At the moment, EastEnders fans are deeply concerned for Ben Mitchell, who is struggling to cope with his profound hearing loss – and continues to go off the rails to try and prove that he is still strong in the eyes of his criminal father Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden).
But as he finds it difficult to navigate his relationships and his new way of life, viewers have been equally aching for him and frustrated by his decisions.
However, actor Max Bowden told us of his pride at being asked to tackle such a topical and underrepresented issue – and agreed that it felt important that Ben’s flawed character wasn’t lost amid the condition.
In an interview with Metro.co.uk, he said: ‘I’ve got to say, it’s been the most rewarding thing that the deaf community feel that what we have put forward is an accurate portrayal of hearing loss due to head trauma and distortion of sounds and discussion around hearing aids. It’s been great to get such great feedback – it means a lot to us.
‘More than anything, Ben is trying to prove something to himself – he thinks he has become weak and it’s a big change. Proving himself to his dad is always in his psychology – but more than that, he wants to prove that he is still Ben and still capable of doing these things; or thinks he is.’
Discussing the decision of using a character like Ben, who is no angel, to propel a story like this into the limelight, Max agreed that it was important to go beyond showing diversity just for the sake of it – and that any type of character can be a part of the portrayal, flaws and all.
He mused: ‘Absolutely, yes, that’s the whole point of inclusion. It’s not about painting a false picture. One of the amazing things about bringing in Rose, who is profoundly deaf, is the character of Frankie is free, open, accepting of what she is, feisty and boisterous. It’s telling a really lovely story and adds a really human angle to the criminal side which Ben can’t find his way out of.’
And the controversy of Ben’s flawed decisions and that cursed Mitchell hold over faaaaamily loyalty could well impact his relationship with Callum Highway (Tony Clay) – the man he loves.
But Max is confident that he can weather the storm – he just thinks Ben needs to accept the love that Callum is showing and get his head around the fact that someone can love him for just being him and he doesn’t need to prove himself in other desperate ways.
He said: ‘There’s definitely going to be a conflict in their relationship as Ben is taking part in criminal activity and Callum is the opposite, he’s a policeman. The barrier will be tested as they’re two opposing sides of the law – that can cause heartache.
‘I think there’s always hope with Ben and Callum – it comes back to their basic being. Callum gives to Ben what he’s never had. That settlement, he doesn’t have to be more than enough which Ben has always needed. If anyone can help Ben get used to that it’s Callum.’
And Max can’t wait to get back to business – and home to Elstree where EastEnders is filmed.
Asked if he is looking forward to getting back to the show, he enthused: ‘More than anything – it’s routine. We run such a tight ship there, we all get on so well. It’s home for us. I just can’t wait to get back.
‘During this weird time, you can say you haven’t had a couple of ups and downs but you’d be lying – it’s an intense way to live. But I’m riding the wave, think I have done alright and as soon as it’s safe, I can’t wait to get back.’
We also spoke to Max about the special episode coming up, big plot details and more – but you will have to wait until Tuesday for the rest of our chat. You can find it, with all our other spoilers and interviews, on the Metro Soaps homepage.
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