EastEnders reveals six soap legends returning this festive season

Colin Russell and Mary Smith
EastEnders' Colin Russell and Mary 'the Punk' Smith are among some of the characters to return. (Image credit: BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron)

EastEnders has shared some first-look images of six soap legends from the 1980s, 1990s and beyond returning to Albert Square for the iconic Dot Cotton's (June Brown) funeral over the festive period.

Recently, the Walford residents were devastated to learn that Dot had sadly passed away and now the Square are set to pay their respects in a heartbreaking send-off for one of the soaps legendary characters.

EastEnders’ executive producer Chris Clenshaw announced in the Summer that Dot would be laid to rest, following the passing of actress June Brown OBE, MBE, who played Dot for 31 years.

Some of the much-loved classic EastEnders characters will make their return to Walford to pay tribute to their beloved friend who impacted their lives massively during their time on the Square.

Dot's funeral- black horses and carriage carrying Dot Cotton's coffin outside The Vic

Some of Walford's most-loved characters will return. (Image credit: BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron)

Colin Russell (Lord Michael Cashman CBE), his former lover Barry Clark (Gary Hailes), George ‘Lofty’ Holloway (Tom Watt), Mary ‘the punk’ Smith (Linda Davidson), Disa O’Brien (Jan Graveson) and Dot’s step-granddaughter Lauren Branning (Jacqueline Jossa) will all be back for Dot's funeral.

Colin Russell and his boyfriend Barry Clark will be making their comeback to the Square, where they famously went down in soap history as EastEnders' first gay couple.

Colin left Walford in 1989 after three years and briefly returned in 2016 to invite Dot to his wedding to partner Eddie Tsang. 

Colin and Sharon arm-in-arm at Dot's funeral procession with the other residents

Colin Russell and Sharon Watts arm-in-arm as they mourn the loss of Dot. (Image credit: BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron)

Disa O’Brien, who appeared in the soap in 1990 and 1991, will also make her return. During her time on the Square, she was a homeless teen who bonded with Diane Butcher (Sophie Lawrence) while on the streets.

Dot made a huge impact on her as she helped a struggling Disa care for her baby daughter.

Dot's step granddaughter Lauren Branning is coming back to pay her respects after moving to New Zealand.

Lauren Branning and Sonia Fowler hugging

Lauren Branning reunites with the Walford residents for Dot's funeral. (Image credit: BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron)

Dot was an integral part to the Branning family after marrying Jim (John Bardon) in 2002 and was a huge support to Lauren throughout her alcohol issues.

She left to start a new life in New Zealand in 2018 after the death of her sister Abi Branning (Lorna Fitzgerald) when the pair fell from the roof of The Queen Vic on Christmas Day in 2017.

Joining her to mourn Dot's loss will be Lofty Holloway and Mary Smith, who formed an unlikely friendship with Dot and took her under her wing.

Dot's funeral- black horses and carriage carrying Dot Cotton's coffin

Dot will have a tear-jerking send-off. (Image credit: BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron)

EastEnders airs Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7.30 pm on BBC One — see our TV Guide for full listings. You can also catch up on episodes on BBC iPlayer now. 

Grace Morris
Staff Writer

Grace is a digital writer with WhatToWatch.com, where she writes series guides, recaps and features for must-watch shows and delivers all the latest soap news and reactions. She graduated from Anglia Ruskin University in 2020 with a degree in Writing and Film Studies, which only made her love for creative writing, film and TV grow stronger.

You'll usually find her watching the drama unfold in the latest reality series or much-loved UK soaps (usually with chocolate by her side!). She's an expert in EastEnders, Emmerdale, Coronation Street and everything reality-related from Selling Sunset and Married At First Sight UK to 90 Day Fiancé UK. Plus Netflix megahit Virgin River!

Grace also likes to explore new places with her friends and family and, of course, watch and read about the latest films and TV series.