‘An incredible woman’: Tributes flood in for June Brown, EastEnders’

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Tributes have poured in for EastEnders’ Dot Cotton actress, June Brown, who has died aged 95.

EastEnders stars, actors and fans are among those who have paid tribute to the soap icon, who died at her home in Surrey on Sunday.

Brown played chain-smoking hypochondriac Dot Cotton for 35 years and was one of Albert Square’s most beloved characters.

28-Nov-2001  The Queen during her visit, to Elstree Studios where the famous British soap EastEnders is filmed. The Queen was accompanied by long standing cast member Barbara Windsor, who plays Peggy Mitchell and she met in the make up room June Brown, who plays Dot Cotton. Image: Brown meeting the Queen during her visit to Elstree Studios in 2001

Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian Beale on the soap said he is “lost for words”.

“So many memories, so much fun. Just purely and simply an incredible woman who had the most incredible life and career, I was fortunate to have shared a small part of it”, he added.

Fellow EastEnders star Danny Dyer, who plays Mick Carter, called her “an icon in its truest form”, posting a picture of him holding Brown’s hand on Instagram.

Gillian Taylforth, who plays Kathy Beale, added that she was “heartbroken” by the news of her death.

Away from the acting world, culture secretary Nadine Dorries, journalist Piers Morgan and the husband of late EastEnders star Dame Barbara Windsor, Scott Mitchell, also paid tribute.

Stephen Fry said he would always remember her “as a tireless and fearless LGBT ally”.

An EastEnders spokesperson 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.

“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”.

File photo dated 25/02/97 of June Brown, who in character as the long-suffering busy-body Dot Cotton. June Brown, best known for her role as chain-smoking Dot Cotton, has died at the age of 95, the BBC has announced. The actress died at her home in Surrey on Sunday evening with her family by her side.  Image: Chain-smoking Dot was larger than life and beloved by fans

A statement from Brown’s family said: “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.”

Brown first stepped into Albert Square in 1985, shortly after the soap began, after being recommended to the show’s producers by actor Leslie Grantham, who played Dirty Den.

Launderette worker Dot famously wed Jim Branning (played by John Bardon) in 2002, but it was her career-criminal son, Nick Cotton or ‘Nasty Nick’ (played by John Altman) who really ruled her heart.

The only soap actor to have single-handedly led an entire episode, she was nominated for a BAFTA for her performance in the 2008 half-an-hour special in which her character looked back on her life.

She also had many big storylines during her time in the soap, exploring complicated themes including euthanasia, cancer and homophobia.

08-Feb-2015 Guests June Brown and John Altman during filming of a special episode of the Graham Norton Show to celebrate 30 years of Eastenders, at the London Studios, south London. The programme will be screened on BBC One, Monday February 16 at 10.45pm. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday February 8, 2015. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire Image: Brown with actor John Altman, who played her bad boy son, pictured in 2015 on Graham Norton  BBC undated handout photo of Dot Branning played by June Brown (left) and Nick Cotton played by John Altman during an episode of the popular BBC television programme EastEnders. Issue date: Monday April 4, 2022. Image: Nasty Nick was the love of Dot’s life, causing her endless pain

Winning numerous soap awards during her career, including a lifetime achievement honour at the 2005 British Soap Awards, Brown played the role of Dot until her 93rd year.

Taking a break from the BBC show between 1993 and 1997, she officially left the cast in 2020. While her exit was low-key, a spokesperson for EastEnders at the time said the door had been left open for her return.

Prior to becoming a household name in EastEnders, Brown had a successful career as a jobbing actress, performing both on stage and screen.

The late actor Nigel Hawthorne once described her as “one of the most beautiful creatures I’ve seen on stage” after seeing her play the titular role in Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler when she was in her 20s.

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June Brown, who played Dot Cotton in Eastenders, has died at 95. 1:20 June Brown appears in this scene from 2016 with Barbara Windsor playing Peggy Mitchell and Steve McFadden as Phil Mitchell.

She had small roles in numerous TV shows during the 1970s, including Coronation Street, Doctor Who, Minder and The Bill, as well as costume dramas The Duchess Of Duke Street and Oliver Twist.

In the 1980s and 1990s she secured larger parts in comedies like Ain’t Misbehavin’.

Like her EastEnders character, Brown was a devout Christian, and once said she had helped shape the role to make Dot’s faith more closely resemble her own.

She was equally vocal about her political opinions, once telling The Guardian in a response to a question about her voting habits: “No, I wouldn’t vote Labour, dear, if you paid me. I vote Conservative.”

Eastenders cast with the award for TV Soap of the year during the 2017 Television and Radio Industries Club Awards, Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London. June Brown, best known for her role as chain-smoking Dot Cotton, has died at the age of 95, Image: Brown won numerous soap awards during her career File photo dated 06/07/08 of June Brown arrives at the premiere of Disney's High School Musical - Live on Stage at the Hammersmith Apollo, London. June Brown, best known for her role as chain-smoking Dot Cotton, has died at the age of 95, the BBC has announced. The actress died at her home in Surrey on Sunday evening with her family by her side. Image: Brown was a devout Christian and Tory supporter. Pictured in 2008

Despite her professional success, the actress’s life was touched by tragedy at various points.

Born in Needham Market in Suffolk in 1927, Brown was of Irish, Scottish, Italian and Sephardic descent.

She was descended from the famous bare knuckle boxer Isaac Bitton on her maternal grandmother’s side. The fighter reportedly once took part in a fight that lasted 74 rounds.

One of five children, her baby brother died at 15 days from pneumonia and her elder sister, Marise, died aged eight from a meningitis-like illness.

Educated in Ipswich at St John’s Church of England school, she won a scholarship to Ipswich High School.

File photo dated 08/02/15 of Guests (left to right) Kellie Bright, John Altman, Letitia Dean, June Brown and Pam St Clement during filming of a special episode of the Graham Norton Show to celebrate 30 years of EastEnders, at the London Studios, south London. Image: (L-R) John Altman, Letitia Dean, Brown, Pam St Clement and Jessie Wallace on Graham Norton in 2015

She went on to train at London’s Old Vic Theatre School in Lambeth, south London, after serving in the Women’s Royal Naval Service – known as the Wrens – at the end of the Second World War.

Brown would marry twice. First in 1950 aged 23 to fellow actor John Garley, who she met at drama school. He took his own life seven years after they married.

She wed for a second time in 1958 to actor Robert Arnold, who played PC Swain in the long-running police programme Dixon Of Dock Green.

June Brown as Dot Cotton in 2011. Pic: Beretta/Sims/Shutterstock Image: Brown was twice married and her life was touched by tragedy

Married for 45 years, they had six children together. Sadly, their second daughter, Chloe, was born prematurely and died after 16 days.

Arnold died in 2003 of Lewy body dementia, a progressive form of the brain disease.

In a 2017 interview on Desert Island Discs, Brown, who was then aged 90, said she thought retirement would kill her.

File photo dated 04/11/08 of Eastenders actress June Brown stands outside Buckingham Palace in London after receiving an MBE for services to Drama and Charity from Queen Elizabeth II.  Image: Brown was awarded an MBE for services to Drama and Charity in 2008

“I can be feeling like death warmed up when I come in (to work), and then I’m alive. It keeps me alive,” she said.

“I think that’s why a lot of people are very lonely and get ill when they’re older, because I think loneliness and having no motivation, nothing to work towards – I think it kills you.”

In December 2021 Brown was made an OBE in the New Year Honours, and she was previously made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2008, both for services to drama and charity.

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