Mona Hammond, best known for playing Jackson clan matriarch Blossom Jackson on BBC soap opera EastEnders, has died aged 91.
A distinguished Jamaican-British stage actor of Chinese descent, Hammond has been hailed as a “trailblazer” and “trailblazer” for her work on stage, screen, television and radio, and for her support of black british actors.
Tributes were paid after news of his death was announced. The President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada), Marcus Ryder, tweeted: “It is with sadness that I wake up hearing the news of the passing of Mona Hammond.”
Charlene White, presenter of The Loose Women tweeted“Mona Hammond, a trailblazer in every way. Thanks.”
Radio host and journalist Lorraine King wrote: “RIP Mona Hammond. An extremely talented Jamaican actress who has done theater and TV but who will always be Desmond’s Auntie SuSu for many of us.
“She will be greatly missed. May she sleep in peace.
Hammond was named an OBE in the 2005 Queen’s Birthday Honors List for his services to the theatre. In 2018, she received the Women of the World award for lifetime achievement in theater and for championing black British actors.
This latest award was for her work at the Talawa Theater Company, one of the UK’s most prominent black theater companies, which she co-founded in response to the lack of creative opportunities for black actors. The company has produced over 80 productions, from African classics to Oscar Wilde.
Born in Jamaica, Hammond, real name Mavis Chin, emigrated to the UK in 1959 on a Jamaican scholarship and worked for architects Norman & Dawbarn.
She attended evening classes at the City Literary Institute in London for two years and received a scholarship from Rada.
Graduating in 1964, Hammond began her career on stage and television. Her first lead role was as Lady Macbeth at the Roundhouse in London in 1970 in the African version of Peter Coe’s play.
She starred in many plays by up-and-coming black writers over the years and spent two years at the National Theater. She has also appeared in many films including Coriolanus, 10,000 BC, Kinky Boots, Manderlay and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.
Hammond moved to television with roles in shows such as The Sweeney, Juliet Bravo, Holby City, Coronation Street and Casualty.
One of her best-known roles was as Aunt Susu on the Channel 4 sitcom Desmond’s. from 1990 to 1994. She repeated the role in the short-lived Porkpie spin-off from 1995 to 1996.
Between 1994 and 1997, she was Blossom Jackson in EastEnders, briefly reappearing in 2010 at the funeral of her on-screen great-grandson, Billie Jackson. Blossom was actually Hammond’s second incarnation on the soap opera: she previously played Michelle Fowler’s midwife in 1986.
Hammond also appeared on radio in The Archers, where she played Mabel Thompson, the mother of Alan Franks’ late wife.
She is survived by her son and a granddaughter.