Some of Albert Square's most well known faces will make a return this winter to bid a last farewell to Dot Cotton. The returning cast are currently filming scenes which will bring viewers up to date with their lives, as they share their cherished memories of Dot.
June Brown who played Dot Branning in the soap for more than three decades died in April 2022 aged 95. She arrived on Albert Square shortly after the soap began in 1985, and aside from a break between 1993 and 1997, was a regular for 2,884 episodes. She left the soap in 2020.
Old friends including Colin Russell (Lord Michael Cashman CBE), Barry Clark (Gary Hailes) George ‘Lofty’ Holloway (Tom Watt), Mary ‘the punk’ Smith (Linda Davidson) and Disa O’Brien (Jan Graveson) will join Dot’s step-granddaughter Lauren Branning (Jacqueline Jossa) to say goodbye to the iconic character.
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Some of Dot’s biggest storylines explored controversial issues such as euthanasia, cancer and homophobia. Her marriage to Jim Branning, played by John Bardon, was popular among fans – while she was also mother to the notorious criminal Nick Cotton, played by John Altman.
On January 31, 2008 she single-handedly starred in an episode called Pretty Baby, in which she spoke to a cassette recorder about her life so that her husband could listen to it as he lay in hospital following a stroke, the episode gained praise from critics and viewers alike.
Brown served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service at the end of the Second World War, and then left to train at London’s Old Vic Theatre School in Lambeth. Before joining EastEnders she had roles in Coronation Street, Doctor Who, Minder and The Bill, as well as costume dramas The Duchess Of Duke Street and Oliver Twist.
After joining Albert Square she also starred in comedy Ain’t Misbehavin in 1997, and played Nanny Slagg in the BBC’s production of Gormenghast in 2000. She announced the bombshell news of her exit from EastEnders in 2020 with little fanfare, revealing her decision on a podcast with a former co-star.
Dot had not featured in the soap for a month, when she left a voicemail for Sonia Fowler saying she had moved to Ireland. At the time an EastEnders’ spokesman said the door remained open for a comeback, appearing to leave the decision in Brown’s hands.
For the actors returning, it is a chance to honor their beloved co-star and friend, while also putting her character to bed. For the actors, it’s also a chance to honour their beloved co-star June Brown, who passed away aged 95 in April this year.
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.
Lord Cashman says: “When I was asked back I didn’t even hesitate because I couldn’t have imagined not being there for June, and I know Colin couldn’t have imagined not being there for Dot – they had that amazing, deep friendship that lasted during their years, and it was exactly the same with June and me. June was unique, and there are so many incredible stories I could tell, but amongst my favourite moments of Dot was her monologue to Jim – she was a character, and actress, that will last beyond the test of time.”
Colin will appear alongside ex-love Barry for the first time since 1989. The couple split up in 1988, and Barry left to become a DJ on a cruise ship. However, Gary Hailes returned the following year for co-star Michael’s Walford exit. Viewers will wonder where Colin and Barry now fit into each other’s lives, so many years after their bittersweet break-up.
Gary says: “Being invited back to the show after almost 30 years away was exciting, scary, and strange, but overall it was really nice! EastEnders has always been a big part of my life so to have the opportunity to come back – there were nerves – but that quickly turned into excitement, and warmth at the chance to honour Dot. June was an incredibly genuine person both on and off-screen, she really cared and was attentive to people. That’s one thing I’ll never forget.”
Deeply religious Dot extended Christian charity to many of Walford’s waifs and strays over the years. She spent a lot of time counselling Mary ‘the punk’ Smith and helping her care for her daughter Annie. Dot was reunited with Mary and Annie in 2019 at Dr Legg’s funeral, where Linda Davidson returned to acting to film the heartfelt scenes. Now she’s back again to honour June Brown and Mary’s relationship with Dot.
Linda says: “I felt honoured to be asked to come back. It’s going to be an emotionally difficult few days, however, the script is wonderful and it’s a joyful tribute to an East End legend! We were close friends for 37 years so I have quite the memory bank to choose from! But professionally, the highlight of my career was when Dot asked Mary to kneel and pray with her – there wasn’t a dry eye amongst all the crew! June really tutored me on the art of being still and taking my time in the scene and was such a generous caring actor. I loved her very much.”
Viewers will be delighted to see Tom Watt reprise his role as hapless Lofty, who also made a return in 2019 for Dr Legg’s send-off. During his reunion with Dot and Sharon, Lofty was revealed to be a successful businessman with a chain of pubs. The sad news of Dot’s death brings him to the Square again, where he’ll prove to still have plenty of the old Lofty left in him.
Tom says: “June was amazing as Dot. She completely inhabited the character: grew with her, suffered with her and faced life's troubles with her. As soon as Dot appeared on screen, you knew June had all that history lighting up every look and every line in every single scene she was a part of.”
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 says: “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.”
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