Dame Barbara Windsor has defended EastEnders for the controversial suicide storyline which provided the exit for her character Peggy Mitchell.
In the May 17 episode of the long-running BBC One soap, Peggy took an overdose after breaking the news to son Grant Mitchell (Ross Kemp) that her cancer had returned.
Peggy’s decision to end her life was not welcomed by pro-life organisation Care Not Killing, which accused the BBC of ‘acting as the cheerleader for assisted suicide and suicide’.
During an interview with The Huffington Post UK, Dame Barbara said: “I believe that we must respect both sides of the argument, but I believe the producers did everything they could to take care over such a sensitive subject matter.”
She added: “Both the Samaritans and health specialist that EastEnders worked with on the storyline have praised them for the way it was handled.”
In her final episode, viewers had watched former landlady Peggy visit The Queen Vic pub. Sons Grant and Phil (Steve McFadden) tried to convince her not to go through with her suicide plan.
The convincing bond between Peggy and her sons provided the soap with a number of memorable plot points over the years, and it proved to be the case yet again.
Speaking on the subject, Dame Barbara said: “I don’t believe there is a stronger sight in soap history than the Mitchell brothers either side of Peggy.
“We are also close friends off-set and I never see a day when we are not.”
Although EastEnders’ fans had keenly anticipated the return of Ross, after a 10-year absence, a farewell meeting between Peggy and daughter Sam Mitchell (played by Danniella Westbrook) did not occur.
Londoner Danniella had last been seen on screen as Sam in 2010.
Dame Barbara said: “There was never any mention of Peggy and Sam crossing paths.”
She added: “In an ideal world, I would like to see Ross make regular returns to the show and for the Mitchell brothers to put their differences aside and rule the Square as a force together.”
However, Danniella has reprised the role that made her a household name for special episodes set around Peggy’s funeral. Dame Barbara revealed she had no input in the scenes where her character is laid to rest.
“Why would I? Peggy is deceased by that point,” she said. “I will be watching as I am sure it will be done with sensitivity and I’m sure a little drama along the way.”
Much-loved for her feisty temperament and her “Get outta mah pub!” catchphrase, Peggy was an EastEnders stalwart and a fan favourite.
Initially played by Jo Warne in 1991, the role was recast with Dame Barbara walking into Albert Square three years later. She quickly made the role her own.
Asked who could be the next Peggy Mitchell, Dame Barbara opted for another blonde.
“I think one has to look at Sharon played by the wonderful Letitia Dean,” she said.
“It almost feels like her birthright to take over that mantle in the show. But there are a couple there who most certainly could have comparisons made.
“Time will tell and I will be an eager viewer and fan of the show.”