Gillian Wright felt like she had been "punched in the stomach" when she found out her "EastEnders" character would battle ovarian cancer.
The 58-year-old star was left "overwhelmed" when the Jean Slater storyline was first suggested to her by the BBC One soap's senior executive producer Kate Oates because she knew it would be "big", and she was "quite shocked" by her own reaction.
She said: "My heart absolutely plummeted and I felt I'd been punched in the stomach.
"I was quite shocked by my reaction really. Because it is such a big thing.
"I felt a bit overwhelmed by it. But at the same time I felt chuffed that they thought I was good enough to be able to carry a story like that."
Gillian was also pleased that Kate asked her advice on the plot before it became a concrete decision.
She said: "Kate Oates called me for a meeting and actually, she didn't" tell me, she said she had a story that she wanted to propose to me and asked what I thought about it.
"So it wasn't like, "You are doing this." It was more, "We've got this idea, we want to know how you feel about it and what you've got to say about it."
"And that was a really lovely way of approaching an idea."
Jon Sen recently landed the role as EastEnders" new exec producer, and he was "over the moon" when he found out the soap had Jean's cancer storyline in the pipeline.
Speaking in a joint interview on a video posted on the "EastEnders" Twitter account, he said: "When you join a show like "EastEnders" the first question you ask is, "What stories are on the table already?"
"I was over the moon when I heard they were doing the story of Jean's cancer."