I Still Dream Of Being The World’s No1 Stud*
(*But That’s Breeding Horses, Not Bedding Nurses)
As sexy Casualty consultant Harry Harper, he has set millions of female pulses racing.
But Simon MacCorkindale, who plays the handsome TV hospital rogue, has been happily married to actress Susan George for more than 20 years.
So it’s a shock to hear how he still dreams of being the world’s No1 stud.Female fans will be disappointed, though – the object of Simon’s passion has four hairy legs, not two shapely ones.
For he and Susan own Georgian Arabians, their own stud farm for horses in Exmoor, Somerset.
“What we really want more than anything else is to be known as one of the world’s best breeders of Arabian horses,” revealed Simon.
“We have 70 on site a the moment. It was initially Susan’s dream. She has always loved Arab horses and I said we would buy one. I did say ONE but you know what girls are like.
“I love acting but the stud farm is also a real passion at the moment. I am sure our vet is getting fed up with me though. I keep trying to tell him what to do because of what I have learnt on Casualty. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
Simon’s character has just rocked Casualty viewers by romping with stunning nurse Ellen Ziteck (Georgina Bouzova) and getting her pregnant.
But in an exclusive interview with The People Simon, 54, revealed he may quit the hit BBC show by the end of the year after taking a five-month break.
The news will upset his army of admirers but Simon confessed he’s still got plenty of big-screen dreams.
He said: “There comes a point when you feel you have done enough.
“And I always felt that the best of my career would be at the latter end.
“I want to go on as an actor and would like to move to the next level.”
But fans of the hospital-based drama need not worry quite yet.
After being elected as local MP at the end of January, the dishy doctor will take a break and return in July.
“They pay you and you work 52 weeks a year except for four weeks’ holiday like a civil servant.
“With this arrangement they said they wanted to do the MP story and that meant I had a sabbatical period. I thought it was a good idea, and a chance for me to have a change.
Simon, who is just as dashing and charming in the flesh as his TV character, joined the Bristol-based drama in February 2002.
He previously starred in hit 1980s TV show Manimal as well as American soap Falcon Crest, Jaws 3D and Death on the Nile.
“Death on the Nile was an experience because at 25 years of age it was an amazing cast, ” Simon says as we chat over lunch.
“It was extraordinary and I knew that in some ways I was never going to top it. But that said, I haven’t done a job I didn’t enjoy.
“I don’t have any regrets about my career but I always felt I was actually more of an enthusiast than I ever was talented. Cos when I got my first breaks, I just felt I was a lucky bugger.”
Simon never intended to become an actor. He was born in Cambridge but moved 17 times in as many years as his father was in the armed forces. “It was tough,” he sighs. “I had a great childhood and I saw so many things but was never able to make any friends as either we, or they, moved on.”
Simon wanted to follow his dad into the RAF and be a pilot. But at 13 his eyesight started to deteriorate. He considered the diplomatic corps, but decided drama was really what he wanted to do.
“I never really wanted to act though,” he says. “I wanted to be a director. When I was eight I wrote my first play. And then I directed a lot of plays at school. At 18 I didn’t want a job in which I pretty much knew what I’d be doing in my 40s. I went to a drama school to learn to act so I would be a better director.
“My dad was horrified. He couldn’t help or guide me. When I came out of drama school I thought I’d better keep acting to be a better director but nice jobs kept coming along and I have just piggy-backed it from there.” Simon soon found success on TV, making his name in classic series I Claudius. Then in 1976 he got what he considers his big break as smooth murderer Simon Doyle in Death on the Nile.
The role shot him on to the international stage and he began to get work in America. But Simon said: “I left California because I was disenchanted with it. Although I’d been making a lot of money I really wasn’t proud of what I was doing. I set up a production company and quit acting. Then I went back to it in the early 90s and I’ve been going back to it ever since.”
He talks excitedly about every project he’s working on, almost forgetting to eat his lunch.
His wife Susan helps run his production company AMY International. Simon wed Sixties blonde bombshell in 1984 after a five-year marriage to actress Fiona Fullerton.
“There is no peace, every minute of every day there is a problem. We spend a lot of time together but it’s not a relationship where you sit in front of the television.”
The couple are clearly in love. Susan, 56, who starred in the controversial Sam Peckinpah movie Straw Dogs and played Margaret Walker in EastEnders, doesn’t mind Simon’s heart-throb status.
“She’s amazing to think of me as a heart-throb,” Simon grins. “She says, “If only they knew.”
Simon is engaging, witty and knowledgeable. He says he always tries to stay friendly, especially when fans recognise him.
“It’s amazing the small changes we can make to people’s lives, ” he says. “I have visited hospitals and have really been able to touch families. It’s very humbling. I’ve had quiet words with young actors when I see them being arrogant to remind them that directly or indirectly, the punter pays for what we do.”
Simon is rehearsing for a theatre tour of Agatha Christie’s The Unexpected Quest that opens in Windsor, Berks, on Tuesday, in which he stars alongside ex-EastEnders Dean Gaffney. Then he returns to Casualty and is contracted to stay until the end of the year. “Who knows what will happen then,” he says.
But one thing for sure is that he will never be short of things to do. Simon said: “I would still like to go round the world and visit all the best opera houses before I am on a Zimmer frame.”
And he’d still like to be top stud, too.