Mona Hammond, a former EastEnders West End star and pioneer, has passed away. She was 91.
No cause of death has been given.
Hammond was best known for playing EastEnders matriarch Blossom on the long-running British soap opera and co-founder of the Black British theater company Talawa along with Yvonne Brewster, Carmen Munroe and Inigo Espejel in 1986.
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The actor was of Chinese and Jamaican descent, according to the guard, and changed her name from Mavis Chin to Mona Hammond to avoid typecasting. Hammond was born in Jamaica and moved to Britain in 1959, where he worked in an office while taking evening acting classes. Before long, she had won a scholarship to lead Britain’s leading drama school, RADA. She graduated in 1964 and quickly hit theaters across the country.
She also appeared in 70 on-screen roles, including in comedies The Crouches and We Girlsas well as playing Aunt Susu in sitcom Desmond’swhich ran from 1989 to 1994, and soap operas such as Coronation Street, Holby City and doctors† In 2005 she appeared in the movie Kinky boots alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor, Joel Edgerton and Sarah-Jane Potts.
In 2006 she played Rita-Anne in doctor whoalongside David Tennant and Billie Piper, and a role in Roland Emmerich’s feature film two years later 10,000 BC†
Her last on-screen role was in 2016, in a short film called Bucky opposite Frances Barber.
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News of Hammond’s death sparked a deluge of tributes, including from RADA, who tweeted: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Mona Hammond, Pioneer, RADA Graduate and Honorary Member”, while the EastEnders Twitter account also paid tribute brought by posting: “We are deeply saddened to hear that Mona Hammond has passed away. Mona created a no nonsense grandmother in Blossom Jackson who was adored by the public and everyone who worked with her. Our love and thoughts are with Mona’s family and friends.”
Jo Martin, who played Hammond’s daughter Natalie in The Croucheswrote: “Mona Hammond, honored to be her screen daughter. RIP Queen.”
Talawa’s Artistic Director Michael Buffong said in a statement: “Throughout her extensive career, Mona has been a pioneer in the arts and her incredible legacy will continue; she embodies Talawa – ‘small but mighty’.”
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The theater company also published a tribute to Hammond on their website. “We are devastated to learn of the passing of Mona Hammond OBE,” the statement said. Known and loved by many as Blossom in ‘Eastenders’ and Aunty SuSu in ‘Desmond’s’, we knew Mona as the co-founder of Talawa Theater Company – she was our national treasure. As one of the founders of Talawa Theater Company, Mona’s passion and vision have been fundamental to everything we do to create black theater and make theater more accessible to black people in the UK”
“Her prominent roles in theatre, TV and film leave others standing on her shoulders,” the statement continued. Mona Hammond inspired and continues to inspire so many who will always be directly or indirectly indebted to her amazing body of work. Mona was in the very first Talawa production in 1986, a dramatization of The Black Jacobins by CLR James – the story of Toussaint Louverture, who led the Haitian Revolution. At a time when it was believed black actors couldn’t play British classics, Mona redefined classic roles like Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in 1989.”
Mona’s repertoire also included Madam Love in the Jamaican classic An echo in the bone by Dennis Scott in 1986, described by The Caribbean Times as ‘drama that touches the human soul’, the musical ‘O Babylon!’ in 1988, and her re-image of The Fool in Talawa’s 1994 production King Lear.
“Talawa would not exist without Mona and her co-founders Yvonne Brewster, Carmen Munroe and Inigo Espejel; she was instrumental in driving the Black Theater movement forward in the UK. Mona was an integral and much-loved member of the Talawa family, and we will miss her greatly.”
Hammond leaves behind a son and a granddaughter.
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