The actress spoke to What’s on TV about her character’s illness.
Gillian has played EastEnders‘ Jean Slater since 2004. The popular character has seen many ups and downs with her mental health over the years but this year was faced with a new challenge – ovarian cancer.
Asked whether the storyline had impacted on her own life, Gillian told the publication that she was learning to “be better at living in the moment”.
“I’m definitely trying to be present. I always thought I was very good at living in the moment but I can’t tell you the number of times when I’ve thought ‘Where’s your head at, girl?” as I’m walking the dog and thinking about an argument I should’ve had!
“So I’m learning to be better at living in the moment, and teaching myself to not get so stressed about stuff, like DIY situations; to try and just work things through so that you achieve the end result you want.”
Gillian further noted that her Walford counterpart had “grown enormously” during her ordeal which has seen her undergo chemotherapy to combat the disease.
“The side effects of the treatment are the most debilitating, and she has found a strength of character because she has got through it, so far,” she said of Jean
The actress was speaking after winning the ‘Favourite Soap Star” category in this year’s TVTimes awards. To date, the actress to win the biggest number of TVT awards for a soap role is the late Noele Gordon who as Meg Mortimer in ATV’s Crossroads saw big wins from 1968 to 1978 including Best Actress, Most Compulsive Fictional Character and TV Personality (Female).
In 1975, Noele was issued a special gold TVT award for winning so many in the previous years and in 1979 she was the first to be inducted into the TV Times Awards Hall of Fame due to her popularity with soap opera viewers.