Actress June Brown says it felt like a challenge playing her alter ego, Dot Cotton, in Eastenders during the late 1980s, when Dot had difficulty in accepting homosexuality.
On Sunday at the Ivy in central London, Brown was among several celebrities to attend the launch party of the Kindle release of ‘Mercury and Me’ – a memoir about Freddie Mercury’s former relationship with Jim Hutton.
It was written by Hutton who died from cancer on New Year’s Day in 2010.
Sunday marked the 22nd anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death. The singer died of bronchial pneumonia, brought on by AIDS, on 24 November 1991.
Along with Dragon’s Den host Evan Davis, actress Lynda Baron and Radio 1 DJ Annie Nightingale, June Brown was snapped wearing a Freddie Mercury-style red jacket and novelty foam moustache.
Afterwards she exclusively spoke to PinkNews.co.uk about her time in Eastenders and how the show had reflected the challenges faced by Britain’s gay community.
In 1986, Eastenders introduced its first ever gay character, Colin Russell, played by Michael Cashman. Despite Colin and his boyfriend, Barry, being very pleasant, Dot initially felt unable to accept them for being gay and even spreads rumours around Albert Square that Colin had AIDS.
Brown told PinkNews.co.uk, that it was difficult playing someone with anti-gay views, especially with her close friendship with Michael Cashman, but she said acting meant “putting your own views to one side.”
She then mentioned taking part in a scene some years later in which Barbara Windsor’s character, Peggy Mitchell, made a number of homophobic comments in the Queen Vic.
“I remember Barbara being very upset as she had to say some homophobic things and she really didn’t want to do it at all”, Brown said.
Since 1999, Michael Cashman has been a Labour MEP. Expressing her surprise that the 62-year-old politician is standing down from the European Parliament next year, Brown said to PinkNews.co.uk: “He’s a lovely actor and also a very kind and caring person, but I don’t see much of him lately, I invited him to my book launch but I think he was in Brussels or Parliament.
“We used to do our tax returns together.”
At 86, Brown has no plans to retire from Eastenders, saying “I can’t retire, you won’t believe it but my pension is meagre, and because of the recession it has dropped in half, if I can run my bungalow on it, I will be lucky.”