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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Kyle O'Sullivan & Frances Kindon

Laila Morse's famous brother, real name, EastEnders return and co-star who 'saved her'

There's a treat in store for EastEnders fans, with Big Mo set to rejoin the show later this summer.

Big Mo, played by Laila Morse, was last seen heading off into the sunset with Fat Elvis to live a life of hedonism on a cruise ship.

But the fierce Slater matriarch is back in town for a short stint, and actress Laila is thrilled.

“I always have so much fun playing Mo so I can’t wait to get back to the Square and see what mischief she gets up to this time" she said of her eagerly-anticipated return.

"I’ve missed my on-screen family so much and can’t wait to see everyone again," she added.

Laila's rise to fame came later in life when she was cast in a film by her famous brother - award-winning Hollywood actor Gary Oldman.

Laila's real name is actually Maureen Oldman, but she was given her stage name by glamorous actress Isabella Rossellini when she was dating her younger brother.

Laila Morse plays Slater matriarch Big Mo in EastEnders (BBC)
Laila's brother is the famous actor, Gary Oldman (MDM)

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'Laila Morse' is an anagram of 'mia sorella' which is Italian for 'my sister' - and the actress has used the name ever since Gary cast her as a drug addict's mum in his BAFTA-winning film Nil By Mouth in 1997.

While Gary went to drama school as a kid, Laila left school without qualifications and she was pregnant at 17.

Her first marriage to husband Gerald Bromfield, with whom she has kids Gerry and Tracy, ended in 1970 when he landed in jail for theft.

She then fell for a possessive love cheat she calls 'George', who she says beat her for years, then later married Jimmy Bass but they divorced after nine years in 2003.

Laila worked as a barmaid and in shops until Gary gave his sister her big acting break, then she made her telly debut in two episodes of The Bill and a TV production of Great Expectations.

EastEnders soon came calling and in 2000, Laila made her debut as Big Mo Harris, who was the matriarch of the new Slater family.

Big Mo comforts a distressed Jean Slater in EastEnders (BBC/Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes)

During this time, Laila was diagnosed with breast cancer and credits co-star Wendy Richard for 'saving her life'.

Laila says she only went to get a lump checked by the doctor because Wendy, who played Pauline Fowler, insisted she go.

"I found this lump and I thought: ‘Ah, it can’t be much.’ So I went into work and I told Wendy Richard and she said: ‘Go to the doctor, I don’t like the sound of that. I’m going on holiday, so when I come back the first thing I’m gonna do is ring you up and find out if you went.’

"Anyway, I didn’t go. When she came back, she rang me and said: ‘Have you been to the doctor’s?’ and I went: ‘Erm, yeah, he didn’t say much.’ That’s all I said and I thought: ‘I ought to go,’ so I did. He wrote a note and within two weeks I’d had the test done, a mammogram, and I had breast cancer."

Laila had the lymph nodes removed from her left breast and thankfully made a full recovery.

She continued: "And then my sister got it and then my friend got it - and then Wendy died from the second lot of cancer she had.

"And I think if it hadn’t been for her, I don’t think I would be here today really. I’m doing this so everybody knows to get it checked up."

Laila says close friend Wendy Richards, second from left, saved her life (Laila Morse)

Laila has been in and out of EastEnders since 2000, but in February last year, it was revealed Big Mo would be leaving Walford once again - although the door was left open.

An EastEnders spokesperson said: "Just like many occasions before, Big Mo will be departing Walford. But as always, she’ll no doubt be back in the not too distant future."

Laila said she would miss playing Big Mo but explained that she wanted to free up time to do the things she loves.

"I left in April. If they wanted me to go back for a one-off thing or a storyline lasting a couple of weeks I would, but I wouldn’t go back full-time. I’m a bit too old for that, "she told The Metro.

"I want to do other things, whether that’s travelling somewhere or riding around a country on a bike. I wouldn’t even mind learning how to ride a motorbike if somebody wants to teach me."

Despite being badly injured, Laila stripped off on Strictly the Real Full Monty.

But the actress had to take her kit off in a wheelchair because she sprained her ankle before going on the show and could barely stay upright.

"I couldn’t really stand on it, so ­Ashley said I couldn’t take part," she told The Sun.

"I said 'But that’s what I’ve come to do. I’ll find some way to get on that stage'. So they came up with the idea of a wheelchair and decorated it with ­sparkly stuff. So I went on stage, I just couldn’t dance."

Laila said the audience were in great sprits and that she cried after the performance because she was so pleased she had done it.

Having been used to taking her clothes off when she is on holiday, the Big Mo actress confessed she was "not bothered about showing anything off".

“When it came to the strip I sat there in my outfit with my feathers in the wheelchair and took my top off!”

The show, which is choreographed by Diversity founder Ashley Banjo raises awareness for cancer and was held at the Blackpool theatre.

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