EastEnders has officially confirmed that former characters including George 'Lofty' Holloway, Lauren Branning and Mary 'The Punk' Smith are among those set to return to Albert Square for the funeral of Dot Branning later this year.
Some of Walford’s classic characters will make a moving return to Walford to pay their last respects to Dot this winter following the death of actress June Brown earlier this year. The actress, who joined the BBC One soap back in 1985, died at her home in Surrey on April 3, aged 95.
A statement from Brown's family said at the time: "We are deeply saddened to announce our beloved mother, June, passed away very peacefully at her home in Surrey on Sunday evening, with her family by her side. We would kindly ask that our privacy is respected at this very difficult time."
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An EastEnders spokeswoman said: "We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved June Brown, OBE, MBE, sadly passed away last night. There are not enough words to describe how much June was loved and adored by everyone at EastEnders, her loving warmth, wit and great humour will never be forgotten.
"June created one of the most iconic characters in Dot Cotton, not just in soap but in British television, and having appeared in 2,884 episodes, June’s remarkable performances created some of EastEnders’ finest moments. We send all our love and deepest sympathies to June’s family and friends.
"A very bright light has gone out at EastEnders today but we shall all be raising a sweet sherry in June’s memory. Rest in peace, our dearest June. You will never be forgotten."
The returning EastEnders cast members are currently filming scenes which will bring viewers up to date with their lives, as they share their cherished memories of Dot.
Old friends of the BBC One soap opera returning for the emotional episode include Colin Russell, played by Lord Michael Cashman, Barry Clark portrayed by Gary Hailes, George ‘Lofty’ Holloway played by Tom Watt, Mary ‘The Punk’ Smith played by Linda Davidson and Disa O’Brien portrayed by Jan Graveson will join Dot’s step-granddaughter Lauren, played by Jacqueline Jossa, to say goodbye to the Square's very own icon.
Executive producer Chris Clenshaw said it was important to bring back significant people from Dot’s life to join her Walford loved ones for her final farewell. Chris said: “It’s an honour to invite so many of Walford’s beloved characters back to pay tribute to Dot. Over the years, Dot profoundly impacted the lives of many young people struggling with life’s biggest challenges.
"Her warmth, heart and compassion changed lives – so we wanted to reunite some of the people she helped the most. I’m thrilled these talented and generous actors wanted to share this special experience with us so we can give Dot a fitting send-off."
The last time Lord Cashman returned as Colin was in 2016 for a storyline that challenged Dot’s beliefs about same-sex marriage. Colin invited Dot to his wedding, knowing that she may decline because of her religious views on gay marriage. However, after some deep, thoughtful scenes, Dot changed her mind and made Colin’s day.
With great sadness and some life-changing news, Colin returns this time to catch up with Sharon, Kathy and other old friends. After departing the soap in 2018 to start a new life in New Zealand with son Louie, Lauren will make a special return for the funeral. Ahead of her character’s return, the actress said: "Coming back to EastEnders for Dot’s funeral was a no-brainer and it was a real honour to be invited back.
"I had a lot of fun but, of course, it was bittersweet. It was amazing to be back, but hard to be filming this storyline." She added: "June is a legend and I miss her very much."
Upon her return, Mary will remember the guidance she received from Dot, while Disa will also remember the support Dot gave her and the help she received from her to trap her abuser and stepfather Ken. Viewers will also see the return of Lofty, who last made an appearance on the show in 2019 when he was revealed to be a successful businessman with a chain of pubs.
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