Gay Labour peer Michael Cashman joins EastEnders cast for Dot Cotton’s funeral

Michael Cashman

Gay Labour peer Michael Cashman is set to reprise his EastEnders role for Dot Cotton’s funeral.

Cashman famously starred in the BBC soap from 1986 to 1989 as Colin Russell, an openly gay character who made tabloid headlines with EastEnders‘ first ever same-sex kiss.

He later left the soap and went into politics, serving in the European Parliament before going into the House of Lords.

More than 30 years after he bowed out of EastEnders, Cashman is set to reprise his role as Colin for the funeral of Dot Cotton, who was played on the soap by June Brown.

Gary Hailes, who played his on-screen boyfriend in the ’80s, will also be making an appearance in the episode, the BBC has confirmed.

In a statement, Cashman explained why he jumped at the opportunity to return to EastEnders for Dot’s funeral.

“When I was asked back I didn’t even hesitate because I couldn’t have imagined not being there for June, and I know Colin couldn’t have imagined not being there for Dot – they had that amazing, deep friendship that lasted during their years, and it was exactly the same with June and me,” Cashman said.

Dot Cotton, played by June Brown.

Dot Cotton, played by June Brown. (Getty)

“June was unique, and there are so many incredible stories I could tell, but amongst my favourite moments of Dot was her monologue to Jim – she was a character, and actress, that will last beyond the test of time.”

The BBC confirmed that Cashman will appear alongside his former on-screen boyfriend for the first time since 1989. The characters went their separate ways in 1989, with Barry, played by Hailes, leaving to work as a DJ on a cruise ship.

EastEnders cast pay tribute to June Brown

Hailes said: “Being invited back to the show after almost 30 years away was exciting, scary, and strange, but overall it was really nice!

EastEnders has always been a big part of my life so to have the opportunity to come back – there were nerves – but that quickly turned into excitement, and warmth at the chance to honour Dot.

“June was an incredibly genuine person both on and off-screen, she really cared and was attentive to people. That’s one thing I’ll never forget.”

Executive producer Chris Clenshaw said it was important that they brought back important people from Dot’s past as a tribute to the character and the actress who played her.

“It’s an honour to invite so many of Walford’s beloved characters back to pay tribute to Dot,” Clenshaw said.

“Over the years, Dot profoundly impacted the lives of many young people struggling with life’s biggest challenges. Her warmth, heart and compassion changed lives – so we wanted to reunite some of the people she helped the most.

“I’m thrilled these talented and generous actors wanted to share this special experience with us so we can give Dot a fitting send-off.”

Cashman’s EastEnders character didn’t have the best start with Dot on the show. She famously spread rumours that he had AIDS on the square after she found out he was sharing a bed with his boyfriend.

However, their relationship blossomed after that, and Colin supported her after she learned her husband Charlie was a bigamist.

June Brown died aged 95 on 3 April 2022, two years after she stepped away from the long-running soap.

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