The actor, who plays Honey Mitchell in the soap, said she took inspiration from her work ethic and loved hearing stories about her time in the Carry On films.
"She was so brilliant because there's some some actors who don't like to talk about things that happened years ago, but she loved it.
"It was a dream. I still now go: 'Oh my god. I worked with Dame Barbara Windsor.'"
WATCH: Emma Barton on her first day on Eastenders
Thornton said: "If you loved her like that from afar, it must have been so exciting to get to love her up close."
"Absolutely," Barton replied. "And learn from her. Anyone that worked with Barbara, we would learn so much [about] her work ethic. I said this to [Windsor's husband] Scott: 'If I can have a small bit of what Barbara had and continue that work ethic, and I'll die happy.'"
Barton has appeared on the soap since 2005 on and off and got to the final in 2019's series of Strictly Come Dancing, dancing with Anton du Beke.
Listen to the full episode to hear about Emma's long lasting friendship with Hannah Waddingham, the cruel twist of karma that lead to her missing her big West End break and her first day on 'Eastenders'
She remembered a time she had gone to the a performance of the Bodyguard in the West End with the late star and her husband, Scott Mitchell, saying Windsor had a queue of people waiting to talk to her in the interval — and remembering the star would talk to everybody 'from royalty to the dustman'.
Of the theatre visit she said: "She didn't have an interval, she couldn't go for a wee couldn't get an ice cream, couldn't get a gin, because the queue of people in the auditorium just wanting to have a piece of her or say hello, or have a picture.
"And she did, you'd never hear her complain. I just love that, and I want to mirror that."
She added: "I'm just so grateful that I had that experience and opportunity."
Barton also remembered running the London Marathon for Alzheimer’s charities after Windsor's diagnosis, and Mitchell pulling together a team of Eastenders actors.
Saying her knee 'blew up like a balloon' and that she would never do a marathon again, Barton said training for the run in only three months was 'tough'.
She told Thornton: "I love getting involved with charities, I love talking about animals and things like that.
"It doesn't give me anything, financially or anything, because I just do it for the love of it.
But it just gives me so much joy to work alongside the dementia charities and Down Syndrome charities."
She was also full of praise for her co-star Perry Fenwick, who plays Billy Mitchell on the show calling him a 'really good egg' and saying she had learned so much from him too.
"He really reassured me on those first few weeks of the show," she said. "I was absolutely petrified.
"It took me about three months to settle thinking: 'I don't know if I can do this.' But I'm still here."
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