Leslie Grantham in 2005. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Leslie Grantham, an actor who became a British TV icon during the 1980s as arch-villain “Dirty” Den Watts on the soap opera “EastEnders,” died June 15. He was 71.

His management company, Advocate Agency, confirmed the death but did not disclose additional details.

“EastEnders” first aired in 1985, chronicling life in the fictional working-class London neighborhood of Walford. Mr. Grantham’s unscrupulous, adulterous character ran the Queen Vic pub with his wife, Angie. Their tempestuous relationship was central to many of the soap’s most dramatic plots.

Half of Britain’s population reportedly watched a 1986 Christmas episode in which Den handed his wife divorce papers with the words “Happy Christmas, Ange.”

“Everyone thought Den was a lovable rogue,” Mr. Grantham said later. “He wasn’t evil, he was just Jack the lad.”

Mr. Grantham left the show in 1989 when his character was apparently shot — only to be resurrected in 2003. The character was killed again in 2005, shot by his second on-screen wife.

Leslie Michael Grantham was born April 30, 1947, in London and joined the British army as a teenager. While stationed in Germany, he was convicted in 1967 of killing a taxi driver during a robbery attempt. He began acting while serving a decade in prison.

Mr. Grantham had a few small television parts before auditioning for “EastEnders,” which made him a star.

In 2004, he was ensnared in a tabloid scandal involving webcam sex sessions with an undercover reporter from his “EastEnders” dressing room. He left the show soon afterward.

In addition to “EastEnders,” Mr. Grantham performed onstage, hosted a TV game show, wrote a children’s novel and appeared in a television series in Bulgaria.

His marriage to Jane Laurie ended in divorce. Survivors include three sons.