Anita and Leslie starred opposite each other as Angie and Den Watts in the BBC soap for three years, until her character left Walford for good in 1988.
Speaking at a memorial for Professor Stephen Hawking, she said: “I think we were both really lucky that we were cast opposite each other, because the chemistry was magic. We didn’t have to do anything, it just happened. We learned our lines, we went on set and bang! We were off!
“And if anything went wrong, we covered each other. It was miraculous, really.”
Anita and Leslie’s ‘EastEnders’ characters’ fiery relationship provided some of the show’s most memorable scenes, particularly the infamous Christmas Day moment when Den provided Angie with gift-wrapped divorce papers.
Recalling their relationship behind the scenes, she noted: “I think he was the archetypal charming rogue. He was a good-looking guy, he was a charmer, he was funny. He was a good actor! And he was fun to be around, we were good mates.
“There was always that bit about him that was slightly unpredictable, which I liked, and I think that’s what gave him the edge on TV, there was a kind of restlessness in him, you know, which I think was innate to Leslie himself.
“But they were memorable times, I mean, they changed my life and they changed his.”
Days before Leslie’s death, his agent confirmed reports that he had fallen ill, and was under the care of medics, though the specifics of his health problems were not made public.
Current ‘EastEnders’ executive consultant, John Yorke, said, in a statement issued to HuffPost UK: “Everyone at ‘EastEnders’ is deeply saddened to hear that Leslie has passed away.
“We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to his family and friends at this extremely difficult time.”