Anna Wing, the actress who breathed life into the character of Lou Beale on Eastenders, died this Sunday at the age of 89. Throughout her life, Wing had been many thing – a teacher, an artist’s model, even a nurse with the Red Cross during the war. Yet she will be remembered by most as an actor and not any actor, but the actor behind the matriarch Lou Beale. Wing’s term on the show was short – only four years, but she put an enormous of work into her character.

The original character outline by Julia Smith and Tony Holland, creators of EastEnders, described Lou Beale thus: "The changing face of the area (especially the immigrants) is a constant source of fear to her, but then she doesn't go out much. She prefers to be at home, or on a trip down memory lane."

It’s not much to go on, but Wing, the daughter of a greengrocer herself, managed to decode the character. She coped with tough filming schedules and, despite joining the cast at the age of 71, when most people would rather enjoy retirement, Wing worked 70 hours a week for the duration of her term on Eastenders. “All my life I’ve been an actress,” Anna Wing explained to the producers at her audition. ”Now I want to be a household name.”

Mission accomplished. Still, Wing’s real life influence extends far beyond the character of Lou Beale. In 2007, the actress estimated that she must have appeared in at least 50 plays in 68 years, among them Early Morning in 1969 and A Man for All Seasons in 1971. She also had small parts in films including Billy Liar (1963) and an adaptation of Ibsen's A Doll's House (1973). She had television experience as well, appearing in the ATV soap Market in Honey Lane between 1967 and 1969. By far her biggest role was to come late in her career, however, with EastEnders and Lou Beale. Post EastEnders, the actress continued to take on challenging roles in film and TV. In 2004, she was awarded an MBE for her services to drama and charity. Ana Wing is survived by two sons and five grandchildren.

Anna Wing, London
Unlike her character, Wing remained open and positive throughout her life.