Michelle Collins had to learn from Dame Barbara Windsor that her 'EastEnders' character had supposedly been killed off.

Michelle Collins was not told by writers that her EastEnders character had supposedly died in prison

Michelle Collins was not told by writers that her EastEnders character had supposedly died in prison

The 61-year-old actress made a shock return to her role as Cindy Beale on the BBC One soap opera in 2023 when it turned out that her character had not died in prison as originally claimed and had instead been in witness protection for nearly 25 years but recalled finding out from her late co-star Barbara - who played Peggy Mitchell - that she had been killed off at all when she informed her she had been filming scenes for the funeral.

Speaking on ITV's Lorraine, she said: "It's soap, isn't it? Aren't we kind of allowed? I never thought I would ever, ever go back. She died off-screen, so I was okay because I was kind of sunning myself filming 'Sunburn' and Barbara Windsor told me she'd been to Cindy's funeral! And I didn't even know she'd died, you'd think they might have told me!"

Michelle - who went on to star in a number of television dramas and played Rovers Return landlady Stella Price in rival soap opera 'Coronation Street' during the early 2010s - explained that she is "very, very different" these days and there have also been major changes production since her initial stint.

She added: "It was about 25 years [until I went back]. I was in my thirties when I left and now I'm like 61. I'm a very, very different person these days. There are only four cast members left [from the first episode], Steve McFadden, Gillian Taylforth, Letitia Dean and Adam Woodyatt. That's it. There are some crew which are still there, which is lovely. But it has changed. Huge cast, 46 or 57 now, I think when I was there there was probably 25. We do four a week, whereas in those days it was two a week. There's still people now I've not done any scenes with, I just see some people in the green room but you don't see them all the time."

Michelle added that she was ultimately inspired to go back to the role because she feels she still has "a lot more to give" in a world where she feels there is little "visibility" for older women in the industry.

She said: "I think soaps have always had great matriarchal figures like back to the days of Pat Phoenix in 'Coronation Street' - sorry to mention the other one - Angie...Anita Dobson...in 'EastEnders', Pauline Fowler, they had great storylines. For me, it was a big decision to go back but I thought about roles for older women. Where is that visibility for women of a certain age? We've still got a lot more to give as women, as an actress. "