Anita Dobson: EastEnders controversy over Angie Watts role, why she refused to return to soap, marriage to Brian May, and mysterious Doctor Who character

Anita Dobson is currently playing the mysterious Mrs Flood in Doctor Who, but she famously made her name as the iconic Angie Watts in EastEnders.

TV viewers will no doubt remember the character as one of the most legendary in the world of soap. Her turbulent marriage to love rat Den Watts went down in history when he handed her divorce papers on Christmas Day 1986. The episode was watched by a record-breaking 30.1 million viewers.

After leaving the soap in 1988 after three years, the actress vowed never to return. But why? Here’s everything you need to know about Anita Dobson, her TV characters in the likes of Doctor Who and EastEnders, and her famous husband Brian May.


Who is Mrs Flood in Doctor Who?
Actress Anita Dobson portrays Mrs Flood in series 14 of Doctor Who. She joins Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor, and Coronation Street star Millie Gibson, who plays Ruby Sunday.

And fans will know that the character is not quite who she seems… Mrs Flood is the next-door neighbour of Ruby Sunday and her family, and seems like a sweet little old lady – until the credits scene of the Christmas special The Church on Ruby Road… Then, viewers saw her turn to the camera and say: “Never seen a TARDIS before?”

Of course, there have been numerous wild theories about her identity. Some fans believe she is the Doctor’s long-lost granddaughter Susan Foreman. Could she be a member of the Pantheon, another Time Lord, or even Ruby Sunday’s mum?

Writer Russell T Davies has teased that Mrs Flood is a “slow-burn”, so watch this space!

In the conclusion of the two-part finale (Saturday, June 22, 2024), The Doctor has lost, his ageless enemy reigns supreme, and a shadow is falling over creation… Nothing can stop the devastation – except, perhaps, one woman.

What else has Doctor Who star Anita Dobson been in?
Anita Dobson has a TV, film. and theatre career spanning nearly five decades. Her very first TV appearance was in 1979, when she portrayed Roxanne in the TV movie Leave Him to Heaven.

She went on to star in episodes of TV series, including Nanny, Take the Stage, and Partners in Crime. But it was in 1985 that she arrived in Walford as the legendary Angie Watts (read more below).

After leaving the BBC soap in 1988, Anita subsequently played Cath in Split Ends, popped up in Red Dwarf, and Smokescreen. She portrayed Mrs Ivy Osborne in Get Well Soon, and Jean Harris in NCS Manhunt.

Other notable roles include Margaret in The Rebel, Mirabelle Hubble in The Worst Witch, Grace Stephenson in The Long Call, and Bella in Murder, They Hope.

From 2023, she has played Mrs Flood in Doctor Who. Anita has been in multiple film roles, including This Time Next Year, Tomorrow Morning, The Fight, and The Fall of the Krays.

She’s also known for her stage, and theatre career. And even had a successful music career in the 80s. In 1986, she reached number four in the UK Singles Chart with Anyone Can Fall in Love, a song based on the theme music of EastEnders.

Leslie Grantham and Anita Dobson smiling
Who did Anita Dobson play in EastEnders? Why did she leave?
Anita Dobson played one of the most iconic characters in EastEnders. She portrayed Angie Watts from 1985, when the soap began, to 1988 when she left.

Angie was the first wife of Den Watts, and adoptive mother of Sharon. Angie and Den were the first on-screen landlord and landlady of The Queen Vic. The couple were unable to have children of their own, and adopted Sharon Watts.

As the show began, it was clear Den and Angie didn’t have the perfect marriage. Far from it, in fact. In 1985, Den ended up sleeping with Sharon’s best friend, 16-year-old Michelle Fowler resulting in her getting pregnant.

In 1986, Den made plans to leave his wife. However to try and prevent Den leaving, Angie told him she was dying and only had six months to live. Den fell for this and promised to be there until she died. He soon took her on a second honeymoon.

The couple returned home on the Orient Express, but a drunk Angie confessed to the barman that she wasn’t actually dying. Unaware Den overheard, he plotted his revenge. On Christmas Day, he served his wife with divorce papers saying: “Happy Christmas Ange.”

It remains one of the most memorable scenes in soap history. Angie subsequently moved out of the pub and became manager at Willmott-Brown’s pub, The Dagmar. However she ended up quitting, and returned to The Vic, where she kept a professional relationship with Den (Leslie Grantham). However her battle with alcoholism escalated.

Angie eventually left Walford to go to Spain with boyfriend, Sonny. But in 2002, Angie died of cirrhosis of the liver off-screen. However Sharon was by her mum’s side when she died.

Why did Anita refuse to return to EastEnders?
In 1988, Anita Dobson decided to leave the soap after three years. She left in May 1988. But fans weren’t happy, and desperately wanted her back. As did, according to reports, the soap bosses.

Despite many alleged attempts at getting Dobson to return, she never accepted. Instead, she said: “Why tarnish the gorgeous creation that was Angie Watts?”

The character of Angie Watts was subsequently killed off-screen in 2002. In 2010, Dobson said she was glad her character was killed off, as it was unrealistic that the character would ever return.

Anita Dobson and Brian May very tanned dressed in white
Anita Dobson and Brian May pictures in the early days of their relationship (Credit:
The controversy surrounding Angie Watts’ character
Anita Dobson was not the original Angie Watts. In fact, another actress was originally cast to play the role. Jean Fennell was given the role at first…

However, during rehearsals, the soap bosses began to realise that she was wrong for the part. The decision was made to re-cast the role of Angie – with only four days to go until filming began.

After a very successful reading, Anita Dobson was cast as Angie. And the rest of history!

Jean died in 2011 at the age of 59. She only ever had one significant screen role. She played Loti in the film Further and Particular.

Are Brian May and Anita Dobson still together?Anita Dobson Doctor Who
Anita Dobson is married to Brian May, now 76. Of course, Queen fans will know he’s the lead guitarist of the pop-rock band, currently fronted by Adam Lambert.

The pair first met in 1986, when Brian was married. After his divorce, Brian and Anita married in November 2000. They’ve been married 24 years.

To show his love for his wife, Brian wrote the song Too Much Love Will Kill You in 1992. The song reflected the breakdown of his first marriage, and his attraction to Anita.

Brian’s first marriage to Christine Mullen lasted from 1976 to 1988.

Brian May and Anita Dobson at premiere of Bohemian Rhapsody in 2018

Does Anita Dobson have children?
Anita does not have her own children. She is credited as saying that she choose not to become a mum, “because I was passionate about having my career”.

However, she is very much a part of Brian May’s family. He has three children – Jimmy (born 1978), Louisa (born 1981) and Emily (born 1987) – with his first wife.

Her three step-children with Brian May are very much grown-up now, and have children of their own. So Brian and Anita are grandparents!

Anita Dobson and Strictly star Robin Windsor
Did Anita Dobson do Strictly?
Anita took part in Strictly Come Dancing in 2011 during series 9. She was partnered with the late professional dancer Robin Windsor, who sadly died earlier this year at the age of 44.

When Robin Windsor was unable to dance for a week due to an injury, Anita rehearsed and performed the Cha-cha-cha and the Swing-a-Thon with Brendan Cole.

She was eliminated on November 27, 2011, coming seventh in the competition overall.

How old is Anita? Where is she from?
Anita Dobson was born on April 29, 1949, in Stepney, London.

She is currently 75 years of age.

She trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

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