EastEnders Dot returns to square in New Year

June Brown in EastEnders Brown earned a Bafta nomination for the role in 2009

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Chain-smoking Dot Branning is to return to EastEnders in the new year after what producers called "an explosive Christmas" in Albert Square.

Veteran actress June Brown will return to the role in January after taking a sabbatical in the spring.

Brown joined the BBC series in 1985. Her character was then known as Dot Cotton, changing her name in 2002 when she married Jim Branning.

The 85-year-old actress took a four-year break from the show in the 1990s.

EastEnders' executive producer Lorraine Newman said: "Dot is one of EastEnders' best-loved characters and Albert Square hasn't been the same without her."

During the most recent break from EastEnders, Brown wrote her memoir and worked on a BBC1 documentary, Respect Your Elders.

The role earned her a Bafta nomination for best actress in 2009, after a special episode in which she delivered a 30-minute monologue.

The programme showed her dictating an emotional message into a cassette machine for her husband to hear in hospital as he recovered from a stroke.

Although she eventually lost out to Anna Maxwell, it was the first time a soap actress had been nominated in her category since Jean Alexander - Hilda Ogden in Coronation Street - was shortlisted in 1988.

It was EastEnders' star Leslie Grantham, aka Dirty Den, who originally suggested her for the role.

Until then, the Suffolk-born actress's career had incorporated stage, film and television, with appearances in Coronation Street and Doctor Who.

She was appointed an MBE in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours for services to drama and charity.

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