As six EastEnders star return for Dot Cotton's funeral – MailOnline takes a look at their careers

12 mins read


EastEnders have announced that six of its most iconic characters will be returning to the soap for a special episode which sees the residents of Walford attend Dot Cotton’s funeral.

Bosses revealed that Lauren Branning (Jacqueline Jossa), George ‘Lofty’ Holloway (Tom Watt), Colin Russell (Lord Michael Cashman CBE), Barry Clark (Gary Hailes) , Mary ‘the punk’ Smith (Linda Davidson) and Disa O’Brien (Jan Graveson) will reprise their roles for the upcoming episodes.

But since leaving the soap, these stars have taken their careers in vastly different directions, ranging from stints on reality TV, to ghost-writing famous biographies, to entering politics as a member of the House Of Lords.

So, as EastEnders fans prepare to welcome back these iconic stars to Albert Square for Dot’s final farewell, MailOnline takes a look at how their careers have fared since leaving the soap.

Blast from the past: EastEnders have announced that six of its most iconic characters will be returning to the soap to attend Dot Cotton's funeral - here MailOnline takes a look at their careers since leaving Walford behind

Blast from the past: EastEnders have announced that six of its most iconic characters will be returning to the soap to attend Dot Cotton’s funeral – here MailOnline takes a look at their careers since leaving Walford behind

Throwback: Jacqueline Jossa played Lauren Branning on EastEnders from 2010 to 2018, before leaving the soap to explore other acting roles

Throwback: Jacqueline Jossa played Lauren Branning on EastEnders from 2010 to 2018, before leaving the soap to explore other acting roles 

Jacqueline Jossa (played Lauren Branning from 2010 to 2018)

Jacqueline originally joined the EastEnders cast to take over the role of teen Lauren, and throughout her eight-year stint featured in a slew of hard-hitting storylines, including her mum Tanya’s breast cancer diagnosis, and her own alcoholism.

However, Lauren decided to leave Albert Square in 2018 to start a new life in New Zealand with her son Louie, after her sister Abi was killed following a fall from the roof of the Queen Vic.

After leaving EastEnders, Jacqueline went onto appear on the 2019 series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! and was eventually crowned champion.

She's the winner! After leaving EastEnders, Jacqueline went onto appear on the 2019 series of I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! and was eventually crowned champion

She’s the winner! After leaving EastEnders, Jacqueline went onto appear on the 2019 series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! and was eventually crowned champion

Glam: Since then Jacqueline has landed several big-money brand deals, including a range with InTheStyle, and has recently made a name for herself as a social media influencer

Glam: Since then Jacqueline has landed several big-money brand deals, including a range with InTheStyle, and has recently made a name for herself as a social media influencer

Since then Jacqueline has landed several big-money brand deals, including a range with InTheStyle, and has recently made a name for herself as a social media influencer.

Jacqueline is also married to TOWIE star Dan Osborne, and the couple share two daughters, Ella, seven, and Mia, three, but their relationship hasn’t been short of drama, with the couple previously reported to have split in 2018 when it was claimed Dan cheated with Love Island star Gabby Allen.

However both stars denied the claims, and a then-pregnant Jacqueline eventually reconciled with Dan. 

Throwback: Tom was one of 26 actors to appear in EastEnders' original cast, earning his nickname Lofty due to his above-average height, but he left Albert Square three years later

Throwback: Tom was one of 26 actors to appear in EastEnders’ original cast, earning his nickname Lofty due to his above-average height, but he left Albert Square three years later

Tom Watt (played George ‘Lofty’ Holloway from 1985 to 1988, and made a guest appearance in 2019)

Tom was one of 26 actors to appear in EastEnders’ original cast, earning his nickname Lofty due to his above-average height, but he left Albert Square three years later after learning his wife Michelle Fowler had secretly aborted their unborn baby.

Since then, Tom has regularly presented sports segments for Channel 4, Radio 1, Radio 3, Radio 5 Live, talkSPORT, and Cable TV, and has also fronted several programmes for BT Sport.

Alongside several other TV acting roles, Tom has penned match reports and features for The Observer and also acted as a ghost writer for David Beckham’s autobiography My Side.

In 2019 Tom also briefly reprised his role as Lofty, returning to Albert Square for the funeral of beloved character Dr Legg. 

Vintage: Since then, Tom (pictured in 2019) has presented sports radio segments, and even ghost-wrote David Beckham's autobiography My Side

Vintage: Since then, Tom (pictured in 2019) has presented sports radio segments, and even ghost-wrote David Beckham’s autobiography My Side

He's back! In 2019 Tom also briefly reprised his role as Lofty, returning to Albert Square for the funeral of beloved character Dr Legg

He’s back! In 2019 Tom also briefly reprised his role as Lofty, returning to Albert Square for the funeral of beloved character Dr Legg

Lord Michael Cashman CBE (played Colin Russell from 1986 to 1989, and made a guest appearance in 2016)

Michael made history when he played ‘yuppie’ Colin in EastEnders, as he became Walford’s first ever gay resident, sharing the first mouth-to-mouth kiss between two men to appear in a British soap opera.

He famously had a close friendship with Dot, despite her intial opposition to his homosexuality as it conflicted with her strict religious views.

Since leaving Walford, Michael has pursued a career in politics and was elected a Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands in 1999.

Iconic: Michael Cashman made history when he played'yuppie' Colin in EastEnders, as he became Walford's first ever gay resident, sharing the first mouth-to-mouth kiss between two men to appear in a British soap opera

Iconic: Michael Cashman made history when he played ‘yuppie’ Colin in EastEnders, as he became Walford’s first ever gay resident, sharing the first mouth-to-mouth kiss between two men to appear in a British soap opera

He was awarded a CBE in the 2013 New Year Honours for public and political service, and in 2014 Michael was created a life peer, earning him a place in the House Of Lords.

In 2016 Lord Michael also made a brief return to EastEnders to reprise his role as Colin, heading back to the Square to try and convince Dot to attend his wedding, as she grew reluctant due to her opposition to same-sex marriage.

However, after witnessing the funeral of Paul Coker, who was killed in a homophobic attack, Dot agrees to attend Colin’s wedding, to his delight.

Respected; Since leaving Walford, Michael has pursued a career in politics, and along with being elected an MEP, was appointed a life peer in 2014

Respected; Since leaving Walford, Michael has pursued a career in politics, and along with being elected an MEP, was appointed a life peer in 2014

Gary Hailes (played Barry Clark from 1986 to 1989)

Gary was the other side of EastEnders’ first ever gay couple, as his character Barry began a relationship with Colin, but given his family’s thuggish reputation, he kept his sexuality a secret.

When his sexuality is finally revealed, Barry is forced to break up with Colin, and he attempts to have a relationship with a woman, with little success, and he eventually decides to leave Walford to accept a job as a DJ on a cruise ship.

Since leaving EastEnders, Gary has appeared in films such as The Killing Zone, Murder with Mirrors and Waiting for a Killer, and has also starred in dramas The Bill, Horizon and Sorry.

Gary has also owned, and drives, a London black taxi, and through his work with the Star Wars costuming group, 501st Legion, made a cameo as a Stormtrooper in the 2015 film The Force Awakens. 

Love is in the air! Gary was the other side of EastEnders' first ever gay couple, as his character Barry began a relationship with Colin, but given his family's thuggish reputation, he kept his sexuality a secret

Love is in the air! Gary was the other side of EastEnders’ first ever gay couple, as his character Barry began a relationship with Colin, but given his family’s thuggish reputation, he kept his sexuality a secret

Wow! Linda Davidson played the wild child punk Mary Smith as part of EastEnders' original cast, a former punk rock groupie and drug user whose wild lifestyle put her baby's life at risk

Wow! Linda Davidson played the wild child punk Mary Smith as part of EastEnders’ original cast, a former punk rock groupie and drug user whose wild lifestyle put her baby’s life at risk

Linda Davidson (played Mary ‘the punk’ Smith from 1985 to 1988)

Mary was one of the Square’s most controversial characters — a former punk rock groupie and drug user whose wild lifestyle put her baby’s life at risk. 

Barely literate, she couldn’t look after her child without her neighbours’ help, and earned her living by prostitution, eventually fleeing Walford after growing tired of her family’s interference. 

Linda, who was born in Canada, dated co-star Nejdet Salih and left the show in 1988; she gave up acting to work in internet design and now runs a social media agency.

In 2019 she also returned to EastEnders for a brief guest appearance with Lofty actor Tom, reuniting with Dot in the Queen Vic pub following Dr Legg’s death. 

New direction: Linda, who was born in Canada, dated co-star Nejdet Salih and left the show in 1988; she gave up acting to work in internet design and now runs a social media agency

New direction: Linda, who was born in Canada, dated co-star Nejdet Salih and left the show in 1988; she gave up acting to work in internet design and now runs a social media agency

Jan Graveson (played Disa O’Brien from 1990 to 1991)

Appearing in just 25 episodes, Jan made her first appearance on EastEnders as teen Disa, sleeping rough on the streets of London, who eventually gave birth to a baby girl along in an alley after being unaware that she was pregnant.

Disa formed a bond with Dot who was happy to look after her baby daughter, and after finally revealing that she was assualted by Ken Raynor, leading to her pregnancy, she left Walford to start a new life further North.

After leaving the soap, Jan had roles in series including Byker Grove, Casualty and Heartbeat and famously played Susie in the ITV sitcom Benidorm.

In 2005 she starred alongside Ray Winstone in the psychological thriller Everything, and she has also appeared in stage shows such as Blood Brothers and Hard Times in the West End. 

Troubles: Appearing in just 25 episodes, Jan made her first appearance on EastEnders as teen Disa, sleeping rough on the streets of London, who eventually gave birth to a baby girl

Troubles: Appearing in just 25 episodes, Jan made her first appearance on EastEnders as teen Disa, sleeping rough on the streets of London, who eventually gave birth to a baby girl

Stage star: After leaving the soap, Jan had roles in various TV series, along with several stage roles including the musical Blood Brothers

Stage star: After leaving the soap, Jan had roles in various TV series, along with several stage roles including the musical Blood Brothers

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