Leslie Grantham, who has died aged 71, had the luck of playing one of the highest-impact characters in TV soap opera, watched by 30 million viewers as philandering crook Dennis “Dirty Den” Watts in EastEnders. But Grantham also had his career disrupted twice by unwanted tabloid publicity.
The scandals that bracketed his time on EastEnders sadly distracted from what a fine TV actor he could be. EastEnders often contained a bit of Charles Dickens – the favourite author of series lead writer, Tony Jordan – and Den became the show’s most Dickensian figure, a modern east London combination of Fagin and Magwitch, trailing sleaze and danger. Jordan and the producers rated Grantham enough to trust him with first the show’s longest-ever scene – a 15-minute showdown with pregnant Michelle – and then a two-hander episode with Angie.