Anita Dobson - things you didn't know about the legendary actress

Anita Dobson
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Anita Dobson attends the World Premiere of "The Fight" at the 62nd BFI London Film Festival on October 17, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for BFI) (Image credit: Getty Images for BFI)

There's a lot more to singer and actress Anita Dobson than playing EastEnders' Angie Watts...

Anita Dobson shot to fame in 1985 thanks to her role in EastEnders where she played 'Dirty' Den Watts' long-suffering wife, Angie Watts.

Until she left in 1988, Anita became a firm fan favourite as Sharon Watts' adoptive mother, and during her time in Walford she battled an alcohol addiction while putting up with her husband's cheating ways.

To this day Anita and Leslie Grantham, who played her on screen husband, hold the record of taking centre stage in EastEnders highest ever rating episode. On Christmas Day in 1986 a staggering 30.15 million viewers tuned in to watch Den hand Angie divorce papers.

Most fans of the actress will know that:

  • She is still in touch with Letitia Dean, who played her on-screen daughter, Sharon Watts
  • As well as being in countless TV shows, Anita's had a hugely successful stage career
  • She turned down the chance to reprise her role of Angie Watts on two occasions

But what else do we know about Anita Dobson? Here are several things you probably don't know...

1. Anita Dobson's had a top five chart hit

In 1986 Anita reached number four in the UK singles chart with 'Anyone Can Fall In Love' - a song that was based on the famous EastEnders theme tune.

More: Things you didn't know about EastEnders legend Steve McFadden 

2. She wasn't the first actress to play Angie Watts 

Anita Dobson EastEnders

Anita joined EastEnders at the very beginning and quickly shot to fame (Picture: Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images) (Image credit: Getty Images)

While Anita has gone down in soap history as Den Watt's long-suffering wife, she wasn't the first actress to play the role of Angie. Another actress called Jean Fennell had already begun filming at EastEnders when it was decided that she didn't gel with the idea of the character and Anita was quickly brought in as a replacement. The rest, as they say, is history...

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3. Anita Dobson's got a VERY famous husband 

A photo posted by on

Anita met Brian when she was in her 30s and the pair have been going strong ever since, but as she told Woman & Home, marriage wasn't always on the cards: "He was a huge rock star and our lives were very different. But later I reached a point where I thought, you’ve gone through all the hard stuff with this man and you’re still here, what does that tell you, Anita Dobson? So one day, I said to him, 'I’m ready.' Two weeks later we were married. And doing it at 51? It was the best decision I’ve made."

4. She did Strictly Come Dancing in honour of her late parents 

Anita Dobson

Anita took part in Strictly Come Dancing in 2011 (Picture: Getty/Tony Woolliscroft/WireImage) (Image credit: WireImage)

In 2011 Anita told Shropshire Star: "Strictly Come Dancing asked me three times and the third time I was tempted because my parents used to ballroom dance. I spoke to my best friend about it and they asked me what was stopping me. I said I didn’t want to make a fool of myself, but at the age of 62 I also thought ‘why should I care because I’m happily married, comfortable and in a good place’. So I parked my career and did it and it was such fun."

5. She was best friends with Freddie Mercury 

Freddie Mercury and Brian May

Anita met her husband Brian May through good friend and legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury (Picture: Phil Dent/Redferns/Getty) (Image credit: Redferns)

In fact it was actually the legendary Queen frontman who introduced Anita to his bandmate Brian May, who Anita went on to marry years later. The actress told "I met Freddie first and we became great friends. I was invited to see Queen at Wembley and afterwards I was invited to a huge party - it was all thanks to EastEnders. Fred was an EastEnders fan and he was just lovely."

More: Things you didn't know about legendary actor Sir David Jason 

6. She spends her spare time reading 

Anita has revealed that once she discovered a good book thanks to her stepson’s girlfriend, and now there's no stopping her! She told Woman & Home: "We were on holiday when she told me about this book she was reading called Secrets of the Sewing Bee by Katie Thompson. It’s all about the East End where I grew up during the Blitz and the rag trade, and I was so intrigued by it that I borrowed it. I suddenly realised what I’d been missing. She’s now lent me the second one called Secrets of the Singer Girls – it feels as though I’m catching up on lost time now!"

7. In her EastEnders heyday Anita was the second most photographed woman on the planet

While more than 3o million people spent their Christmas Day in 1986 watching Anita in EastEnders, it is still astonishing to think that the only other woman in the entire world who was being photographed more than her at that time was Princess Diana. When Anita quit EastEnders in 1988 it was even reported on the BBC's Six O'Clock News.

Anita Dobson's Fact File 

Answers to the most frequently asked questions about the actress....

How old is she?

Anita Dobson's age is 71. She was born on 29 April 1949.

Is she in a relationship?

Anita Dobson is married to Queen guitarist Brian May.

Does she have kids?

Anita Dobson has three grown-up stepchildren with Brian.

Where was she born?

Anita Dobson was born in Stepney, London.

How tall is she?

Anita Dobson is 1.6 metres tall.

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the last article update.

Picture credits: Main image Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for BFI

Claire Crick
Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 

After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off

She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 

As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.