EastEnders June Brown on playing Dot: "It keeps me alive"

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EastEnders actress June Brown says being part of the BBC soap is "keeping her alive".

Brown, who turns 90 this month, has played chain-smoking Dot Cotton - now Branning - since July 1985, six months after the soap first aired.

She told Radio 4's Desert Island Discs that her role was a reason to get up in the morning and said: "As soon as I get on the stage it's as if I have energy."

A smoker in real life too, Brown chose tobacco seeds as her luxury item.

Asked by host Kirsty Young how she keeps her energy levels up to act, Brown said: "I haven't really got very much now but I find when I get on set, my energy comes.

"It's like people can go on stage and break an ankle and they don't notice till they come off...

"I can be feeling like death warmed up when I come in, and then I'm alive. It keeps me alive."

She continued: "I think that's why a lot of people are very lonely and get ill when they're older, because I think loneliness and having no motivation, nothing to work towards... I think it kills you."

When asked whether she was interested in retiring, she said: "No not at all, I couldn't possibly.

"What would I do?"

Brown said that her independence was "extremely important" to her.

"If people put out hands to help me out of a car I say 'no thank you' - I won't accept it.

"And I get up and I don't push myself up from the arm of a chair. I use my thighs because you have to do that.

"You can act yourself into age, you can act yourself into anything you want."

The Bafta-nominated actress said she was "quite upset" about Dot losing her sight.

Her character had worked in Albert Square's laundrette until recent months when she retired against her will.

"I feel that Dot - she's very quick and quick moving and quick speaking - and I do not want to become a dependant old woman, or otherwise my character's gone, and I might as well not be there," she said.

"I can run as Dot, I find myself running across the road, and I don't want to lose my character.

"It's like being in a wheelchair or something, and not ever getting out of it."

Brown said she would grow her own tobacco from seeds if she were stranded on a desert island - and would make paper from the leaves - displaying a love for cigarettes that she shares with Dot.

Her selection of songs included Cliff Richard's Living Doll and Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters.

Profile: June Brown

When Dot Cotton arrived in Albert Square in 1985, Brown was in her late 50s.

Actor Leslie Grantham, who played Dirty Den, suggested her for the role, which she played from 1985 to 1993, and from 1997 onwards.

Before EastEnders, Brown's career had incorporated stage, film and television, with appearances in Coronation Street and Doctor Who.

In 2008, the actress became the first in a British soap to carry an entire episode alone, with an emotional monologue dictated to a cassette for her screen husband to listen to in hospital following a stroke.

Brown was appointed MBE in 2008 for her services to drama and charity.