EastEnders star Harry Reid has tonight made his final appearance as Ben Mitchell, the character having left Albert Square behind for a new life overseas. So how does the actor who’s played the role since 2014 feel about Ben’s departure? And what is he planning on doing next? We caught up with Harry to get the lowdown on Ben’s exit:
So, why did Ben decide to run away? Ben’s had a pretty rough time lately. He’s lost Paul, the one person he actually loved and finally felt comfortable with. It was more than love though – he felt comfortable with his boyfriend in public, which was huge for him. And then he finally decided to accept someone else into his life, Luke, and after how he was treated it’s really hurt him. He feels he’s let Paul down and the opportunity of running away was too much to pass up. I think everything with Abi just topped it all off too. Once again he’s lost someone close to him.
Why he did leave without Jay? He knows that Jay is happy where he is and Ben ultimately has to do this alone. Leaving Jay is one of the hardest things for him to do. They’re brothers. But he knows that he’ll always be there and he still loves him. It was hard for Ben, but he did it to protect him. What he’s doing is dangerous – they can be in contact once it’s all blown over.
Do you think he’s made the right decision? He’s made the right decision to leave, but it was a very foolish decision to give Kathy one of the necklaces! To get away from there and from possible problems is a wise choice. He’s made the right decision. but the way he’s gone about it isn’t right.
Is he scared of what Phil might do? I imagine Phil would be very angry if he found out. He’d feel betrayed. But if Ben makes contact with him and explains it, I imagine Phil would understand. Ben hasn’t done this because he hates Phil. He’s just seen an opportunity and gone with it.
What was it like having your final scenes with Tamzin Outhwaite? Working with her was one of the most surreal moments. I was a massive Steve and Mel Owen fan. To work with Tamzin was just great. Obviously I had to just try and forget everything I knew about her character and base it on what Ben would have heard as stories. I had to play it straight down the line and I absolutely loved it. I’m glad she was a part of it.
How does he feel about the missing money? At first, he was like, ‘where the hell has it gone?!’ After thinking he’s been shafted, the fact he was in another country and out of his surroundings, that then descended into panic. He’s away, with no money and he can’t go home. But the main thing about this is that it’s not about running away with all this money, he just wants to get away – the money was a bonus. So once he realises he still has some money he’s fine, he sees hope.
What was filming your final scenes on set like? My final scene to film on the actual set was just after he gave Kathy the necklace. He goes out to the Square and looks around because he thinks someone is watching him. I was worried I wasn’t going to see the market traders again. I respect them so much and wanted to have a last scene with them. I got to walk out through there, but that was also the hardest part of it. It was very emotional and they all gathered round me. It was difficult and with it being a look round the Square, I had to stop feeling like it was me looking round the Square to say goodbye, and it was Ben.
What will you miss the most? Working every single day is a lovely thing. I love my job. I’ll miss the character the most. He was a lot of fun to play, a lot of work and a lot of headaches, but a lot of fun. He’s a very layered character and it was a privilege to be able to work with a character like that.
What has been your favourite scene or storyline to be part of? I think my favourite storyline has to be Kathy coming home. One: because of what it was. But also I had Michael Owen Morris directing the episodes. We worked really closely together and he let me put a lot of ideas into it that were used. I really appreciated it. That was what I really loved about that whole thing.
The fight with Jay was also great to film. It had been building up and it was about time that it happened between them. It was true Mitchell brother style which is why I loved it. The way they started laugh at the end – it’s just typical Mitchell brothers. They love each other. It was just them having a conversation the way they needed to.
What’s your favourite memory from the set? It was when I was in the Mitchell house sat at the dining table opposite Steve McFadden and Ross Kemp doing a line run. It was like jumping back in time. It was weird. Working with Ross was one of my highlights. The scene in the hospital where it was me, him and Steve and I had a few little bits with him, which was great. It felt surreal.
What do you have planned next? I’m really excited for everything. I’ve had a few offers and lots of auditions lined up. I’m looking forward to the future.
Is there anything you want to say to the viewers? A personal thank you to everyone who has supported me, whether it be on social media or at events to see me, it means so much. Also a special thank you to the people who have supported me on a personal level – you know who you are.
Is it nice for the door to be left open? Obviously, for me, the character has become a massive part of my life. I would hate the idea of not being able to bring him to life again. It’s been a privilege to play Ben.
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