Have we forgotten how to forgive our soap stars?
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Leslie Grantham, who died last week at the age of 71, was a legend of soap. Way back in 1985, he spoke the first words in the new soap EastEnders. His partnership with Anita Dobson led to the fourth most watched moment of UK television ever when, on Christmas Day 1986, half the population watched his character ‘Dirty’ Den serve his wife with divorce papers. That scene has become iconic, as has his assassination with a bunch of daffodils. When he was brought back from the dead in 2003, his presence triggered a whole new set of exciting and interesting storylines. When you say ‘EastEnders’, it’s hard not to think of Den Watts. But there was another side to Grantham which has made him almost as infamous as his on-screen persona. Years before EastEnders, he served ten years in prison for the murder of a taxi driver in Germany whilst serving in the British army. The tabloids went mad, but the producers at the time defended their decision to cast him, claiming they were aware of his crime and he had paid his debt to society. In 1985, it seemed, the past could be left in the past. Yet in 2004, Grantham’s second stint on the soap was curtailed. Why? Images of Grantham behaving lewdly on webcam to an undercover reporter appeared in the press, alongside claims that he had criticised several cast members. The producers acted swiftly, and Dirty Den was no more, definitively bumped off and carried out in a coffin this time. All of this, for a ‘crime’ far less shocking than murder. Grantham is just one in a long line of soap stars who have found themselves hastily ditched from their shows for their off-screen antics. Coronation Street’s Chris Fountain (Tommy Duckworth) was written out following the discovery of his attempts at rapping on YouTube, with tracks which advocated violence towards women. The same soap sacked Marc Anwar (Sharif Nazir) for a racist outburst on Twitter, whilst Melissa Suffield, who played Lucy Beale in EastEnders, was let go due to ‘unruly behaviour’, which mainly seemed to consist of her drinking whilst underage.
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