Laila Morse as Mo Harris (2018)
|Portrayed by||Laila Morse |
Lorraine Stanley (flashback)
|First appearance||Episode 2003|
18 September 2000
|Created by||Tony Jordan|
|Introduced by||John Yorke (2000, 2018)|
|Other names||Madame Whiplash|
|Occupation||Handler of stolen goods|
Mo as she appeared in EastEnders: Pat and Mo, played by Lorraine Stanley.
Mo Harris (also known as "Big Mo") is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, who made her first appearance on 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 (Pam St. Clement/Emma Cooke), which aired in 2004. Mo is a highly comical character and her tendency for dodgy deals bring much of the show’s light entertainment. Morse's contract was not renewed in July 2012, but she was not immediately written out of the series and continued to make occasional appearances until 21 January 2016. Mo's reintroduction was announced in December 2017; she returned on 16 March 2018.
Mo, who previously lived in Walford, returns there after almost forty years away, with her son-in-law, Charlie Slater (Derek Martin) and granddaughters, Lynne Hobbs (Elaine Lordan), Kat Slater (Jessie Wallace), Little Mo Morgan (Kacey Ainsworth) and Zoe Slater (Michelle Ryan). Mo's rivalry with her former best friend Pat Evans (Pam St. Clement) arises, but they reconcile at the grave of Mo's former husband and Pat's brother, Jimmy Harris (Alex King). Much of Mo's time is spent selling poor quality stolen goods and she trades with Fat Elvis (Shenton Dixon). 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 Slater (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 Brown (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 (Col Farrel). 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 (see Who Killed Archie?), 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 (The Vic). 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 Moon, on the floor of The Vic's barrel store. On the same day, Ronnie Branning (Samantha Womack) gives birth to a baby boy, James Branning. On New Year's Eve, Ronnie finds that James has died and she swaps him with Tommy. Alfie and the family find the deceased 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 Vic and let No. 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 while 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 while 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 terminally 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 Vic. Mo continues to disapprove of Roxy's presence in The Vic, after Kat and Alfie split up. It is later revealed that Mo has rented a villa in Devon, owned by "a mate".
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 Walford allotments 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 visit Walford, where it is revealed that Kat is pregnant with twins. Two months later, Alfie calls Mo, after dealing with some serious family issues, raised by the re-appearance of Stacey after a four-year absence, to which Mo plans to spend more time in Walford to support her family. Mo is delighted when Kat and Alfie's twins, Bert and Ernie Moon (Freddie and Stanley Beale), are born, but the family's joy is cut short when a fire starts at their house and when it reaches a supply of knock-off hairspray, which Mo had intended to sell, a huge explosion destroys everything that they own. Kat is badly injured and Mo is wracked with guilt, briefly moving in with Masood Ahmed (Nitin Ganatra), before taking an extended holiday in Lanzarote with Charlie.
Mo returns to Albert Square and is shocked to discover that Alfie and Kat have, once again, separated and that her family are struggling, financially. Mo reveals to a destitute Kat that she inherited money from her uncle, Harry, who had raped her as a child. Kat turns the money down, so Mo secretly has the money transferred to her own account, pretending to be Kat. When Kat discovers this, she is livid and burns the money in the street. Kat and Alfie reconcile and after winning the jackpot on a scratch card, plan to move to Tenerife. At their leaving party, Mo shows a stunned Kat an engagement ring, revealing that she has accepted a marriage proposal from her longtime business associate and romantic interest, Fat Elvis. Shortly after Kat and Alfie's departure, Mo and Fat Elvis leave for Greece. When Mo returns alongside Charlie, she reveals that Fat Elvis has left her. When Kat learns she had also given birth to a boy along with Zoe, she realises that Mo knew about the secret, so angrily demands the truth from her. During the argument with Mo that ensues, Charlie suffers a heart attack in front of Mo, Stacey and Kat. After suffering from a cardiac arrest, Charlie dies, which devastates the family. After attending Charlie's funeral, Mo moves to Kent to live with her granddaughter Belinda Peacock (Carli Norris), as Kat cannot forgive her for having her son adopted. When Belinda moves to Walford after her marriage ends, Mo's whereabouts are not mentioned.
Mo returns to Walford, telling Stacey that Kat is dead. They raise funds for Kat's funeral, while Mo avoids answering her phone or the door. A coffin is donated and Mo calls Fat Elvis saying she has a coffin for sale. Jean later arrives, saying that Kat is alive. It emerges that Mo lied to raise money as she has financial troubles. Kat returns to Walford and is confused that The Vic is holding a benefit night for her and she is annoyed with Mo, but is forced to hide when Ian visits with the raised money. Annie Pritchard (Martha Howe-Douglas), the daughter of Terry, who Mo conned, arrives to get his money back, but the family fool her into believing Mo has died and offer to pay the money. Kat, Stacey and Mo arrive at The Vic and attempt to maintain that Mo made a mistake; Mo also fakes a heart attack and bar fight soon starts. The family find out that Mo took £300 for the money and when the family go to return it to Mick, Mo sneaks off and encounters Annie, who injures Mo. Jean repays the money, and Stacey tells Mo she must stay until she pays Jean back. Mo claims to have psychic abilities as a way to make money but she is listening into people's conversations with recording devices. Kat starts a cleaning business and Mo is forced to join her, but she does not work hard and steals from the employers.
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.
Creation, casting and introduction
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.
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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)|
Feud with Pat Evans
Mo's main link to the square is her former sister-in-law Pat Evans (Pam St. Clement). There is animosity between the two as Pat believes that Mo cheated on her late brother, Jimmy (Alex King) and still holds a grudge. On Mo's return to the square, she stokes the flames on her long-running argument with Pat, which began three decades earlier. Their backstory was further elaborated on in the spin off Soap "Bubble" Pat and Mo, set in the 1960s featuring a teenage Pat and Mo, played by Emma Cooke and Lorraine Stanley, respectively.
Morse's contract was not renewed in July 2012, but she was not immediately written out of the series and continued to make occasional appearances. Mo made her final appearance on 21 January 2016, but Morse said in June 2017 that she had never officially left the cast, saying, "All of a sudden my character disappeared and I wasn't in it any more, but I've never officially left the show—I've never had a leaving party or a present. I hope Big Mo comes back. I like all the cast, they're lovely people, so it would be good to film with them again."
On 20 December 2017, it was announced that Morse would reprise the role in early 2018. Mo's reintroduction was announced alongside that of Kat Slater (Wallace) and Jean Slater (Wright). Morse expressed her joy at returning and stated that fans would regularly ask about Mo. She commented, "I can’t wait to see everyone and get stuck back into life in Walford." Yorke, who returned as the show's executive consultant in 2017, called the Slater family "one of the all-time great families in EastEnders" and opined that the show is very different without them. On their reintroduction, Yorke commented, "It has been a real joy to find a way to bring them back together and we're incredibly excited about where we are taking them next." Yorke also revealed that new Slater family members would be introduced too.
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".
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- Morse, Laila (2013). Just a Mo: My Story. Virgin Books.
- Sandwell, Ian (13 June 2017). "EastEnders' Big Mo says "all the fun is gone" from show". Digital Spy. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
- Harp, Justin (20 December 2017). "EastEnders IS bringing back Jessie Wallace as Kat Slater — and Big Mo and Jean Slater are returning too". Digital Spy. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
- 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. Archived from the original on 11 June 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2012.