But not just on TV— in real life, accident-prone actor often finds himself in hospital
THERE’S a reason why Simon MacCorkindale carries off the role of consultant Harry Harper in BBC’s Casualty so well — he’s never out of his local hospital’s casualty department as a patient!
He and his wife, actress Susan George, run a very successful horse farm when not appearing on stage or screen, and Simon is very much hands-on down on the farm.
“I know I have this image as the English toff, but I’m a lot more rugged than people may think,” said Simon.
“As soon as filming Casualty was done, I’d be out of Harry’s smart suit and into wellies on the farm, mucking out. “I like to get stuck in, but I’m accident prone.
“I’ve ended up in casualty after putting a fork through my foot, and once, I managed to stick a screwdriver into my eye!
“I’m there so often, when anyone calls and Susie says I’m in casualty they say, ‘Not again!’
“One advantage of Casualty is I’m no longer squeamish about blood, and I’ve picked up enough medical tips to know what to do initially.
“But I don’t go too far — in case I kill someone!
“And some of Harry has rubbed off on me, as I find that, since playing him, I’ve become a lot calmer in a crisis.” Simon is taking a break from Casualty to tour in a stage version of Sleuth, a thriller that’s been made for the cinema twice.
“I really wanted to do this play, but Harry hasn’t been killed off, and the writers have left it open for his return,” said Simon.
“I enjoyed Casualty, and did a documentary about people whose lives had been saved by picking up tips they’d learned from the show.
“There were some amazing stories. One chap delivered his son by the roadside, then saved the baby’s life, all thanks to the show.
“People do a double-take when they see me in a real hospital — as, sadly, I often am.
“Once, a man followed me all the way through a hospital, complaining about his treatment.
“I just listened, because I hadn’t the heart to tell him that I wasn’t a real doctor — just a real patient!”
Simon has a huge number of film and TV credits, from Death On The Nile to US soap Falcon Crest.
And his equally successful wife, Susan George, was recently seen in EastEnders.
In the 80s, they were the tabloids’ “golden couple”, but celebrity sits uneasily on Simon’s shoulders.
“We ran off to Fiji to get married in 1984, to escape the paparazzi,” recalled Simon with a wry laugh.
“There was just us, no family or friends. The best man was the hotel manager and the concierge gave Susie away.
“We had an ordinary service in a church, followed by a Fijian one — complete with war dances!
“I didn’t go into acting to become a ‘celebrity’.
“If you do well, you become popular and, if you do very well, you achieve a kind of fame but, to my mind, celebrity now has become a social disease!
“These days, some people see celebrity as their job. That’s not for me or Susie.”
He’s happiest on their farm in Exmoor, where they breed Arab horses.
“I’m proud to say our horses have been sold all over the world — even to Arabia!” said Simon.
Last year, he took a break from Casualty to appear in an Agatha Christie mystery and, this year, he’s taking a similar break with Sleuth, a gripping psychological thriller about a mystery writer, played by Simon, who lures a man to his isolated house for a nerve-jangling night of revenge.
Michael Caine enjoyed the nail-biter so much, he starred in both movie versions!
Sleuth is at the New Theatre Hull from May 5-10. Then, at the Lyceum Sheffield 12-17, Cambridge Arts Theatre 19-24, Theatre Royal, Glasgow 26-31, New Theatre, Cardiff, June 2-7, ending July 5 at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle.