EastEnders actress Dame Barbara Windsor has revealed she is leaving Walford for good after a dramatic reappearance by her character, Peggy Mitchell, in last night’s episode of the long-running soap.
Viewers saw Peggy’s troubled, boozy son Phil arrive at the matriarch’s home to deliver the news that he had cirrhosis of the liver and was dying. After listening to him whingeing on about how everyone other than his beloved Lou had let him down she delivered a shock announcement of her own. “The cancer’s back,” she told her self-pitying son. “I’m dying.”
With that she closed the door on his redder-than-ever face. Left crying outside, he could only tell the locked door, “I’m dying too, Mum.”
The episode ended with Phil collapsing in front of his confused daughter Lou, so whether or not he’s met his maker before Peggy remains to be seen.
For her part, 78-year-old Barbara, who joined the soap in 1994, said she had thought “long and hard” about her decision to close the door on Peggy, but thought the time was right.
“Peggy is a character close to my heart but I made the decision a while ago that I need to say goodbye to her once and for all, as otherwise she will always be there, urging me to go back.”
She said EastEnders executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins had accepted her decision and they had been “secretly plotting Peggy’s last scenes” since the summer. They will be aired later in the year.
Treadwell-Collins said: “Barbara is the real guvnor of EastEnders. So when she told me her decision back in the summer, we both had a little cry before getting excited about how Peggy Mitchell, the matriarch to end all matriarchs, could bid her final farewell to Albert Square.”
He added that she had created “one of the greatest ever characters on British television” and that her exit “was the end of an EastEnders era”.
EastEnders continues on BBC1, Monday, 8pm