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BLOSSOM OUT; Shattered Mona quits EastEnders.

Actress Mona Hammond, who plays no-nonsense Blossom Jackson in EastEnders, is quitting the soap because she's suffering from nervous exhaustion.

Mona, who shot to fame as the matriarchal head of the popular Jackson family, has confessed to to fellow actors that she can't cope with the pressure of her gruelling work schedule.

She told them severe stress was causing her to fluff her lines and make simple mistakes.

Mona, who is in her late sixties, refused to stay even when offered a pay rise.

A set insider said last night: "Mona's been in almost every episode since she joined back in 1993.

"It's a phenomenal workload for someone of her age.

"She was getting so nervous on set that she finally put her foot down and insisted on a break.

"She said she couldn't cope any more and that it had taken its toll on her nerves.

"She refused to sign a three-month contract, saying it would finish her off." Mona is currently on a three-month break.

She's reluctantly returning to the soap for a four weeks in the summer after bosses begged her to.

But their hopes of wooing her back permanently are doomed, say pals.

This week viewers will see Blossom develop a close friendship with Albert Square's Polish barber Felix Kawalski, played by Harry Landis.

Over the next few weeks Felix asks her to go on holiday with him to Israel and Blossom is flattered.

She agrees and waves goodbye to her family.

A BBC spokesman said: "We're expecting Mona to return later this year."
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Author:Hagan, Angela
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 22, 1997
Words:258
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