Since actor George Baker stepped into the sensible lace-up shoes of old-fashioned Det Ch Insp Wexford, he has won the hearts of many. “When I made Wolf to the Slaughter, the very first Rendell, I thought it was going to be a one-off,” he says. “Six years later it’s a different story.” There will be four more serialised books before the end of the year, a two-hour special at Christmas and four more are planned for new year.
“Then no more. No more books, that’s it, boom”, says George. “Of course I’ll miss Wexford - It’s been lovely regular work and I’ve had involvement not just in front of the camera. I’ve done some writing, too. But it would be nice to proceed with other things.”
George’s distinguished stage and film career spanned more than 30-years when he was picked for Wexford. But now he admits he’s looking forward to a break from the part in the near future. “It sounds as though I’m grumbling, but I’m not,” he says. “But once we start work at the beginning of the year, I have a week between that and the next, four days between the next two and nothing at all before the final one.”
When we met he was preparing to start a 12-hour shoot through the night, which meant he wouldn’t see his wife, actress Sally Home, until the next day. She is very ill at their Wiltshire home, suffering from a tumour on the spine. George had just called her on his mobile phone to see how she was, and bravely spoke about her illness. “No she’s not very well, but I’m happier knowing she’s at home rather than here on location. And I’m always ringing in, just to check that she’s okay. We planned to see our girls in Australia last January but Sally was too ill,” explains George.
George’s youngest daughter, Sarah, worked on the latest Ruth Rendell Mystery as a third assistant director. “She was rather good,” he smiles. “She must be because people keep asking her back.”
Daughters Candy and Charlie live in Australia. Tessa is a chief in France. Ellie (Charlie’s twin) is married and lives in England with her daughters Rosie and Kim. “My only grandchildren …” says George, “but I’m hoping for about 20 more girls,” he jokes.
George’s own childhood was happy. His mother, a nurse from Dublin, went to Bulgaria in the Twenties. There she met his father, a Yorkshireman working for the British Council. “She died two years ago at 87. She was a wonderful woman.” George was born in Bulgaria. The family moved to Britain shortly after the war began, but his father stayed behind. George never saw him again - he died there in 1942. ‘I’ll never forget the words he said to me as he saw us off: ‘Remember son, you take a woman by the waist and a bottle by the neck.’ It’s good advice.”