Mona Hammond, the UK actress best known for her work on TV shows like EastEnders and Doctor Who has died at the age of 91. Hammond wasn't just a screen presence, she was also a pioneer for Britain's black actor community – most notably as a co-founder of the Talawa theatre group. The final era of Hammond's career as an actress saw her once again shine, playing "Blossom," the matriarch of the Jackson family who provided and supported those around her. Hammond stayed with EastEnders from 1986 – 1997; after leaving due to the toll of the soap's production, Hammond made a brief return to the series in 2010.
Hammond was also featured in the Doctor Who episode "Rise of the Cybermen" in 2006 – a pivotal story in the run of fan-favorite Doctor, David Tenant. The rest of her filmography is thick as a screenplay, with her matriarch persona giving her big roles on television from the 1990s (Desmond's) through the 2000s (The Crouches, or medical drama Doctors). Hammond was born in 1931 in Tweedside, Jamaica, as "Mavis Chin," a mix of Jamaican and Chinese ethnicities. She moved to the UK in 1959 via a Jamaican scholarship program; she worked for Norman and Dawbarn architects by day and attended night classes at City Lietrary Institute, London, winning a scholarship to RADA, a world-leading school for the dramatic arts.
After graduating in 1964, "Mavis Chin" changed her name to "Mona Hammond" and began acting at the Everyman theatre, Liverpool, beginning with the musical "Jack of Spades". By the late '60s she was a leading presence in prestigious black theater productions headed by the Talawa theatre group, like "Mbeth" – an Africanized re-imagining of Shakespeare's Macbeth. In the 1970s Hammond broke into television, before getting her role on EastEnders in 1986.
Unlike so many other actors, Mona Hammond's legacy is well spoken for in the mission statement of the Talawa theatre group she leaves behind (see below). She is also survived by Matthew Paul, from a previous marriage that ended in 1987.
You can find out more about the Talawa Theatre Group here:
Talawa was founded in 1986 by Yvonne Brewster, Carmen Munroe, Mona Hammond and Inigo Espejel, in response to the lack of creative opportunities for Black actors and the marginalisation of Black peoples from cultural processes.
Today, Talawa is the primary Black theatre company in the UK, with more than 50 award-winning touring productions from African classics to Oscar Wilde behind it. In total the company has produced more than 80 productions.
Our name, Talawa, comes from a Jamaican patois term and means gutsy and strong Talawa is the UK's outstanding
Our purpose is to champion Black Excellence in theatre; to nurture talent in emerging and established artists of African or Caribbean heritage and to tell inspirational and passionate stories, reflecting Black experiences through art.