George Palmer (EastEnders)
|Portrayed by||Paul Moriarty|
|First appearance||1 July 1996|
|Last appearance||8 December 1998|
|Introduced by||Jane Harris|
George Palmer is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Paul Moriarty. He appeared between 1 July 1996 and 8 December 1998, but was one of many characters axed by then Executive Producer Matthew Robinson.
George, a prominent figure in the East End criminal underworld, owns an illegal gambling den/money laundering operation, which masquerades as a members' only club known as The Market Cellar. Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor) disapproves of the business and tries to petition against it. Pragmatically, George begins wooing Peggy in order to stop the objections to his club, but this eventually blossoms into genuine attraction. George supports Peggy through breast cancer and they announce their engagement at Christmas 1996. However, Peggy dumps George when her son Phil (Steve McFadden) tells her about his illegal activities. George flees to New Zealand where his import/export business is based, and in his absence, Peggy is menaced by masked men who are looking for George. Peggy subsequently has nothing more to do with George.
George's daughter Annie (Nadia Sawalha) moves to Walford to help her father run his club. Her relationship with George is strained, as Annie has always felt her father wanted a son, and Annie continuously tries to prove her worth to her father. George starts a romance with widow Rosa di Marco (Louise Jameson), and they eventually get engaged. It emerges that he had an affair with Rosa years before moving to Albert Square, when her husband Giuseppe was in prison, which put doubt in Rosa's mind about who fathered her son Gianni (Marc Bannerman). A DNA test confirms George is not the father. George then breaks off the engagement and goes back to New Zealand in 1998.
Creation and development
Actor Paul Moriarty was asked to read for the role of George along with 10 other actors. Moriarty was called back instantly and asked to begin working on the role the following day. He has commented to an American fan-based publication, "[It was] quite overwhelming. I had watched the show but not religiously [...] So I show up at [the studios in] Borehamwood the very next day, straight to make-up and then onto [the soap's setting of] Albert Square to do my first bit [...] I might just as well have landed on Mars."
George has been described as "shady". Moriarty has described his character's original outline as given to him by the production crew when he accepted the role: "The man’s background, as it was explained in the prepared bio which I received, was pretty nasty. He was a violent man-very bad news. He murdered people. He’d been this vicious boxer who punched and clawed his way up the ladder, disposing of a body here and there over the years if it helped him get to where he wanted to go. He wasn’t just into fencing stolen goods, you know! He was really meant to be this hard, ruthless bastard." However, as Moriarty has inferred, his character altered somewhat from the original outline following the development of his relationship with the soap's matriarch Peggy Mitchell, played by Barbara Windsor: "Obviously the character evolved in a certain way as the writers wanted to pursue the idea of George being a love interest for one of their important leading ladies. They simply wouldn’t allow her to be involved with a cold-blooded murderer because that wouldn’t reflect well in her character. Besides, inevitable comparisons would have then been drawn between Peggy and George on EastEnders, and Barbara having been married in real life to a gangster, Ronnie Knight." Despite this, as author Kate Lock has suggested, "George Palmer's name carried serious clout in the criminal underworld" and it was these dalliences in illegal activity that eventually ended George and Peggy's romance. Moriarty has been asked about Peggy's negative reaction to George's criminality because, as the interviewer noted, Peggy's backstory consists of a first marriage to a suggested gangster, Eric Mitchell, and Peggy had accepted his dealings and turned a blind-eye. Moriarty responded, "I suppose [Peggy being] made landlady [of the soap's pub] did that to her - airs and graces! But that’s what happens on soaps if you stay a long-term character. You’ve got to be made sympathetic and even moral to an extent. So they had Peggy and George being all right for a while, and then George would inevitably screw up and they’d make up again - over and over. Barbara turned to me one night as we were driving home and said, 'This is getting to be bloody boring now, isn’t it?' She wasn’t half right. Quite frankly, the show didn’t know what to make of George. That’s why they brought on [his daughter] Annie [Nadia Sawalha] - to do the dirty work for him! That’s actually quite accurate of the East End villain these days. They swan around in these dapper suits and get someone else to hide the money-or the bodies."