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1947 - 2018

Leslie Grantham

Leslie Grantham, was the soap actor who rose to national prominence with his performance as pub landlord “Dirty” Den Watts in EastEnders A former soldier with the Royal Fusiliers, his acting career began late in life. Grantham enjoyed two stints in the BBC soap, with more than 30 million viewers tuning in to watch a 1986 Christmas Day episode in which his character served divorce papers to his onscreen wife, Angie, played by Anita Dobson.

Grantham had a troubled past and was no stranger to scandal having been convicted in 1967 of the murder of a taxi driver in Germany and served 10 years in prison for the crime.

Born into a large family in Camberwell, London, in 1947, Grantham distinguished himself at school as a netball player. Despite wanting to act from an early age, he enlisted in the army at 18, rising to the position of lance corporal. 

While on national service in Osnabrück in 1966 Grantham shot and killed a taxi driver, Felix Reese, during a botched robbery. In the trial that followed, Grantham claimed he did not know the gun was loaded. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released after a decade.

During his spell behind bars, Grantham pursued his interest in acting, appearing in a number of plays. Upon his release, he joined a London drama school, where he met the Australian actor Jane Laurie. They married in 1981 and had three children. They divorced in 2013. 

Grantham later moved into TV via minor roles, such as as a henchman of the Dalek leader Davros in Doctor Who. In 1984, he was offered the role of Den Watts in the soap EastEnders, which first aired in February 1985. The show quickly rose in the ratings, with Den’s tempestuous relationship with Angie becoming one of its most popular storylines. EastEnders soon made the marriage – and Den’s many affairs – the focus of the show. A groundbreaking episode in October 1986 featured Grantham and Dobson as its sole actors; it was the first time the two-hander format had been used in a soap. The storyline culminated in the Christmas episode of that year, which remains the fourth-most-watched broadcast in British TV history, ahead of the Apollo 13 splashdown and the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer.

Grantham left EastEnders in 1989, shortly after the departure of Dobson. In his final scene, he was seemingly executed by a gangster wielding a gun behind a bouquet of daffodils, although his fate was left unconfirmed in case Grantham could one day be convinced to return to the soap.

Grantham then starred in a number of primetime shows, including the noirish thriller The Paradise Club and the police drama 99-1. He never managed to recapture the fame he enjoyed as a soap actor, although he would reunite with Dobson on the Sky crime drama The Stretch in 1999. By the end of the millennium, he was most frequently seen appearing in pantomimes and presenting game shows, such as Fort Boyard, which he co-hosted with the model Melinda Messenger.

After 14 years away from EastEnders, Grantham made a surprise return to Albert Square in September 2003. The reappearance of his character was an immediate ratings hit, with 16 million viewers tuning in to watch Den utter the words “Hello, princess” to his adopted daughter, Sharon.

His return, however, was short-lived. In May 2004, pictures of the actor exposing himself on a webcam were published by a newspaper, prompting the EastEnders scriptwriters to write Den out of the soap. The character was killed off, this time with no ambiguity. Grantham later said he tried to kill himself three times in the wake of the scandal.

He returned to the stage, starring in an adaptation of the Jeffrey Archer play Beyond Reasonable Doubt. He also had a recurring role in the police drama The Bill.

In later years, the actor had been living in Bulgaria where he starred in a TV series called The English Neighbour. 

Leslie Grantham passed away in the early hours on 15th June 2018 following a battle with lung cancer


1992/93:  Robin Hood - Theatre Royal Nottingham

1993/94:  Peter Pan - Hexagon Theatre, Reading

1994/95:  Peter Pan - Richmond Theatre

1995/96:  Peter Pan - Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
1996/97: Peter Pan - Wolverhampton Grand

1997/98: Peter Pan - Theatre Royal Newcastle

2000/01: Peter Pan - Birmingham Alexandra

2001/02: Peter Pan - Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe

2002/03: Peter Pan - Theatre Royal Nottingham

2003/04: Dick Whittington - Belfast Opera House

2005/06: Peter Pan - Alban Arena, St Albans

2006/07: Snow White - Theatre Royal. Plymouth

2007/08: Dick Whittington - Wolverhampton Grand

2008/09: Peter Pan - The Beck Theatre, Hayes

2009/10:  Aladdin - White Rock, Hastings

2011/12:     Mother Goose - Stag Theatre Sevenoaks

2013/14:    Aladdin - Grove Theatre, Dunstable

2014/15:    Cinderella - Stage Theatre, Sevenoaks

2015/16:    Cinderella  - Grove Theatre, Dunstable

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