Laila Morse as Mo Harris (2011)
|Portrayed by||Laila Morse|
|First appearance||18 September 2000|
|Introduced by||John Yorke|
|EastEnders: Slaters In Detention (2003)
Pat and Mo (2004)
EastEnders: E20 (2010)
Mo as she appeared in EastEnders: Pat and Mo, played by Lorraine Stanley.
Maureen "Big Mo" Harris is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, who has been in the series since 18 September 2000, played by Laila Morse. Mo is also played by Lorraine Stanley in a soap 'bubble' Pat and Mo, delving into her past with Pat Evans, which aired in 2004. Mo provides a background of light entertainment. Morse's contract was not renewed in July 2012, but she was not written out of the series and continued to make occasional guest appearances. In 2014, Morse made a permanent return to the show, as a regular character.
Mo's backstory states that she becomes pregnant at the age of 14, following a one-night stand with Stuart Mullins, a ticket collector for the Waltzer ride at a fairground in South London and gives birth to their daughter, Vivienne (Natasya Rush). Best friends with Pat Harris (Pam St. Clement), Mo falls for Pat's older brother, Jimmy (Alex King), and after a whirlwind romance, they marry in 1959 and go on to have two children of their own, Billy and Jean. However, Pat threatens to disrupt their marriage, due to her alcoholism and eventual prostitution, which diverts Jimmy's attention away from Mo and onto Pat. This results in Mo beginning an affair with Pat's pimp, Tony Cattani (Vas Constanti). When Pat discovers them together, she informs her brother, but Mo denies Pat's accusations and as a result, Jimmy disowns Pat and they move away to Lewisham. Jimmy later dies of cancer. His final wish is to make amends with his sister, Pat, but instead, Mo neglects to inform her of both his death and his funeral.
Mo returns to Walford, after almost forty years away, with her son-in-law, Charlie Slater (Derek Martin) and granddaughters, Lynne (Elaine Lordan), Kat (Jessie Wallace), Little Mo (Kacey Ainsworth) and Zoe (Michelle Ryan). Mo's rivalry with Pat arises again, but they reconcile at Jimmy's grave on the 25th anniversary of his death. Much of Mo's time is spent selling poor quality stolen goods and she trades with a man known by "Fat Elvis". She is assisted by Mickey (Joe Swash) and Darren Miller (Charlie G. Hawkins) and for a while sets up a sex chatline. She also works with Charlie's great-niece, Stacey (Lacey Turner), on her market stall, selling clothes. She has a brief relationship with Bert Atkinson (Dave Hill), but ends it because Bert is also seeing her friend, Ina Foot (Ina Clare). They reconcile, but break up again when Bert's ex-wife, Evie (Marji Campi), arrives in Walford, terminally ill. Mo begins selling cigarettes that she bought in Spain and two of her customers turn out to be Revenue and Customs officers. She is sentenced to 100 hours of community service, for tax evasion. After Stacey marries Bradley Branning (Charlie Clements), Mo tries to sell their wedding gifts.
Mo sees Charlie's partner, Brenda Boyle (Carmel Cryan), embracing another man at the tube station, but the man is Brenda's brother, Clive Robinson. Brenda reveals to Mo that she is moving to Madeira with her family and Mo convinces Charlie not to let her go. However, Brenda and Charlie leave together, leaving Mo devastated. She begins drinking heavily and protests against the sale of Charlie's taxi. Charlie returns to Walford with a woman called Orlenda (Mary Tamm), but Mo does not trust her. Orlenda leaves, after admitting she was scamming Charlie, but returns his money. Mo takes charge of a children's nativity play, but fails to keep the children under control. In a raffle, she wins Max Branning's (Jake Wood) car, but sells it, to Max's dismay. When Archie Mitchell (Larry Lamb) is murdered, Mo starts a betting circle on who killed him. She runs when she sees a police officer, but later, another officer appears behind her and she asks him if he wants to place a bet. She goes on holiday to Spain with "Fat Elvis" and when she returns, she is surprised to discover that Bradley is dead. Mo attempts to sell Lucas Johnson's (Don Gilet) bibles to the public, as gruesome souvenirs of the killer. Her insensitivity gets her thrown out of The Queen Victoria public house. Mo receives a phone call from Kat, who wants Zoe's birth certificate. Mo meets Kat at a café and gives her the certificate. Kat admits to Mo that she conned a man and needs a new identity. Kat also lies to Mo, claiming that her husband, Alfie Moon (Shane Ritchie), is dead. Mo persuades Kat to come home and Kat reluctantly agrees, but when they get home, men are waiting for Kat and her money. However, Alfie sends them away. Mo is shocked to learn that Kat is pregnant and Alfie is not the father. When Kat goes into labour, Mo delivers her son, Tommy, on the floor of The Queen Victoria's barrel store. On the same day, Ronnie Branning (Samantha Womack) gives birth. On New Year's Eve, Ronnie finds her baby has died and she swaps the babies. Alfie and the family find the dead baby and believe it is Tommy.
After Kat blames Charlie for Tommy's death, Charlie decides to go and live with Lynne, despite Mo begging him not to go. Left living alone, Mo asks Kat if she can move into The Queen Victoria and let number 23. Kat refuses initially, but later agrees when Mo reminds her that she never complained about living with Kat's bad habits. Mo continues with her dodgy deals, whilst staying at the pub, including persuading Jean Slater (Gillian Wright) to serve "turkey" for pub lunches, which turns out to be swan meat. When a benefit fraud officer declares that Jean has been illegally claiming benefits whilst working at the pub, Mo admits to Jean and Kat that she has been claiming benefits in Jean's name. Jean agrees to take the blame, as Mo has previous convictions. When Mo learns that her old enemy, Pat, is ill, she visits her in hospital and they end their long-standing feud. When Pat later dies, Mo returns Pat's Miss Butlin's sash, that she stole years ago, out of jealousy. When Mo learns that Charlie has suffered a stroke, she leaves Walford to look after him. Several months later, Jean visits them and Mo returns to the Vic when she believes that Jean is hiding something from her. Her suspicions are confirmed, when she discovers that Alfie is allowing Roxy Mitchell (Rita Simons) to stay in The Queen Vic. Mo continues to disapprove of Roxy's presence in The Vic, after Kat and Alfie split up. It is later revealed that the Mo and Charlie have bought a 3 bedroom, detached house in Devon.
In May 2013, Mo returns to collect rent from Kat, Michael Moon (Steve John Shepherd) and Alice Branning (Jasmyn Banks). She demands Alice pays by the end of the day, or she will evict her. Kat later convinces Mo to give up her keys to the house. Three months later, Jean discovers that Mo is stealing vegetables from the allotment and Mo convinces Jean's new partner, Ollie Walters (Tony O'Callaghan), a police officer whom Mo knows, not to report her, as she is Jean's family. At Christmas, Mo and Charlie go to spend the week in Walford, where it is revealed that Kat is pregnant with twins. Two months later, Alfie calls Mo to come back to Walford, after dealing with some serious family issues and she plans on staying in Walford for a while. Mo continues her dealings around the Square, selling dodgy chicken nuggets to Kat's friend, Bianca Butcher (Patsy Palmer). In July 2014, Mo helps Kat and Alfie make some money, by delivering some dodgy ice-cream to their market stalls. However, market inspector, Aleks Shirovs (Kristian Kiehling), is not very happy, because Kat is only licensed to sell women's clothes and Alfie is only licensed to sell men's clothes. Mo is delighted when Kat and Alfie's twins, Bert and Ernie Moon (Freddie and Stanley Beale), are born and after a six-week holiday in Bulgaria, with "Fat Elvis", Mo returns to the Square, with some dodgy hairspray, that she is trying to sell.
The character of Mo appears in two spin-offs of EastEnders. She features in the 2004 'soap bubble' EastEnders: Pat and Mo, which explores her past with Pat through flashbacks, in which she is played by Lorraine Stanley. The episode was broadcast to give the viewer "and understanding of, and history to [the] characters". The episode is partly set in the 1950s and explains Pat and Mo's dislike for each other. A show source said, "When the Slaters arrived in the square three years ago, Pat was horrified. Now the time has come for them to bury the hatchet—or at least try to." Mo also appears in the straight-to-video spin-off EastEnders: Slaters in Detention in 2003, and in the 2010 internet spin-off EastEnders: E20.
In 2000, EastEnders' executive producer John Yorke decided to introduce the "classic" Slater family. He felt the show needed to go back to its roots and bring back some traditional values. BBC's head of drama, Mal Young commented, "We do not have enough solid families in the soap, there were a lot of fractured families and people who were alone." The family were created as a replacement for the di Marco family, who were axed by Yorke. The family consisted of, grandmother Mo (Laila Morse), father Charlie (Derek Martin), his four children, Lynne (Elaine Lordan), Kat Slater (Jessie Wallace), Little Mo (Kacey Ainsworth), Zoe (Michelle Ryan), as well as Lynne's boyfriend Garry Hobbs (Ricky Groves).
The character of Mo and the rest of the Slater family were created during workshops with Tony Jordan and John Yorke. London actors were invited to improvise in groups, and the characters were created during these improvisations. According to the BBC's head of drama series, Mal Young, the family was brought in as the serial did not "have enough solid families in the soap, there were a lot of fractured families and people who were alone." Laila Morse was cast as Mo, and made her first on-screen appearance on 18 September 2000. She was named "Arrival of the Year" by TV critic Ian Hyland in 2000.
|This section requires expansion. (October 2011)|
Mo has been described as "a very strong person [who] loves the family [and] wouldn't have anything said about them" by Morse. She has been said to "hold the family together … [acting] as a surrogate mum to her granddaughters". Her criminal activity has led to her being described as a "female Fagin or Del Boy"and the "queen of knock-off". Mo has also been described as a "tough cookie" and a "fighter". Another writer from The People said that Mo is "tough-talking".
|“||She's come a cropper with the coppers over tax evasion but she shows no inclination to go straight. Mo loves a gossip, she's always up for a knees-up and never one to turn down a drink at the Vic... especially if someone else is paying. As the elder stateswoman of the Slater family, she's had her fair share of battles and she'll fight to the death to defend her girls. She's hard as nails and doesn't suffer fools gladly. Unless they cross her palm with silver - or any form of currency really.||”|
—A description of Mo Harris from the BBC (2012)
Mo has been described by Ian Hyland from the Sunday Mirror as a "battleaxe" and a woman "with a face like a bulldog chewing a whole nest of wasps and a mouth like a foghorn in the Grand Canyon, she's the only woman I've ever seen who makes Fat Pat look demure." He added that "This time they've bought finest East End. Every time Mo, the granny, opens her mouth I think jellied eels are going to fly out." Another writer for the Sunday Mirror, Paul Scott said: "As Big Mo Slater she is the battleaxe from Hell whose tongue-lashings have even the hardest of Walford's hard cases running for cover." Charlie Catchpole from the Daily Mirror said of Mo's arrival: "I'm sure, that no sooner does a Romanian weightlifter go missing from the Olympics than Mighty Mo Harris arrives in Albert Square." John Russell from The People called Mo a "motormouth".
- Morse, Laila (2013). Just a Mo: My Story. Virgin Books.
- "Spin off when you're winning", The Guardian, 2004-01-19. URL last accessed 2009-03-20.
- "MO V PAT; Battleaxe 'special' to tell all on soap grudge.", Daily Mirror, 2003-11-07. URL last accessed 2010-11-03.
- EastEnders: Slaters in Detention (PAL) (in British English). London: BBC. 2003. ASIN B0000D9Y9T. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- "Seven move in to Albert Square". BBC News Online (BBC Online). 30 August 2000. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
- "TV Watch: Arrival of the Year", Sunday Mirror. 2000-12-31.
- Soaplife Issue 14, 2000-08-29.
- "EastEnders: Who's who?". What's on TV. Retrieved 16 February 2008.
- Hoare, Sean (27 May 2001). "TV MO HAS CANCER; Brave EastEnder actress Laila keeps working and pledges to win her fight against disease". The People. Mirror Group Newspapers Limited. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- "Why TV's Mo gave hubby Jim the boot". The People. Mirror Group Newspapers Limited. 29 September 2002. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- "Mo Harris (Laila Morse)". EastEnders. BBC Online. 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Hyland, Ian (24 September 2000). "TV Watch: Watch out Fat Pat, Big Mo is a real BeastEnder". Sunday Mirror. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Scott, Paul (19 November 2000). "I got out of jail and found my EastEnder wife Mo in bed naked with her lover; GANGSTER EX-HUSBAND REVEALS SECRET PAST OF WALFORD'S BATTLEAXE FROM HELL...AND HOW HIS CRIMES PAID FOR THEIR LIFE OF LUXURY". Sunday Mirror. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
- Catchpole, Charlie (26 September 2000). "Charlie Catchpole's TV column: Square gets a new heavy". Daily Mirror. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Russell, John (20 October 2000). "Hot Telly: WHAT'S HOT (Features)". The People. MGN Ltd. Retrieved 12 June 2012.