Sarah Lancashire was honoured with the Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards (NTAs) on Tuesday (05.09.23).
The 58-year-old actress wiped away tears as she took to the stage at London's O2 to accept the accolade following an introduction from Sir Ian McKellen and a compilation video featuring highlights of her career and tributes from past co-stars including William Roache, Dawn French, Nicola Walker, James Norton, and Siobhan Finneran.
To chants of 'Sarah! Sarah!', she emotionally said: "You have no idea what it's like to have so many lovely things said about you by so many people you love and admire...
"I have been so very fortunate to spend my working life doing a job that I love, made possible by brilliantly talented people - producers, directors, writers, actors - and I am exceptionally lucky to have enjoyed every moment of it.
"But there are also enablers wo stand very quietly in the wings without expectation or due credit, they are my family, my husband, my children, my friends, my agent Nick, thank you.
"And of course a very vital component in this is you, the audience.
"Without you, all this would grind to a crashing halt. So carry on doing what you're doing, keep watching, and we'll keep doing what we do.
"Thank you so much for this, it's very special."
The prestigious honour wasn't Sarah's only trip to the stage either, as she also secured the Drama Performance award for her portrayal of Catherine Cawood in 'Happy Valley', and the show itself took the Returning Drama award.
Meanwhile, 'EastEnders' beat rivals 'Coronation Street', 'Emmerdale' and 'Hollyoaks' to the tightly-fought Serial Drama prize, marking the soap's third win of the night.
Speaking on behalf of the cast, Gillian Taylforth said: "Thank you to everybody who has voted for us, this means so much to us, it's amazing.
"'EastEnders' really is a team effort, we are a family. We stand up here taking the credit and the glory but there's so many people backstage and behind the scenes. WE'd love to thank everyone personally but if we did we'd be here all night. Don't worry, we'll come and celebrate with you lot when we get back to Walford.
"We'd also like to celebrate with the other nominees in this category who have had a wonderful and brilliant year.
"There's also one man we must say special thanks to and that is [executive producer] Chris Clenshaw."
Earlier in the evening, Danielle Harold fought back tears and admitted she wasn't prepared when she won the Serial Drama Performance award for her portrayal of brain tumour victim Lola Pearce-Brown's final days.
And that's not all because Bobby Brazier scooped the Rising Star honour in recognition of his role as Freddie Slater and dedicated his win to his dad, TV presenter Jeff Brazier, who looked on in tears.
Bobby said: "Oh wow. I've been thinking what I might say over the last couple of days and it's become obvious.
"This has very little to do with me and everything to do with my dad. Over the course of the last 20 years, I've consistently heard him say, 'Because I can', a mantra or a motto and him just saying that 'Because I can', why not."
Elsewhere at the ceremony - which was hosted by Joel Dommett - Ant and Dec took home the TV Presenter prize for the 22nd year in a row, while 'The Traitors' won Reality Competition, 'Gogglebox' scooped the Bruce Forsyth Entertainment Award, and 'Strictly Come Dancing' won the Talent Show prize ahead of 'Britain’s Got Talent', 'The Great British Bake Off', and 'The Great British Sewing Bee'.
The late Paul O'Grady - who died in March aged 68 - was awarded the Factual prize for 'The Love of Dogs', shortly after a touching compilation video, including his many previous NTA wins, had broadcast.
Leading those who worked on the show, head vet Shaun Opperman - to repeated interruptions from the barking of dog Wiley, who had been brought on stage - accepted the award and said: "We'd like to thank Paul of course and the ITV team. for shining a light on the care we are able to provide for the 100 or more dogs and cats that come to Battersea each week.
I know that Paul cared deeply about each and every one of those animals. I think there's something about their plight and vulnerability that really struck a chord with Paul. For over 10 years he was a tireless ambassador, not just for us but rescue animals everywhere."
As Wiley howled, he added: "For me though, he was just tremendous fun to work with and a lovely, lovely man and we will really miss him.
"Thank you Paul and thank you so much."
National Television Awards 2023 Winners list:
'Lewis Capaldi: How I’m Feeling Now'
Ant + Dec
'Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs'
Sarah Lancashire (Catherine Cawood, 'Happy Valley')
The Bruce Forsyth Entertainment Award:
'The Graham Norton Show'
Serial Drama Performance:
Danielle Harold (Lola Pearce-Brown, 'EastEnders')
Quiz or Game Show:
'The 1 Per Cent Club'
Bobby Brazier (Freddie Slater, 'EastEnders')
'The Repair Shop'
'Strictly Come Dancing'