Actress Jaime Winstone has told how Dame Barbara Windsor described her as “more me than me” when she portrayed the former EastEnders star for a new film about her early life.
Told through a series of recreated flashbacks, the upcoming BBC One drama Babs recounts the renowned singer and actress’s rise to fame since she first dazzled stage directors as a child.
But it also delves into the dark stories that plagued her personal life before she began her 22-year stint as Peggy on the soap – including her turbulent relationship with her beloved father and her rocky marriage to first husband Ronnie Knight.
The young Dame Barbara is played by Kidulthood star Winstone, who ticked every box right down to the famous cheeky giggle. Samantha Spiro plays her in her 50s.
Speaking at a special screening of the show in east London, she said: “Sometimes Barbara would be watching us filming and it was terrifying, I would look out and she would be there staring, and it was so surreal.
“But once she came up to me and said, ‘Oh darling, you’re more me than me’, and that was a huge pat on the back.
“She said, ‘At the end of the day, this is your role’. That’s what makes her even more amazing –this is her life story and she had the grace to sit back and tell me it was also my job.”
The 31-year-old added that the best tip Dame Barbara gave her was to “keep it camp” as the film touched on her debuts in theatre and on TV, including her first run-in with Kenneth Williams on the Carry On set.
Broadcasting next weekend, the show comes in the lead-up to Dame Barbara’s 80th birthday in August – and she has already marked the occasion with cameo appearances in the film.
Director Tony Jordan said of the special scenes: “I couldn’t resist, I knew she would be up for it. There were moments in the script, such as a shot with all the guys (she had been close to) where I could hear her voice as I wrote it, saying ‘That’s not funny’ – so I wrote that in.
“Then there is the moment where she decides whether to invest in Ronnie, despite everything she had heard about him. I knew that changed her life forever, like a fork in the road, and I wanted her to be there and acknowledge that moment.”
Babs will air on BBC One at 8pm on May 7.