Entertainment & Arts

Anna Wing, EastEnders' Lou Beale, dies aged 98

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Media captionAnna Wing as Lou Beale, defending grandson Ian Beale

Actress Anna Wing, best known for her role as Lou Beale in the BBC soap EastEnders, has died aged 98.

The star, who appeared in the BBC One programme from its start in 1985, passed away on Sunday, her agent said.

Wing featured as the opinionated Beale and Fowler family matriarch for three years, alongside Gretchen Franklin as her best friend Ethel Skinner.

Her character Lou, who was based on the aunt of EastEnders creator Tony Holland, was killed off in 1988.

"From the very first episode of EastEnders, Anna created one of the most iconic matriarchs in television history," said a spokesman on behalf of the programme.

Actor Adam Woodyatt, who plays Wing's on-screen grandson Ian Beale, paid tribute to "a wonderful lady" who put him "completely at ease" when filming.

"I have so many fond memories of her, my thoughts are with her family and friends," Woodyatt added.

Image caption Wing received an MBE for services to drama and charity in 2009

Actress June Brown, who starred as Lou's friend Dot Cotton, had appeared in a film with Wing before working with her on EastEnders.

"She was a very generous woman in many ways, and an excellent actress who made a script her own, lifting the character off the page and making it quite different from what you'd have expected," she said, in a statement.

Wing was 71 when she auditioned for the role, armed with her birth certificate to prove she was from London's East End.

Born in Hackney, London in October 1914, Wing started her career as an artist's model, before working in hospitals during World War II.

She gained a scholarship, funded by an unknown benefactor, to the Croydon School of Acting at the age of 21.

During the 1960s and 70s, she starred in a number of TV mini-series and films, including Doctor Who and The Woman in White.

Following her role in EastEnders, Wing appeared in The Bill, Casualty and most recently, Silent Witness.

She was made an MBE in the 2009 Birthday Honours, for services to drama and charity.

Speaking at the time she said "I wanted to be an actress when I was a little girl and everybody said no, but I did it. I stuck it out and I've done it for 70 years and I'm still working."

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