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EastEnders star Gillian Wright says filming Jean’s cancer plot has been 'upsetting'

EastEnders Shirley Carter and Jean Slater
(Image credit: BBC / Jack Barnes)

EastEnders star Gillian reveals she felt "punched in the stomach" when she first heard Jean Slater would get cancer but also "chuffed" to be given responsibility for such a massive plotline

EastEnders star Gillian Wright has spoken about how emotionally “upsetting” it’s been for her filming Jean Slater’s cancer storyline.

The 59-year-old actress, who plays Jean, talked about the responsibility she felt about tackling the huge storyline which sees her character battling ovarian cancer.

“Emotionally it’s been upsetting,” she revealed in a video posted on the EastEnders Twitter page. “I’ve got friends and family who are either going through or have gone through or haven’t succeeded and have died as a consequence of cancer and I think that’s why it’s such a nerve-wracking story to do because the majority of the people I know will either know somebody going through it or living with somebody going through it. It’s sadly, such a common disease now.”

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Gillian also spoke about how she felt when she was first told about the plot plan for Jean. While Gillian admits she felt “a bit overwhelmed” by the idea, she also felt “chuffed” to be trusted with such an important storyline.

“And she [EastEnders boss Kate Oates] told me and my heart absolutely plummeted and I felt punched in the stomach and I was quite shocked by my reaction because it is such a big thing. It is such a big thing and I felt a bit overwhelmed by it. But at the same time I felt chuffed that they thought I was good enough to be able to carry a story like that. “

Meanwhile, new EastEnders executive producer Jon Sen spoke about what viewers will see when Jean’s son, Sean Slater (Rob Kazinsky) makes his hugely anticipated return.

“You see the bond between Sean and Jean but also the real chemistry, the on screen chemistry between Gillian and Rob, you can’t take your eyes away from it, it’s transfixing,” revealed Jon.

Gillian also spoke about how determined she is to make sure Jean’s story is completely accurate.

“To prepare for something like this, there is no getting away from it, you have to do the homework. You just have to put the hours in and you have to do the research."

She added: “I’m absolutely adamant that what we do has to be spot on. We can’t dilly dally around it, you know, it’s got to be spot on.”

EastEnders continues on BBC1.

David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.


Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years on TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. 


David started out as a writer on TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.


Other than watching and writing about telly, David loves playing cricket, going to the cinema, trying to improve his tennis and chasing about after his kids!