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June Brown earned more than what EastEnders often gave her

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June Brown never saw herself as a star. Whenever the topic of her dot-cotton fame came up, the EastEnders The veteran – who died today (April 4) at the age of 95 – would flinch and roll her eyes. “We’re not stars – we’re household names,” she said. “We’re like Persil or Daz.” Brown quoted actress Gretchen Franklin, who played Dot’s BFF Ethel for years, but it was a gag that also nailed her own appeal. She could be funny, scathing, and deadpan – both on and off screen – but with a mile-long melancholic streak.

Partly because of that, she was as good as Dot. The cigarette-smoking laundromat owner was as much an Albert Square staple as the pub Queen Vic – a ranting, misanthropic gossip with a heart of gold and compassion where it mattered. Brown gave her grit, shade, and a sense of inner conflict. Even if you haven’t seen Dot since she first appeared on the soap opera in 1985, you’ve felt her years of trauma in Brown’s withered sadness. Every blow the character had taken in life seemed to have left a bruise – the corrupt son she’d blindly defended to the max, the ailing friend she’d helped kill himself, loved ones who died were.

Brown’s own traumas — she lost a husband to suicide and another to dementia, and two of her siblings died when she was a child — seemed to add weight and authenticity to her performances. “I played two people at once for 35 years,” Brown said in 2020. “Really, Dot wasn’t me, but spiritually she probably was.” They were both chain smokers, both dressed extravagantly, and both seemed reluctant to ever smile to want. When Brown was nominated for a Bafta in 2009 — becoming only the second actor to ever receive such an honor for a soap opera — she didn’t celebrate. “I think the nomination is nice, and I wish I was the kind of person who’s full of joy, but I’m not,” she said The guard 2009. “I just can’t get excited about things anymore. I do not know why. I think it’s age.”

Something that underpinned this perspective also appeared to be professional disappointment. Brown was a fantastic actor who anchored many of them EastEnders‘ finest storylines, but her creative bravery occasionally seemed to be overlooked by the show. She always seemed to fight for more risks and more opportunities to show what she can do. When she was in a run of the stage show calendar girl In 2009, for example, she was the only one of her stars to turn up her nose at the offer of skin-colored underwear. “I thought: This is terribly boring, I don’t want that.”

During her later interviews, she would beg EastEnders‘ Producers called for better storylines and lamented long runs of episodes where she more or less walked on set, said a line or two, and then left. “As an actress, I need a proper role,” she said in 2013. “I’ve been acting in theater since the late ’60s and I’m no amateur. I resent it.” In 2020, she revealed that she spurned the show’s request for another advance and left voluntarily after stories she’d appeared to have been promised didn’t come to fruition.

Continuing with this Persil analogy, Brown rose to fame at a time when soap operas were becoming household furniture rather than actual actors we’d follow to the ends of the world. Based on the breadth and complexity of her work as Dot, she earned a career like that of Suranne Jones or Sarah Lancashire – women so busy and celebrated it’s easy to forget they made their names on soaps. “I think [soap actors] are considered second rate,” Brown said in 2014.

One of the great sadnesses of Brown’s death is that it has been more than a decade since she received proper exposure in a special EastEnders Episode staged as a dramatic monologue. Dot sat alone and reminisced about her life, her loved ones and her losses. It was the 2008 episode that got Brown her Bafta nod, and it was so honest, dark, and gripping it almost felt like a lost Tony Richardson film. Or at least a triumphant nod to the series’ kitchen sink origins. Today it should be seen as Brown’s greatest achievement as an actress, but also as a testament to what the industry should have always given her.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/features/june-brown-death-eastenders-b2050564.html June Brown earned more than what EastEnders often gave her

JOE HERNANDEZ

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