Dobson's other television roles include the 1989 ITV sitcom Split Ends. In 2003, she was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Actress for the National Theatre production of Frozen. She has also starred in the West End as Mama Morton in the musical Chicago (2003) and Gertrude in Hamlet (2005), and made her RSC debut in the 2012 revival of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Her film appearances include Darkness Falls (1999) and London Road (2015).
She is married to Brian May, the guitarist of the English rock band Queen.
Dobson was born in Stepney, London. She trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
Dobson has appeared in several series in the early 1980s, including the Jim Davidson sitcom Up the Elephant and Round the Castle (1983), but she is best known for playing the emotionally battered and alcoholic landlady, Angie Watts, in the BBC1 soap opera, EastEnders, a role which she played from the show's inception in 1985 until 1988.
Dobson was not the first person to be cast as Angie – another actress, Jean Fennell, had already begun recording when it was decided that her performance did not "gel" with the original idea of the character, and Dobson was substituted in the role. Whilst playing Angie Watts, alcoholic landlady of the Queen Vic Dobson worked closely with actor Leslie Grantham, landlord of the Queen Victoria who played her adulterous husband 'Dirty Den Watts'. On Christmas Day in 1986, 30.15 million viewers tuned in to witness Den handing Angie her divorce papers, giving the soap its highest ever episode rating, which has yet to be surpassed by any other soap in the UK.
Since quitting EastEnders in 1988, BBC bosses made numerous offers for her to return, but she did not accept any of the offers; recently she commented "Why tarnish the gorgeous creation that was Angie Watts?" Bosses finally gave up hope of ever tempting her to return, and in 2002 the character of Angie Watts died off-screen of alcohol poisoning and was brought home to be buried by her on-screen daughter Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean), who had returned to the show the previous year.
Since her exit from EastEnders she has appeared in many television, film and theatre roles, including the BBC sitcoms Red Dwarf, Rab C. Nesbitt and her own sitcom series Split Ends (1989), which lasted for only one series. She has also starred in the BBC dramas Dangerfield (1995), Ghosts (1995), Sunburn (1999) and Hotel Babylon (2007), and the ITV detective series The Last Detective (2004) among others, along with the film Sweet Revenge (1998). She has also been reunited with fellow EastEnder Leslie Grantham in the Sky production called The Stretch and Five's Horror series Urban Gothic (2000).
Dobson worked on the ITV1 police drama The Bill in 2005 and appeared in the radio Doctor Who serial Blood of the Daleks. Dobson has also played five different guest characters in the BBC1 medical drama Casualty, appearing in episodes in October 2000, July 2009, July 2011, March 2013 and October 2017; she also had two guest roles in Casualty's sister series, Holby City, in September 2003 and December 2014 respectively. In 2016 Dobson appeared alongside Simon Callow in the Gold comedy series The Rebel.
Musical and stage career
Dobson has had a spell as a singer, with varying degrees of chart success. In August 1986 she reached No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart with "Anyone Can Fall in Love", a song based on the theme music of EastEnders, which was written by Simon May. The song was produced by Queen guitarist Brian May, who later became her husband. She has also released several other singles and albums with minor chart success.
On stage Dobson has starred in repertory at Salisbury Playhouse in Shaw's Pygmalion in 1980; the 1981 Ray Davies/Barrie Keeffe musical Chorus Girls and as Hazel Fletcher in the short-lived musical Budgie with Adam Faith. She also appeared in the revived Tom Stoppard musical Rough Crossing and played a holocaust survivor in My Lovely Shayna Maidel. She also appeared as Mama Morton in the West End musical Chicago.
Dobson played the role of Gertrude in the English Touring Theatre production of Hamlet, at the New Ambassadors Theatre in London's West End, following a UK tour in autumn 2005.
In 2012, Dobson played the role of Mistress Quickly in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of The Merry Wives of Windsor.
From September 2016 to January 2017 Dobson starred as Madame Morrible in the musical Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London.
Strictly Come Dancing
On 6 September 2011 it was announced that Dobson would take part in the 2011 series of Strictly Come Dancing. In the launch show of ninth series on 10 September 2011, it was revealed that she would be partnered by Latin specialist Robin Windsor. She was eliminated on 27 November 2011 after Robin Windsor had been unable to dance for a week due to an injury. Anita Dobson therefore rehearsed and danced the Cha Cha Cha and the Swingathon with Brendan Cole.
For her time on EastEnders as Angie Watts, Dobson received the Pye Award for Outstanding Female Personality.
Dobson was nominated for a 2003 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress for her performance in Frozen at the Royal National Theatre: Cottesloe.
In 2007, Dobson was made a Companion of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.
Dobson is a patron of the theatre charity the Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America.
TV and filmography
- The Fight (2018)
- Torvill & Dean - Miss Perry
- The Worst Witch – Mirabelle Hubble (2018)
- Call the Midwife – Mabel Tillerson (2017)
- Armada: 12 Days to Save England – Elizabeth I (2017)
- Loose Women – Herself (occasional panellist) 2015
- London Road – June Post Production 2015
- Pompidou – Sally Post Production 2015
- The Rise of the Krays - Madge (2015)
- Solitary – Nurse Mary 2014
- Moving On – Katy Marr 2013
- Casualty (5 episodes) 2000-2017
- Sadie J (1 episode) – Nan Bet 2012
- Coming Up Maggie (1 episode) 2011
- Gigglebiz (13 episodes) – various 2009-2011
- Little Crackers – Nan 2010
- Katy Brand's Big Ass Show – 2009
- Hotel Babylon – Lady Amelia Hamilton 2008
- The Bill (2 episodes) – Lynn Hunter / Jane Elliott 1997-2005
- New Tricks – Elaine Wanless 2005
- The Last Detective – Ruth Leyman 2004
- Charlie – Charlie's Mum 2004
- Holby City – Lynn Spencer One Episode 2003
- Doctors – Elizabeth Prior 2003
- NCS: Manhunt – Jean Harris 2002
- Fun at the Funeral Parlour – Fernando Thomas 2001
- The Stretch – Sam Greene (TV movie) 2000
- Urban Gothic – Fenella 2000
- Hearts and Bones – Donna Slaney 2000
- Junk (TV movie) – Mrs Lawson 1999
- Darkness Falls – Mrs Hayter 1999
- Sunburn – Joyce Potts 1999
- The Tichborne Claimant – Fanny Lodder 1998
- Sweet Revenge – Daphne Teal 1998
- Get Well Soon (1997)
- Highlander (TV series) – Molly Kingsley 1997
- New Voices Eileen (TV series) 1997
- The Famous Five – (TV series) Mrs Stick 1996
- Last of the Summer Wine – (TV series) Cameo, Christmas Special 1995
- Go Back Out (TV Movie) – 1995
- Dangerfield – Miriam Lampter (1 episode) 1995
- I'll Be Watching You – Suzi Rudkin 1995
- Seaview Knights – the Blind Concierge 1994
- Smokescreen – Gertie (TV miniseries, 5 episodes) 1994
- Beyond Bedlam – Judith 1994
- The Fireboy – Mum 1994
- Woof! – Mrs. Fuller (2 episodes) 1993
- Rab C. Nesbitt – Cath 1993
- Red Dwarf – Captain Tau 1993
- Euphoric Scale (short film) – 1993
- The World of Eddie Weary – (TV Movie) Roxanne 1990
- Split Ends – Cath 1989
- EastEnders – Angie Watts (274 episodes). Series regular: 1985-88
- Up the Elephant and Round the Castle – Lois Tight (3 episodes) 1983-1984
- Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime – Esther Quant 1983
- Nanny – Dorothy 1981
- Leave Him to Heaven (TV Movie) – Roxanne 1979
- Play Away – Herself 1971