Mona Hammond, a former EastEnders star and an advocate for black actors in theatre, passed away at the age of 91.
The Jamaican-British actress was most known for portraying Blossom Jackson, the matriarch, in the serial opera from 1994 until 1997. In 2010, she briefly returned to the role.
A representative for EastEnders expressed their “great sadness” over the news.
Blossom Jackson was “Mona’s no-nonsense grandma,” a spokesman stated, “who was adored by the audience and everyone who worked with her.”
“Mona’s family and friends are in our hearts and in our thoughts,”
Marcus Ryder, the head of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada), where Hammond studied in the 1960s, shared the news of her passing on Twitter.
To assist address the “paucity of creative options for black actors and the marginalisation of Black peoples from cultural processes,” Hammond also co-founded the ground-breaking Talawa Theatre Company in Croydon in 1986.
The organisation said in a statement to the BBC that it was “devastated” to learn of Hammond’s passing.
The statement stated, “Mona’s passion and vision will remain crucial to all that we do, and her legacy will long burn bright. She was one of the founders of Talawa, a trailblazer and champion of Black British theatre.
Prior to gracing Albert Square, Hammond played Auntie Susu in the early 1990s sitcom Desmond’s on Channel 4 and its follow-up, Porkpie.
Michelle Gayle, a fellow former EastEnders actress, led the tributes after hearing of Hammond’s passing and referred to her as “a queen” and “a trailblazer.”
Cheryl Fergison, a different ex-EastEnders actor, referred to her as “inspiration” on Twitter.
Ray Fearon, a former Coronation Street actor, wrote: “Farewell, Jamaican Queen. disappeared yet never forgotten.”
Charlene White, the host of Loose Women, also paid tribute online.
In the middle of the 1990s, Hammond gained the majority of his fame as the head of the Jackson family.
As a young child, the protagonist moved from Tobago to east London. Her first marriage to Nathan ended when he dumped her, and she lived with her common-law husband Bill for a large portion of her latter years until his passing in 1993.
After departing the soap in 1997, Hammond’s Blossom made several episodes in 2010 in connection with the funeral of her great-grandson Billie. She was joined by her on-screen grandson Alan Jackson.
But in 1986, she made her first appearance on the show in a much smaller role as Michelle Fowler’s midwife.
Hammond, who was born in Jamaica in 1931, travelled to the UK in her late 20s as part of a scholarship to work for an architecture business.
She received a Rada scholarship after taking acting workshops at night for two years. She then gained experience in plays including Macbeth and Josephine House.
She then spent two years performing at the Royal National Theatre, where her roles included those in Peer Gynt, Fuente Ovejuna, and The Crucible.
Before making her way to Albert Square via Desmond’s, which became Channel 4’s longest-running sitcom, Hammond began her career in television, making appearances on programmes including The Sweeney, Juliet Bravo, and having a cameo on Coronation Street.
The Peckham-based programme had a cast that was primarily British Guyanese of colour.
Hammond also portrayed Mabel Thompson on Radio 4’s The Archers.
Her later acting credits includes roles in the 2008 Roland Emmerich film 10,000 BC as well as TV dramas Holby City, Doctors, and Death in Paradise.
She received an OBE in 2005 for her contributions to drama in the UK, and the Edric Connor Inspiration Award, the highest honour bestowed by the Screen Nation Film and Television Awards, was given to her the following year.
For her work in theatre and support of black British performers, Hammond won the Women of the World lifetime achievement award in 2018; a year later, she was given an honorary Rada Fellowship.