Actress Jaime Winstone has revealed Dame Barbara Windsor described her as ‘more me than me’ when she portrayed the former EastEnders star in 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.
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Iconic role: Jaime Winstone will appear as Barbara Windsor in new BBC drama Babs, which recounts the renowned singer and actress’s rise to fame since she first dazzled stage directors as a child
Troubled: Director Tony Jordan said the drama would explore Barbara’s troubled marriage to Ronnie Knight. He said: ‘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’
The young Dame Barbara is played by Kidulthood star Winstone, who ticked every box right down to the famous cheeky giggle.
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.
Top tip: Jaime revealed that the iconic actress had given her a top tip as she took on the intimidating task of portraying her on screen. The Kidulthood actress said Barbara had told her to to ‘keep it camp’
‘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.
Dame Barbara, who will celebrate her 80th birthday in August, makes a cameo appearance in the film which will be broadcast on Sunday.
Carry On giggling! The show will look at Barbara’s relationship with her Carry On co-star Kenneth Williams who she joined as a ditzy, busty blonde in ten Carry On films including Carry On Dick and Carry On Spying
Nailed it: Jaime perfectly emulated Barbara’s look in the 1960s when she sported a fluffy white-blond beehive hair-do, arched eyebrows, lashings of mascara, pink lips and made sure to stand with her impressive chest thrown out
Gracious: Jaime added that Barbara was gracious and allowed her space to make the role her own. Jaime said: ‘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’
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.
Determination: Joan Littlewood was an important influence in the actress’s career before Barbara found fame in film and television. Zoe Wanamaker was tasked with bringing the theatre director to life in the drama
Two Barbaras: While Jaime portrays the legendary actress in her Carry On days, Samantha Spiro takes over the role to portray the star during her 22-year tenure as Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders
All star cast: Zoe Wanamaker appears in the drama as Joan Littlewood, a theatre director who worked closely with Barbara during her stage career
‘I knew that changed her life forever, like a fork in the road, and I wanted her to be there and acknowledge that moment.’
Jordan and Winstone spoke during a discussion at The Broadway Theatre in Catford, south-east London, which features in the film.
Making a brief appearance on stage herself, Dame Barbara said: ‘I hope my mum and dad are looking down, and everybody else responsible for putting me on the stage from the age of six.
‘I am so thrilled that you have all come to see little old me. Thank you so much. God bless you all.’
The film also stars Zoe Wanamaker and Samantha Spiro, who portrays Dame Barbara in her 50s.
Babs will air on BBC One at 8pm on May 7.
Young Babs! The film will feature scenes from the early years of Barbara’s life in dirt-poor Shoreditch, East London
National treasure: Jaime revealed that Dame Barbara paid her the ultimate compliment when she watched rehearsals and told the young actress: ‘Oh darling, you’re more me than me’. The icon will make a cameo in the drama based on her own life
Surreal: Barbara happily posed with the two actresses, Samantha Spiro and Jaime Winstone, who are tasked with bringing her incredible life story to the small screen
Overwhelmed: The gracious star appeared at a discussion about the drama and appeared overwhelmed at the thought of her life getting the television treatment. She said: ‘I hope my mum and dad are looking down, and everybody else responsible for putting me on the stage from the age of six. I am so thrilled that you have all come to see little old me. Thank you so much. God bless you all’