Ben Mitchell returns to EastEnders on Monday 1st April with Max Bowden making his debut in the role, the sixth actor to play the son of Walford legends Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) and Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth).
As we meet the newest incarnation of the character, RadioTimes.com looks back at his history from cute little boy to angry young man, and the actors that have played him…
Prior to slipping into Ben’s overalls Bowden, 24, was best known for playing troubled teenager Justin Fitzgerald in Waterloo Road. The character appeared in the 10th and final series of the school drama between 2014-2015. Justin was a cynical, angry kid with abandonment issues who once threatened to blow up the school, but beneath the tough exterior was a decent lad – isn’t there always? Bowden has also had small roles in the likes of Casualty and Doctors, and at the age of nine starred alongside future screen dad Steve McFadden in pantomime.
When does Max Bowden start on EastEnders as Ben Mitchell?
Max’s first appearance as Ben is on Monday 1st April. Phil is surprised to see his son who turns up unannounced a year after leaving town, and is even more taken aback as to who Ben has with him – he’s accompanied by distant Mitchell cousin Lola Pearce (Danielle Harold) and their six-year-old daughter Lexi, last seen in 2015. Struggling with his sexuality in his teens, Ben feared Phil would reject him if he was gay so Lola suggested they sleep together to test if he was straight – and Lexi was the unexpected result. Ben has shown little interest in being part of Lexi’s life up until now, so why are the trio back together as a family unit?
When was Ben Mitchell last in EastEnders and how did he leave?
Ben hopped on a ferry bound for France in January 2018 having stolen a bundle of cash from gangster’s moll Ciara Maguire following a bungled heist Phil was involved with – or so he thought, as it later emerged stepmum Sharon had swiped most of the loot before Ben left, leaving him with a few measly bits of jewellery.
Absent Ben has been mentioned on screen a few times as living abroad but has distanced himself from his family in the last 12 months. Jay Brown (Jamie Borthwick) called his surrogate bruv recently and was intrigued to get a UK dialling tone, confirming he was back in Blighty.
Who has played Ben Mitchell in the past?
Matthew Silver/Morgan Whittle (1998-2001)
Baby Ben was born in March 1996 and played by Silver for the first two eventful years of his life – he nearly died from meningitis which left him deaf in one ear and his dad became an alcoholic and cheated on his mum. Kathy cut her losses and took Ben to live in South Africa in 1998. They came back for Kathy’s eldest son Ian’s ill-fated wedding to Mel Owen on Millennium Eve in 1999 with Whittle as toddler Ben and returned to South Africa in early 2000. Whittle’s final appearance was in 2001 when Ben visited Phil.
Charlie Jones (2006-2010)
News from South Africa of Kathy and third husband Gavin Sullivan’s deaths in an off-screen car crash in 2006 turned out to be greatly exaggerated but it was almost a decade before we’d discover they’d faked their demise and at the time 10-year-old Ben was forced to live with a father he hardly knew back in Walford.
The ballet-loving, sensitive boy was hardly the son Phil had wished for and their relationship was strained. Bullied by Phil’s wicked fiancee Stella Crawford, Ben carried psychological scars of his troubled childhood which manifested in violence. Desperate for his dad’s approval Ben tried to toughen up and assaulted schoolmate Jordan Johnson with a wrench, earning him eight months in juvenile detention in summer 2010.
Rebooted as brooding and bolshy, Ben was released from juvie in December 2010 and came home a different kid from the boy who’d been sent down – literally, as Pascoe replaced Jones. Spiky, angry and twisted, Ben came out of the closet – that fumble with Lola where Lexi was conceived confirming his sexuality – only to be pushed away by his homophobic father who he later anonymously stalked and blackmailed over his past crimes as revenge.
That flash of anger resurfaced when he accidentally killed kindly Heather Trott, but realising he was to blame for his son’s state of mind, Phil covered up the crime. The truth eventually came out and Ben was sent down for manslaughter.
What is Joshua Pascoe up to now?
Around the time he left the show in August 2012, Pascoe was arrested on suspicion of alleged sexual assault but it is understood no charges were brought. He continues to act and appeared in an episode of Lee Mack’s sitcom Not Going Out and had supporting roles in British films A Suburban Fairytale and Just Charlie.
Harry Reid (2014-2018)
Ben’s second stint inside came to an end and he returned home all grown up in the form of Reid in September 2014 just in time to be best man at his dad’s wedding to Sharon. Still unable to accept his sexuality, he embarked on a doomed showmance with Abi Branning who faked a pregnancy to keep him off gay dating apps, but Ben eventually found love with curly-haired cutie Paul Coker only for his soul mate to be killed in a homophobic attack.
Discovering his mum had faked her death and forming a brotherly bond with honorary Mitchell Jay Brown earned Reid praise for his performance but the actor bowed out in January 2018 when producers wrote Ben out again.