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EastEnders star on Ben Mitchell and Kathy Beale plot parallels

Max Bowden speaks about the similarities between the two storylines, airing decades apart.

max bowden ben eastenders
Published: Tuesday, 17th May 2022 at 4:00 pm
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This article contains discussion of subjects including sexual abuse that some readers may find upsetting.

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EastEnders star Max Bowden has reflected on the parallels between his character Ben Mitchell's rape ordeal and that of Ben's mother Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth) several years earlier.

Ben will be sexually assaulted by Lewis Butler (played by Aidan O'Callaghan) at The Albert - the very same venue where Kathy was raped by James Willmott-Brown (William Boyde) back in 1988.

Willmott-Brown later went to prison for his crime, but returned in 1992 and again in 2017 - at which point Ben learned what happened to his mum.

Kathy now owns the bar where she currently employs Lewis, who gave the early impression of being a charming and friendly openly gay man. But amid Ben's growing bond with the newcomer, Lewis will brutally attack him.

Many viewers will recall Kathy's history, and make the connection between past and present plots. And Bowden has now commented on this for the first time in a chat with RadioTimes.com and other media.

Kathy and Willmott-Brown in EastEnders
Kathy was raped by Willmott-Brown - and came face to face with him again in 2017 (BBC)

"With Kathy, there's obviously that commonality and the fact that she was raped by Willmott-Brown," the actor said, adding that EastEnders chose to place Ben's experience in the same venue.

"I believe yes, it was a deliberate move from the writers. What’s really great about what's happening with the show at the moment is there's a lot of referencing and a lot of links back to history, which I think the fans love.

"They love the show, love to be reminded of stuff that's happened before. And also for that to then correlate within the story I think is genius, keeps the show at its roots and about family, heritage and all of the things that makes EastEnders what it is."

Bowden added that his close working relationship with on-screen mum Taylforth aided the filming process.

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"Gillian and I have the most amazing relationship and we're really close, so there was a lot of cross-referencing between us as to her experience of when she filmed it and my experience going through it. There’s always a conversation to be had with Gillian Taylforth!"

Asked whether the actress offered him any advice about tackling the tough subject matter, the actor said: "Not advice as such, more an insight; and that I will keep with me, it's very private. But as an actress she just gets it and understands what we go through and the emotional journey."

Bowden concluded that he believes Kathy could play a key role in Ben's recovery going forward.

"I think she'll be very important," he said. "There's been a kind of missing link for a while with Ben and Kathy, so much emphasis on the relationship between Ben and Phil for years that we’ve missed a lot of the Ben and Kathy elements that keep them fresh.

"They are a wonderful little pairing, I adore working with Gillian. And they have a lot more in common than they realise, personally I think maybe more than Phil.

"Discovering that going forward, I think is going to be really important, not just for the characters, but for the fans. It’s been crying out for some kind of rekindling of Ben and Kathy, and I think this might be the opportunity to bring that together."

EastEnders is working closely with Survivors Manchester on Ben's storyline. You can find help and support at https://www.survivorsmanchester.org.uk/ and https://www.survivorsuk.org/.

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Visit our dedicated EastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers. If you’re looking for more to watch check out our TV guide.

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