EastEnders legends return to shoot sombre funeral scenes – after their VERY varied post-soap careers

13 mins read


Six EastEnders icons are set to make a legendary return to Walford for a special tribute episode to late star June Brown, as they were snapped on the set of the show just last week.

Jacqueline Jossa is returning to the soap after departing in 2018, and will join a slew of other former castmates for the tribute episode – which will see the town come together for the funeral of Dot Cotton, following June’s death in April.

‘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 all be returning for the occasion.

And with the return looming, MailOnline takes a look at what the stars have been up to since their Albert Sqaure days – as some have taken to the jungle while others have opted for galactic roles.

Blast from the past: Jacqueline played Lauren Branning on the soap from 2010 to 2018

Back again: She bid farewell to the soap four years ago (pictured in 2015)

Blast from the past: Jacqueline (left during her return to EastEnders), played Lauren Branning on the soap from 2010 to 2018 (pictured right in 2015)

Queen of the jungle: 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

Queen of the jungle: 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

Jacqueline was spotted on the Elstree Studios set just last week as she began to reprise her role as Lauren Branning, following a jam-packed four years since taking off from the show.

The actress originally joined the EastEnders cast to take over the role of teen Lauren, daughter of Max and Tanya Branning.

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.

Tribute: The stars are returnng for a special tribute episode to late star June Brown, who played Dot Cotton

Tribute: The stars are returnng for a special tribute episode to late star June Brown, who played Dot Cotton

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.

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: Jacqueline originally joined the EastEnders cast to take over the role of teen Lauren, daughter of Max and Tanya Branning

Throwback: Jacqueline originally joined the EastEnders cast to take over the role of teen Lauren, daughter of Max and Tanya Branning

Also making a return was Tom Watt, who portrayed George'Lofty' Holloway

Vintage: The actor played Lofty on the soap from 1985 to 1988

Dapper: Also making a return was Tom Watt (left), who portrayed George ‘Lofty’ Holloway from 1985 to 1988, and he cut a sombre figure as he reunited with his co-stars to film the moving scenes

Tom Watt will also return to the screen, who 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 Michelel Fowler had secretly aborted their unborn baby.

Since then, Tom has regularly presented sports 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

From soaps to politics: Lord Michael Cashman CBE also returned to set as Colin Russell, who he played from 1986 to 1989, before making a guest appearance in 2016

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

From soaps to politics: Lord Michael Cashman CBE (pictured on set left) also returned to set as Colin Russell, who he played from 1986 to 1989 – before taking on a career in parliament (right)

Lord Michael Cashman CBE also returned to set as Colin Russell, who he played from 1986 to 1989, before making 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.

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

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.

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.

Gary Hailes, who played Barry Clark from 1986 to 1989, is another cast member returning after a break of over two decades - and has since made a cameo as a Stormtrooper (pictured right in the show)

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

Soaps to Star Wars! Gary Hailes (left), who played Barry Clark from 1986 to 1989, is another cast member returning after a break of over two decades – and has since made a cameo as a Stormtrooper (pictured right in the show)

Gary Hailes, who played Barry Clark from 1986 to 1989, is another cast member returning after a break of over two decades – and has since made a cameo as a Stormtrooper.

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. 

Fan favourite: Linda Davidson has also made a return to the soap for the funeral scenes

A bit different back then! She famously played Mary'The Punk' Smith on the soap

Fan favourite: Linda Davidson (left), who famously played Mary ‘The Punk’ Smith on the soap (right), has also made a brief return for the scenes, following her last guest stint in 2019

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

Also to return is Linda Davidson, who 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. 

Throwback! Jan Grievson was also seen arriving on set for filming

Vintage: She played Disa O'Brien on EastEnders during the early 1990s

Throwback! Jan Grievson (left), who played Disa O’Brien (right) on EastEnders during the early 1990s, was also seen arriving on set for filming

Despite appearing in just 25 episodes, Jan Graveson is reprising her role of Disa O’Brien – which she originally took on from 1990 to 1991. 

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. 

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

Given her legendary status in Albert Square, it’s no surprise that Dot’s funeral is a fitting tribute, as her coffin adorned with flowers arrived at the church in a horse-drawn carriage.

As the coffin was carried into the church, much of the cast were seen embracing as they reunited, clad in funeral attire, before the scenes.

The grand turnout was a fitting tribute to the soap icon, who became known for her chain-smoking, staunchly religious views and love for gossip.

Special: Given her legendary status in Albert Square, it's no surprise that Dot's funeral is a fitting tribute - following the actress's death back in April

Special: Given her legendary status in Albert Square, it’s no surprise that Dot’s funeral is a fitting tribute – following the actress’s death back in April

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