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Barbara Windsor was £1m in debt when she landed her EastEnders role, calling the job “the answer to all my prayers”.
The actor, who died last week after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease, played Peggy Mitchell in the BBC soap for more than 20 years – and admitted that the role came at exactly the right time.
In her autobiography All Of Me: My Extraordinary Life, she wrote: “EastEnders was the answer to my prayers.”
Windsor wrote that she had discovered that The Plough pub in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, that she owned with estranged husband Stephen Hollings had racked up debt, leaving her responsible for £1m.
Read more: Ross Kemp calls for ‘Barbara tax’
Hollings was refusing to sell the pub, leaving Windsor liable for a huge bill.
She wrote: “There was no way I could pay that. I hadn’t earned that kind of money in all the years I’d been in showbusiness put together.”
Watch: Michelle Collins says Barbara Windsor was ‘working-class hero’
The star said also that then-new boyfriend Scott Mitchell, who would later become her husband, had started to rely on alcohol and that the problems in her personal life started to become too much for her, leaving her sobbing to co-star Ross Kemp.
But Mitchell eventually tackled his drinking demons and they married in 2000, while as Peggy she featured in a huge EastEnders storyline where her character developed breast cancer.
Read more: Barbara Windsor: A life in pictures
However, during an emotional scene she forgot her lines, something that would start to become more of a problem.
She wrote: “It was something that would happen more and more before I finally had to give up EastEnders — the dream job I hoped would go on forever.”
Watch: Tributes pour in for Barbara Windsor