Laila Morse was "petrified" when she joined 'EastEnders'.

The 67-year-old actress has played Mo Harris on the popular BBC soap since 2000 and although fans relate her to being strong and outspoken like her character, Laila admits she was in fact terrified when first on set with the other cast.

In a serialised extract from her autobiography, 'Mo: My Story', from the Daily Mirror newspaper, she wrote: "'Maureen 'Big Mo' Harris is the head of the family and does a bit of wheeling and dealing,' the director said. I have friends who wheel and deal a bit, so the role of Mo came instinctively.

"My first scene was with Pam St Clement, who played Pat Butcher, but my stomach was flipping over like a live kipper and it passed in a haze.

"A couple of weeks later, a TV critic said I acted like a lump of cardboard. I daresay he was right! I was bloody petrified. It was three years before I started to feel comfortable on set."

Once at home in the fictional Albert Square, she found herself loving the company of her co-stars and now considers them all friends.

She continued: "I made a load of new friends - Derek Martin (Charlie Slater), Gillian Wright (Jean Slater), Laurie Brett (Jane Beale), Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace (Alfie and Kat Moon).

"June Brown, who plays Dot, is lovely. You can't get a word in - she chats like there's no tomorrow - but she's a great storyteller."

However, she does wish was closer to the newcomers on the show and believes it's harder to mingle now as they all have their own dressing rooms.

She explained: "I blame the smoking ban stopping us meeting for a fag in the green room! We were all friends and gelled back then.

"Now we're in our individual rooms like pigeonholes. When it's time to go on set, you just get a phone call to your room. Often we only come out when we're going on set or for something to drink."