Loose Women welcomes new panel member – and it's a huge EastEnders star

The Loose Women panel are new and huge set to welcome a new guest next week as they enlist EastEnders favourite Natalie Cassidy to join them, despite last appearing as a panellist in 2012.

She’s one of EastEnders’ best known characters after first appearing on the hit BBC soap 30 years ago and although the star has recently teamed up with Gavin and Stacey star Joanna Page to launch a new podcast, named Off the Telly, where they'll catch up on topical TV, Natalie is adding another notch to her working belt as she joins the Loose Women cast.

Natalie also recently opened up on the acting future for her daughter. The 40-year-old exclusively told OK! that ‘independent’ Eliza, 13 likes being behind the camera and taking part in musical theatre. But Natalie added she would like her to try out different things.

Natalie Cassidy
Natalie Cassidy will be joining the Loose Women panel next week -Credit:BBC

Natalie said, “Eliza is like me. She loves acting and musical theatre.” She added, “As a mum, I just want her to do what I didn’t do, and that’s just to get some more stuff under her belt. I think it’s important to be able to do something else as well."

She continued, “She’s on a little agency as we speak and if anything was to come in that’s interesting and wouldn’t take up too much time, I’m happy for her to get experience and do that. But I feel her education is important."

During an exclusive chat with OK!, Natalie also opened up on the devastating death of June, as she shared some hilarious anecdotes about the TV legend, as well as saying it was an "honour" to lead the episode about Dot's funeral.

JAMES ALEXANDROU as Martin Fowler and NATALIE CASSIDY as Sonia Fowler.
Natalie Cassidy joined EastEnders as Sonia in 1993 -Credit:BBC

Speaking about June's death, Natalie said: "It was very, very difficult for me, because obviously I’ve lost a dear friend as well as a colleague. She taught me a lot and we had a lot of laughs over the years."

Natalie went on to dish on her close friendship with June, as she shared some of their experiences together over the years, telling us: "We’ve been on holiday together, and she [June] used to stay at my house and we’d put our pyjamas on, have a glass of wine and learn our lines together. When she was 82 years old she’d be partying in a nightclub, and she was just so amazing.

"We had the best time. It was an honour to lead that episode [Dot’s funeral] and be at the helm of everything. There was a lot resting on my shoulders, but I think I did her proud."

June Brown's funeral in EastEnders
Natalie Cassidy spoke about how emotional it was filming these scenes for the late June Brown -Credit:BBC

Natalie's character, Sonia, is as legendary as Dot Cotton, and during her chat with OK!, Natalie spoke fondly of the role that she portrays - and whether she would ever consider doing a different soap or TV show.

She said: "I certainly wouldn’t do a different soap - that would be terrible, jumping ship after all this time! My loyalty is with EastEnders. But I had eight years off, so I’ve not been there for a full 30 years and there’s always room to have more time off in the future. "I just see Sonia as someone who’s a constant on Albert Square. She’s familiar and safe and she’s kind of the normal one, so I think there’s always room for her to be there. EastEnders is like my home."