A SENSATIONAL line-up of ex-stars will reunite for the funeral of EastEnders favourite Dot Cotton.
Lofty Holloway, Mary “The Punk”, Disa O’Brien and gay couple Colin and Barry will all bid farewell to her following the death of veteran actress June Brown in April aged 95.
June Brown as Dot Cotton with Linda Davidson and Tom Watt reunited in 2018
An incredible line-up of ex-stars will reunite for the funeral of EastEnders favourite DotCredit: ISO
A TV insider said: “All the characters returning are ones who Dot had a close relationship with.
“Fans who recall its earliest storylines in the Eighties will be thrilled. Only a figure as huge as Dot would be able to muster such a nostalgic roll call.”
The special episode, being recorded now but airing this winter, will bring viewers up to date on what the characters have been doing since they departed Walford.
They will also hear them share memories of Dot, who appeared on the soap from the start in 1985 to 1993 and again from 1997 to 2020.
The Sun revealed last week that Jacqueline Jossa would be returning as Lauren Branning and was at the studios to prepare for the emotional scenes.
A horse-drawn hearse with Dot’s name in a floral tribute was seen being taken into the studios, too.
When June left the soap in 2020, her character departed Walford to live with her grandson Charlie in Ireland.
But when residents of Albert Square learn of her death a grand funeral is organised in traditional East End style. TV Editor Rod McPhee looks at some of those coming back to attend
Jacqueline Jossa – playing Lauren Branning – endured an eventful 12-year stint on the soapCredit: Getty
Lauren pictured with late Dot
Her huge storylines saw her fall in love with her cousin Joey, become an alcoholic and emigrate to New Zealand with lover Peter Beale. But it was not long before she returned, heavily pregnant, for her father Max Branning’s murder trial.
He was accused of killing Peter’s twin sister Lucy. Lauren knew the identity of the real killer, little Bobby Beale, but didn’t let on, as she was keen on seeing her evil dad sent to prison.
When Max found out Lauren knew about his innocence, he disowned her, prompting her return to New Zealand. But she was soon back, again, with new partner Steven Beale.
Her life took another turn when her sister Abi fell pregnant after an affair with Steven, who then died in a fire. After almost dying herself during a Christmas Day episode in 2017, Lauren headed back to New Zealand to patch things up with Peter.
In 2019, Jacqueline’s career boomed after she won that year’s series of I’m A Celebrity and secured a number of lucrative endorsements. The 29-year-old mother of two’s rocky relationship with former Towie star Dan Osborne, 31, ensured she was never out of the headlines, too.
On her upcoming appearance, she says: “It 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.”
A RUNAWAY Dot took under her wing, Wearside native Disa arrived on the Square in 1990, having known Diane Butcher while they were sleeping rough.
After giving birth on the streets, she left the baby in a cardboard box on the Butchers’ doorstep, but was eventually found and reunited with her tot. Taking pity on Disa, who was played by Jan Graveson, Dot helped her look after the baby.
Taking pity on Disa O’Brien, who was played by Jan Graveson, Dot helped her look after her babyCredit: Jan Graveson
Disa’s return now will no doubt have an impact on the scheming Janine Butcher, step-sister of Diane
It later came out that the dad of the child was Disa’s own abusive step-father. She eventually left Walford with her baby in 1991 to be reunited with her monther.
Disa’s return now will no doubt have an impact on the scheming Janine Butcher, step-sister of Diane.
After EastEnders, Jan, 57, appeared opposite Jimmy Nail in Spender and in ITV series Heartbeat, as well as stints in hospital drama Casualty and comedy Benidorm. She also played a prostitute in 2005 Ray Winstone film Everything and starred in Blood Brothers on the West End.
She said: “I remember only too well of Dot and Disa’s dramatic scenes and how they gripped the nation.
“June was an inspiration, a brilliant actress to work with and a beautiful heart who became a lifelong friend.”
DOORMAT George “Lofty” Holloway was one of Albert Square’s nice guys.
Tom Watt playing George ‘Lofty’ Holloway in 1985 BBCCredit: BBC Press Release
The Queen Vic barman, played by Tom Watt, got together with Michelle in 1985 while she was pregnant with Den’s secret lovechild.
After Michelle’s jilted him at the altar, they later got married in secret. But when Michelle discovered she was pregnant with Lofty’s baby, she had an abortion, leading the couple to split up.
A heartbroken Lofty left Walford in 1988 to become a caretaker at a children’s home in Bedfordshire.
Dot was a close ally to Lofty, having grown close to him due to his friendship with her wayward son Nick. Lofty briefly returned to Walford in 2019 for Dr Legg’s funeral, revealing he now owns a chain of pubs across the capital.
Arsenal fan Tom, 66, left EastEnders to become a sports broadcaster and documentary maker, working in radio and TV for networks including talkSPORT, Radio 5 Live and BT Sport.
He was also ghost-writer for David Beckham’s 2002 autobiography My Side.
The married dad of one is good friends with Gunners legend Tony Adams, working closely with the Strictly favourite on his Sporting Life charity.
He says: “June was amazing as Dot. She completely inhabited the character – grew with her, suffered with her and faced life’ s troubles with her.”
WALFORD’S original punk, Mary is one of EastEnders’ most iconic characters.
She arrived in Albert Square in 1985 and lived in Reg Cox’s old council flat after he was murdered by Nick Cotton.
Mary Smith, played by Linda Davidson, is one of EastEnders’ most iconic charactersCredit: BBC Press Release
Mary had quit her band after getting pregnant, but as soon as baby Annie arrived, it quickly became apparent she was ill-equipped to be a mother, as social services were frequently reminded.
Cue friendly neighbour Dot, who offered childcare help and words of wisdom.
However, Dot could not stop Mary from becoming a stripper and later turning to prostitution.
She finally settled down with good-hearted labourer Rod Norman – but her old ways came back again when she struggled with drug addiction. Her family in Stockport tried to coax her back up north.
But fed up with their interference, she eventually jumped on a bus and left the Square for an unknown destination in 1988.
Mary, played Linda Davidson, joined Lofty in making a return to Walford in 2019 for Dr Legg’s funeral. Accompanying her was daughter Annie, who revealed she had joined the police force.
Drama graduate Linda, 58, went on to appear in First Of The Summer Wine – the prequel to comedy classic Last Of The Summer Wine – as well as Casualty and The Bill.
She also bagged a role in the West End revival of The Rocky Horror Show in 1990. She quit acting to become a sitcom writer and director, but despite developing several scripts, nothing was commissioned.
Her writing skills, however, enabled her to contribute to BBC show Tomorrow’s World before she later took charge of BBC drama websites, including the EastEnders one.
On her Walford return, she said: “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.”
COLIN and Barry became the soap’s first gay couple in a ground-breaking storyline.
Just one year after the cameras started rolling, middle class Yuppie Colin, played by Lord Michael Cashman, fell for barrow boy Barry.
Middle class Yuppie Colin, played by Lord Michael Cashman, fell for barrow boy Barry
The pair’s first kiss in 1987 caused huge controversy at the time – pictured Barry, played by Gary HailesCredit: garyhailes/twitter
And the pair’s first kiss in 1987 caused huge controversy at the time – even though it was just a peck on the forehead.
The coupe last appeared together in 1989, the year after they split, when Barry, played Gary Hailes, returned from his stint as a DJ on a cruise ship to be part of Colin’s first Walford farewell.
Colin returned in 2016 for a storyline that challenged Dot’s beliefs about same-sex marriage when he invited her to his wedding. After some deep, thoughtful scenes, Dot made Colin’s day by attending.
In 1999, Lord Michael became Labour MEP for the West Midlands. He is also best known for being a founding member of gay rights campaign organisation Stonewall.
A close friend of June, Michael, 71, says he “couldn’t imagine” not returning for Dot’s funeral.
He said: “June was unique, and there are so many incredible stories I could tell, but amongst my favourite moments was her monologue to Jim.”
Meanwhile, Gary, 56, continued acting, racking up credits on The Bill, Casualty and Luther. He also boasts an appearance in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens as a stormtrooper.
On his return to Walford, he said: “Being invited back after almost 30 years away was exciting, scary, 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.
“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.”
The coupe last appeared together in 1989, the year after they splitCredit: BBC
Two of us might have been killed off…but here we are
FORMER EastEnders trio Todd Carty, Adam Woodyatt and John Altman had their own reunion in Dublin
Todd, 59, played Mark Fowler, who died of Aids in 2004, and John, 70, appeared as Dot’s son Nick, who met his end in 2015.
Both are currently performing in The Mousetrap at The Gaiety Theatre in the Irish capital.
They were joined by Adam, 54, who played Ian Beale, as he was nearby performing in My Fair Lady at Bord Gais Energy Theatre.