EastEnders actress Lacey Turner said she could chat to June Brown “like she was a friend of the same age” – despite their age difference.
Brown, who played chain-smoking Dot Cotton on the BBC soap for more than 30 years, died at her home on Sunday aged 95.
Turner, 34, who was a teenager when she joined the programme, said she feels “blessed and lucky” to have “so many special memories of June”.
Appearing on BBC Breakfast, the actress, who joined EastEnders as Stacey Slater in 2004, said: “It’s just so surreal. You turn up on your first day at work and you’re blessed with the presence of the likes of June Brown, Barbara Windsor and Wendy Richard… all these incredible icons. It’s just mind-blowing.
“To watch them work over the years, it truly is an honour because they work with the old-school glamour that isn’t around anymore.
“Just to be around (Brown)… I was 16 or 17 and June would have been late 70s, and you could have a conversation like she was a friend of the same age. It was amazing.”
Brown first set foot in Walford’s Albert Square in 1985 in the soap’s 40th episode, quickly becoming one of the best-loved and most memorable characters.
Turner added: “She wasn’t like Dot so much at all. She really had a great sense of humour, she was incredibly witty and she was so young at heart.
“She knew everything. She was just full of knowledge. What 90-something year old can become friends with Lady Gaga? She was really quite incredible.”
Lacey said she learnt “true professionalism” by sharing the screen with Brown.
“Often, you would turn up for a scene and she would have rewritten it on the day so you have got a couple of minutes to learn it, but you trusted in June,” she said.
“You knew it was going to be better and she did go to the lengths to get someone to print it off for you, which always made me giggle because you would just turn up and have a whole new scene to learn.
“Her professionalism, her care and passion for her craft and the detail that she put into her character was mesmerising to watch. Both watching Dot and listening to June, I was absolutely mesmerised.”
EastEnders star John Altman, who played Brown’s on-screen son “nasty” Nick Cotton, said she was a “real stickler” for the script being accurate and would often guide him in scenes.
“(They were) treasured moments for me in my career. It was such a joy to work with her,” he said on Good Morning Britain.
“She was older than me so she was more experienced. She’d guide me sometimes, saying, ‘Slow down a bit on that, dear.’
“She was a dear friend, someone I could confide in, and probably my second mother, really. My real mother said she looked more like my mother than she did.”
Lord Michael Cashman, who joined EastEnders in 1986 playing Colin Russell, said he “hit it off” with Brown straight away and admired how she fought for her character on the set.
“When she fell out with the show, which she did because she loved it, it was often because the writing did not match what she thought it should and didn’t match Dot,” he said.
“She fought for Dot. She understood Dot. Becoming a national treasure, it trips off the tongue easily but it was June that became the national treasure with Dot.
“Often in a soap, you know the character but you never know the actress. June showed us her, that brilliant woman, the truth, the integrity, and it’s that which shone through her character, through her acting and through the show.”
Lord Michael said Brown “loved” being around good actors.
He added: “If you didn’t know the lines, she had little time for you. She had classical training, she had worked her way up and she expected you to do your job. She was incredible.”