Gilgun) had been acting suspiciously the night Shane went missing. Donna helps proves Ross's innocence by implicating Eli as a potential suspect for the murder and after he is arrested he implicates Debbie and Jasmine who go on the run and Ross is released from custody. Following Ross' departure, Donna applies for a transfer to Essex and Katie tries to convince her to stay but Donna is adamant. She then leaves village in a taxi for the train station.
- Emmerdale Org (11 March 2003). "Emmerdale's Original Donna Windsor.". Emmerdale Org. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
- Daily Mail (8 April 2008). "Emmerdale bubble bursts as soap beauties quit". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2009-03-06.
- Simon Reynolds (8 April 2008). "Emmerdale Cast Head For the Door". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2009-01-10.
- Alex Fletcher, (10 April 2008). "No 'Emmerdale' exit for Rushworth, Coleman". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2009-01-10.
- Daniel Kilkelly (20 April 2008). "'Emmerdale' chiefs worry over Verity exit". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2009-01-10.
- Brown, David (8 January 2014). "Emmerdale: Verity Rushworth to return as Marlon's ex-wife Donna". Radio Times. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
- Emmerdale Org (28 May 2004). "Emmerdale's Donna Windsor". Emmerdale Org. Retrieved 2009-01-17.