EastEnders fans should brace themselves for heartache next week when Peggy returns to Walford, only to be told by doctors that her cancer has spread. Phil may be begging his mum to fight on, but it seems the Mitchell matriarch is determined to see out her final days among her nearest and dearest.
Here, Dame Barbara Windsor reveals all about her final weeks on the cast of the BBC1 soap and what happens when Peggy and Phil take a poignant trip down memory line in next week’s episodes…
So, why have you chosen to leave now?
Everyone knows I love EastEnders and that will never change. Peggy is a character close to my heart but I made the decision a while ago that I need to say goodbye to Peggy once and for all as otherwise she’ll always be there, urging me to go back and that’s something I need to shut the door on. After thinking long and hard about it, I realised that it’s time for me and the audience to say our final farewells to the lady who I’ve loved for many years and I thought that whilst the guvnor [executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins], who I adore, is still in charge, I want him to be the one to oversee it. I’m grateful that Dominic accepted my decision.
Why is Peggy back now?
She’s not well, the cancer is back. She knows she needs to be with her family. She briefly saw Phil before and she can’t just leave it there. Albert Square was a huge part of her life and that’s where she wants to be.
Why did she go to Ronnie’s and avoid Phil?
I think part of her is probably scared to tell him what’s going on. It’s easier for her to talk to Ronnie about it. At this point she doesn’t know how severe it is. I think she probably has an idea, but she doesn’t know for sure. She wants to know everything before she goes to Phil and breaks the news to him.
What’s going through Peggy’s mind when the doctor tells her the cancer has spread?
There’s a moment of shock for her but I think deep down she always knew this is what the doctor would say. It doesn’t take her long to accept it – she’s known for a while.
How does Phil react to the news?
It’s difficult for both of them. Peggy can see how much her boy is hurting but he needs to know the truth. He doesn’t take it well. He just can’t accept that this is it and wants her to fight for everything. But in reality, she’s been fighting and there’s nothing else that can be done.
How does Peggy feel being reunited with her family?
It’s bittersweet in a way. Seeing her grandchildren is particularly special for her. Apart from Phil and Ronnie, no one knows what’s going on and that’s the way Peggy wants it. They have no idea. She’s such a strong and proud woman and she doesn’t want them to feel sad for her, or worry for her. She wants to do what she’s always done and put her family first.
Peggy decides to take Phil on a trip down memory lane – what’s this about?
Phil wants to give Peggy the perfect day, he wants to spoil his mum and make her see she’s got something to fight for. Peggy knows what he’s trying to do and typically she does her own thing. But it’s a special moment for them. She wants to remind Phil of where he came from and share her memories with him. There are some beautiful moments between them – we were very lucky to get to film them.
There are lots of rumours flying around about who else might be returning – what can you tell us?
It’s such a special week and there’s lots of surprises. The episodes are something fans won’t want to miss. They did me proud. It’s a perfect ending for Peggy.
You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of EastEnders below.
And visit our dedicated EastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.