Dot Cotton: why actress June Brown has left EastEnders after 35 years – and if she’ll come back

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Actress June Brown has told the Distinct Nostalgia podcast that she didn’t “want a retainer for EastEnders” and that she’s “left for good”

Brown played Dot Cotton, and had been a mainstay on the screens of soap fans for 35 years.

The character was last seen – or rather heard – in an episode last month, leaving a voicemail for Sonia Fowler saying she had moved to Ireland.

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"I've sent her off to Ireland and that's where she'll stay,” said Brown. “I've left EastEnders. I did make up a limerick. It's a bit dirty.”

(Photo: BBC)(Photo: BBC)
(Photo: BBC) | Other 3rd Party

During her podcast appearance, Brown said leaving EastEnders felt like a bereavement.

"I was feeling down a few days ago," she said. "I thought, 'What's the matter? Why do I feel so sad?' It's almost as if I've been bereaved.

"I've played two people simultaneously for 35 years. Really Dot wasn't me, but spiritually she probably was."

Who was Dot Cotton?

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Brown is perhaps EastEnders' best-known star and played the larger-than-life Dot, known for her devout Christian faith and hypochondria.

The veteran actress arrived on Albert Square shortly after the soap began in 1985, and aside from a break between 1993 and 1997, has been a regular since.

Some of Dot's biggest storylines have 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.

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Brown won several awards for her portrayal of Dot, including a lifetime achievement honour at the 2005 British Soap Awards.

In 2009, she was nominated for the best actress prize at the TV Baftas.

Why has she left?

The exact reasons for June's departure haven’t been made clear, but in 2019, the 93-year-old admitted that she could no longer recognise her friends as a result of age macular degeneration (AMD).

"I haven't driven for years and I can't really go out socially due to my eyesight," she told The Mirror, as she revealed she been suffering with the condition for a decade.

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"I never go to soap awards or suchlike now," she added. "I don't recognise people that I know and they would think I was snubbing them."

Her condition, she says, is slowly getting worse, despite corrective eye surgery she had two years ago.

"Just pray for your health and strength, hearing and eyesight, and an active mind," she said.

AMD is a common condition, which often first affects people in their 50s and 60s.

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Without treatment, it can make everyday activities, like watching TV and recognising people, difficult.

Will Brown return?

Brown claimed she only returned to the long-running soap in the first place to “do a good story”, which went “up in smoke.”

"I got a small part, a very small part. And that ended up as a big wet fart.

“Alas and alack, I will never go back."

An EastEnders spokesman said the "door remains open" for Brown to return.

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A statement said: "We never discuss artists' contracts, however as far as EastEnders are concerned the door remains open for June, as it always has if the story arises and if June wishes to take part."

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