June Brown: The 'EastEnders' actress on dissecting rabbits, lost colleagues, and why children shouldn't be given choices

 

I was having the worst year of my life before the offer from 'EastEnders' came through I was 58, my kids were grown up, and I had no money and few offers. At the time [Brown took the role of Dot Cotton in 1985], it was felt that you shouldn't be in a soap for long because it would ruin your career, but I remember thinking, "What career?" So I took it.

I wanted to be a doctor when I was at school I was very good at dissection. We dissected rabbits and put them in a biscuit tins. But my father said, "I'm not paying for you, as you're only a girl and you'll only get married." It was a terrible shock to me; I could have helped him in his old age.

I felt an intense loneliness after My sister died I was seven at the time, she was eight, and I realised after her death that she accepted me for who I was. I think that's why, much later, I went from one man to another until I found [that quality] in my first husband.

I fell madly in love when I was 14 He was 10 years older, a student, though no one mentioned the age gap. He told his mother he'd marry me when I turned 16. When I saw him in a restaurant with another woman, I was very distressed.

My thirties were ruined by being pregnant I loved my babies but I had been quite successful before I had them, playing Lady Macbeth and Hedda Gabler, one of my favourite roles. After that I became a rather below-stairs actor; you wouldn't think of me now in the same way as Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey. It was because I didn't have the money to shop or time to buy clothes, so I didn't look smart any more; if you want a role, you have to dress the part.

All the people I really knew on 'EastEnders' have died Gretchen Franklin [who played Ethel Skinner] died eight years ago; Anna Wing [known for her role as opinionated matriarch, Lou Beale] died not long ago, and Wendy Richards. Those days were lovely, but I'm not quite the last of the old guard; there's Adam Woodyatt [who plays Ian Beale] who's been there since day one. Now you only get to know the people you have scenes with. It's a bit strange if I've been out of it for two months – I come back in and I don't know some of the people who are there!

When I looked at my face from my first 'EastEnders' press photograph, I thought I looked ancient But I'd like to look like that now… Though I can't understand people using Botox; they could have dreadful results and look worse! Now when I look in the mirror I see a very thin person. I need to eat more, as I've lost nearly a stone while writing my new book.

My views are politically incorrect Such as why we allow children to say what they think. It's not how to bring up children. And now people give their children choices, like what they want to eat. Kids can't deal with choices.

Young people are so horrible to old people now I think it's due to over-familiarity. These days everyone calls each other by their Christian names and a lack of respect comes in. As a child, I wouldn't have dreamt of calling my friend's mother anything but Mrs Russell.

People say smoking is my worst habit But I've been smoking for 70 years , so I'm not interested in what people say. I don't inhale anyway. My character Dot and I smoke the same; left hand always curved.

June Brown, 86, is a classically trained actress best known for her long-running role as chain-smoking gossip Dot Cotton in 'EastEnders'. Her autobiography, 'Before The Year Dot', is published by Simon & Schuster, priced £20

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living