Jaime Winstone says Barbara Windsor sent 'signs' over her taking on her 'EastEnders' role

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Jaime Winstone attends The BRIT Awards 2022 at The O2 Arena on February 08, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by JMEnternational/Getty Images)
Jaime Winstone plays Peggy in a special episode. (JMEnternational/Getty Images)

Jaime Winstone has said she looked to the late Dame Barbara Windsor for "signs" about whether she should play her character Peggy Mitchell in the upcoming flashback episode of EastEnders.

The actor, 37, will portray a younger version of the Albert Square matriarch in a special instalment of the BBC soap set in the winter of 1979.

Speaking on This Morning, she said it was an "honour" to play the character made famous by Dame Barbara, who died in December 2020 aged 83 following a battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Read more: EastEnders' June Brown recalls final conversation with Barbara Windsor

"I did sort of speak to her and say you know, 'Is this the right thing for me? Am I allowed to do it?'" said Winstone.

"And I had a few signs."

<p>EastEnders beat arch-rivals Coronation Street and Emmerdale as Yahoo UK's most searched-for soap throughout 2016. The BBC show kicked off the year with the shock return of Walford matriarch Peggy Mitchell to Albert Square. Some 8 million viewers reached for their hankies as she died after taking an overdose a few months later. </p>
Dame Barbara Windsor died in 2020.(BBC)

Winstone – who previously played Dame Barbara in the 2017 biopic Babs – went on: "I felt like, she'd always say to me on set when we did Babs is, you know, 'You are more me than me'."

The actor said she also had a "deep chat" with her agents about the part.

"But when it’s an opportunity like this – Peggy Mitchell, the landlady of our nation – it’s an honour for me," she added.

Winstone told hosts Ruth Langsford and Rylan Clark that she had to "shake that ‘Carry On’-esque'" aspect when she was shooting the BBC soap.

She went on: "It took a long time to shake that wiggle and that giggle, but I got to implement all the stuff personally with Barbara… I got to see her at home and I got to sit around the piano and sing with her.”

“She was so gorgeous and so generous with her time and had so much love and energy," she went on.

The episode airs in September. (This Morning)
The episode airs in September. (This Morning)

The star said the episode is "about the family before the Mitchells became the Mitchells".

"It’s set in 1979, the backdrop is London, grim, they are quite skint, there’s rubbish on the streets… and different for women then, women knew their place and did the cooking, the cleaning and were very proud home keepers," she said.

EastEnders stars Barbara Windsor (who plays bride 'Peggy Mitchell') and Mike Reid (groom 'Frank Butcher', sceond from left), with co-stars during a photocall outside the Queen Vic pub at London's Elstree studios, where their on-screen wedding reception was filmed.   * Joined by fellow actors (l-r) Pam St Clement (Pat), Ross Kemp (Grant), Steve McFadden (Phil), Shaun Williamson (Barry), and Tony Caunter (Roy).
Peggy was one of the soap's best-loved characters. (BBC)

Winstone also said it was a "turbulent" instalment and would show a more vulnerable side to the Queen Vic landlady.

Read more: Barbara Windsor’s husband Scott Mitchell pays tribute to ‘soulmate’

"It’s the making of how Peggy Mitchell became Peggy Mitchell," she explained.

The EastEnders special will air on BBC One on 5 September at 7.30pm.

This Morning airs weekdays from 10am on ITV and ITV Hub.

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