Simon MacCorkindale, back on television as Casualty’s new consultant, has been delivering foals rather than lines of late…
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I was never too comfortable as a young actor and always felt that my best time in the business would be around now – I’m 50 – through to the age of 65 I’ve been doing a lot of production work in the past ten years, as well as writing and directing, so the opportunity to do something very visible – in a great part – was much too good to miss My character in Casualty [new consultant Harry Harper] is a disciplinarian, slightly old-fashioned, but pretty cool I’ve been filming since February and it’s a really nice show to be in – egos are at a minimum.
Filming in Bristol is a bonus because last October, Susie [his wife, actress Susan George] and I bought a Victorian farm on the eastern perimeter of the Exmoor national park It’s still a two-hour drive away, but I’ve just rented a flat in Bristol, so I drive in and back about three times a week and stay over for about three nights I like it here, particularly the docks area, which has some fascinating old buildings. I have an affinity with old boats and I like the water, so it’s a good place for me to relax.
We moved to Somerset from our farm in Northamptonshire because we needed more room for the Arab horses that we breed. We’re still settling in, but we’ve got 114 acres for the stud farm, and the position and layout of the place – moorland and hills all around – simply seduced us. It’s very dramatic and spectacular, and it reminds me a bit of Scotland. I’ve always felt Scottish – my father is a Scot and, in my head, I am, too. I love the pipes – and wear a kilt. We wear the MacLeod tartan and one day I’m going to get to our ancestral home, the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. We have plenty of space for our 25 horses and four Irish setters who not only roam the place but rule it, too.
We’re very hands-on with the stud, though we employ stable staff and a manager who lives on-site. I don’t have the time to do so much now that I’m involved with Casualty, but if I know that we’ve got a foaling I will always drive back at night. I got home at 10pm the other night and the mare foaled at 10 15pm, which was very considerate. Some weekends we present our Arabs at horse shows, though I don’t ride as much as I used to If I get a weekend off it will be spent largely on the farm I was brought up in a lot of small villages – my father was in the RAF, so I was a bit of a nomad – and I’ve always felt at home in the country. Susie and I do Iyengar yoga, which is quite strenuous but has a spiritual base that also appeals to me. I was brought up in the Church of England and church parades were a regular requirement for a military family. The church formed a core of my thinking and education, though I’m not a great churchgoer these days. To relax I listen to opera, particularly the Verdi canon, because I cut my operatic teeth on him. I don’t have much of a voice myself, but Susie sings very beautifully and has just recorded an album.
We’re both involved in our production company, Amy International (named after Susie’s character in Straw Dogs), though we also have partners who keep things moving when we’re busy. We’ve recently produced the new series of Relic Hunter [a US adventure series starring Tia Carrere], and we’ve got a number of TV and movie projects in development. It’s difficult for us both to work at full pitch and put the necessary time into the company. I am a bit driven and I find it difficult to take time off, but it is a very long day – I’m frequently up at 5am to be on set at 7.30am. It’s nice to get going before the phone starts ringing, and if I can wander quietly through the stables to say good morning to the horses before I leave, then that always sets me up for the day
–Interview by David Gillard