SHE is a longtime friend of Prince Charles.
But Susan George is preparing to become familiar with two royal names from the other end of the social spectrum … the Queen Victoria, and Albert Square.
The glamorous 50-year-old actress is joining the cast of EastEnders, playing the role of a sophisticated conwoman.
Fans will see her move in with small-time entrepreneur Terry Raymond, played by Gavin Richards – and make trouble for him.
Miss George said she is ‘really pleased’ to be appearing in the BBC soap. And EastEnders executive producer John Yorke said: ‘We are thrilled and delighted to have her joining the cast.’
The actress, who rose to international stardom in the 1971 movie Straw Dogs, is the latest established showbusiness name to be signed up for EastEnders in a strategy designed to maintain viewers’ interest and bring a touch of glamour to the series. She follows Barbara Windsor, rock musician Martin Kemp and former Avengers star Gareth Hunt.
EastEnders is currently on a roll – topping the ratings charts thanks to the Who Shot Phil Mitchell? storyline. It is averaging audiences of around 16million, compared to 12million for ITV’s Coronation Street.
Miss George – who enjoyed a romance with Prince Charles in 1978 and has remained his friend -started filming scenes this week, playing the trickster, called Margaret.
Terry, her landlord – whose wife Irene left him last year – falls hook, line and sinker for the ‘classy’ newcomer.
Margaret is like a grown-up version of Janine Butcher, the devious teenager Terry has taken under his wing only to see his trust betrayed. ‘Once again, Terry gets caught out,” said an insider.
Miss George is expected to spend several months in the soap and will first be seen in June.
The actress, who has a stud farm in Northamptonshire, may draw on her real-life experiences for her role. Three years ago, she met two female fraudsters who carried out a series of scams in equestrian high society circles. Miss George was given a bouncing cheque by the pair, who left a trail of £2 million of debts.
The EastEnders role is her first television part since 1993, when she appeared in the ITV series Stay Lucky.
She started her career as a model at the age of three. Her beauty brought her many admirers and she had a long affair with American singer Jack Jones. Now she is happily married to actor Simon MacCorkindale.
Straw Dogs – in which she starred with Dustin Hoffman – became infamous for a shocking scene in which her character was raped. Miss George later said the film was ‘horrific’ and that she would not have made it now.
She also appeared in other controversial films, including the X-certificate The Strange Affair at the age of 17.
She has spent the last few years dividing her time between her Arab horse stud and the film production company Amy International – named after her Straw Dogs character – which she runs with MacCorkindale.
The company has made four films which have achieved little financial success. However, an adaptation of Rohinton Mistry’s Such A Long Journey earned good reviews and three Canadian awards equivalent to the British Baftas. Miss George says her prize-winning stud farm is not lucrative. ‘It’s not a huge money-spinner and the horses have to pay their own way,’ she said recently. ‘It’s too large an operation just to be a hobby.