June Brown, who appeared in thousands of episodes of British soap opera ‘EastEnders’ for 35 years, portraying Dot Cotton, one of fictional Albert Square’s most memorable residents, died on Sunday at her home in Surrey, near London. She was 95 years old.
His death was announced on the show’s Twitter account. In one of the many tributes shared by this account, Natalie Cassidy, another star of the show, called Ms. Brown “the best character actress ‘EastEnders’ has ever seen or will ever see.”
Mrs Brown was classically trained at the Old Vic drama school and had an active career in acting until she and her second husband, Robert Arnold, whom she married in 1958, began to have their six children.
“Touring was difficult with the children,” she told London’s Daily Telegraph in 1995, “so I did a lot of TV work. And, in 1985, ‘EastEnders’ and Dot arrived.
Dot was the mother of villainous Nick Cotton. Ms. Brown was originally hired for three months.
“Then I was asked if I wanted to be a permanent character,” she told Britain’s Express in 2020, the year her character was finally written off the show. “I had no idea it was going to last like 30 years.”
It turned out that audiences found Dot, a chain-smoldering bunch of prejudice, oddly endearing. The Daily Telegraph, in the 1995 article, called her “Albert Square’s one-woman moral majority hypochondriac”.
Ms Brown enjoyed creating a flawed character – so much so that in 1993, after playing Dot for eight years, she quit the show when she felt the writers were recalling some of Dot’s more objectionable characteristics.
“At first, Dot was a terrible racist,” Ms. Brown explained in the 1995 interview. “But she gradually became more and more politically correct, which was disastrous for the character and the program. It’s not good to have a program that is supposed to reflect society but covers everything and pretends that everything in the garden is beautiful.
She returned in 1997. Over the years, Dot continued to change, becoming less talkative and more like the fictional world matriarch. And Ms. Brown received some meaty stories – a request from a friend for Dot’s help with euthanasia, for example, and Nick’s death from a heroin overdose.
A much-loved episode in 2008 was all about Mrs Brown, as Dot made a 30-minute recording for her comatose husband. The Observer called it “an absolutely brilliant 30 minutes of prime time – beautifully written, economically produced, and performed flawlessly and movingly by June Brown”.
Ms. Brown recently dealt with macular degeneration in real life, something that has been incorporated into the scripts. The character disappeared in 2020 without much fanfare – Dot moved to Ireland. The show’s producers said a return was still possible, but Ms Brown was not interested. “I sent her to Ireland, and that’s where she will stay,” she said of Dot.
“EastEnders” Twitter posts said she appeared in 2,884 episodes.
“There was no one like June Brown,” tweeted Nadine Dorries, Britain’s Culture Secretary. “She has captured the zeitgeist of British culture like no other in her many years on our screens.”
June Muriel Brown was born on February 16, 1927 in Suffolk, England to Henry and Louisa (Butler) Brown. His father owned an electrical engineering business and his mother worked in a millinery shop.
Mrs. Brown’s childhood was marked by loss. A brother died in infancy. She was particularly close to an older sister, Marise, who died of an ear infection on June 7, an event that affected her more deeply than her parents seemed to realize.
“People weren’t interested in psychology back then,” Ms Brown wrote in her autobiography, “Before the Year Dot” (2013). “Maybe it was better because you learned to survive without sympathy.”
Ms Brown grew up in Ipswich. An acting career was not on her mind at all.
“I once played the Virgin Mary at school,” she told the Daily Telegraph, “but only because my teacher thought I would look good in blue.”
During World War II she joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service – the Wrens – where one of her jobs was to show training films to airmen. She also starred in a traveling revue that performed for the troops.
“We took it to the Southern Command area, and I really enjoyed it,” she told The Independent in 2010. “I had some laughs, and that’s when that the bug caught me.”
After the war, she studied at the Old Vic and began acting in plays. By the late 1950s she was touring in roles on “ITV Television Playhouse” and similar television programs. In the early 1970s, she appeared in several episodes of “Coronation Street”, another long-running British soap opera.
She credited Leslie Grantham, an original “EastEnders” cast member, with suggesting her for the role of Dot.
“He had seen me on an episode of ‘Minder’,” another British show, she told the Daily Mirror in 2003. “I will always be grateful to him.”
A few dozen episodes into the series, Dot makes her first appearance. At the 2005 British Soap Awards, Ms Brown received a lifetime achievement honor for her work on the show. “EastEnders” has also been seen at various outlets in the United States for years.
In 1950, Mrs. Brown married fellow actor John Garley, who died in 1957. Her second husband, Mr. Arnold, also an actor, died in 2003. Her survivors include five children, Chloe, Naomi, Sophie, Louise and William. .