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Max Bowden reveals why he avoided co-star ahead of harrowing EastEnders scenes

He chose to keep a distance from co-star Aidan O'Callaghan before filming the traumatic moments.

Ben Mitchell played by MAX BOWDEN and Lewis Butler played by AIDAN O'CALLAGHAN in EastEnders
BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron
Published: Tuesday, 17th May 2022 at 10:00 am
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This article contains discussion of sexual assault that some readers may find upsetting.

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Ben Mitchell actor Max Bowden has explained why he avoided his EastEnders co-star Aidan O'Callaghan, who plays Lewis Butler, ahead of their upcoming storyline in the BBC soap.

Lewis will rape Ben in distressing scenes airing later this month. This follows the pair growing closer as Lewis has recently provided a listening ear for Ben's troubles.

For the last few months, Ben has been struggling with another existing trauma after witnessing a homophobic attack. This has caused him grow apart from husband Callum Highway (Tony Clay), who can't understand his mindset.

Ben later went to take matters into his own hands, and at the same time, Lewis conveniently wormed his way into his life.

Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other media about preparing to film the harrowing story, Bowden was asked whether he knew what was coming when O'Callaghan initially joined the show.

"I don't know but I think perhaps Aidan did," he said. "It had been pitched to me about 10 months ago but we weren't sure when it was going to come in. It was still in discussion.

"And then it had to go through clearances, so it has been a long process. It wasn't until Aidan came in and I realised the story was actually happening now, but I think we were both fairly aware."

eastenders ben mitchell
BBC

Soon after learning about the subject matter, Bowden made the creative decision to keep his distance from O'Callaghan. "I was probably a bit of an arse really," he mused.

"Because I said to Coilin [O Scolai, EastEnders director], but didn't tell Aidan until we'd finished that stuff, that I deliberately kept my distance from him for about six weeks, just because I didn't want to find myself in a position where we become personally close."

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The actor added that this was purely so that a real-life friendship couldn't translate on-screen while the pair were filming the dark plot. And thankfully, he did explain all to his colleague eventually.

"I felt, I thought it would make everything that happens post-that really difficult. So I said to him after we'd finished the scene, 'I just want you to know that I am not an asshole. I was I was doing this because of X, Y and Z’. After that we had a good chat and got on really well. It was a choice and I did feel quite bad for doing it, but I think it helped."

Bowden also gave us an insight into the rehearsal process, as well as telling us how EastEnders supported the cast when shooting the pivotal scenes. "We had an intimacy coordinator for the scene itself. But in terms of rehearsal time, it was more just conversation and choreography, making sure that the beats are matched up.

"With something like this, it's very important that we get the moments of change within the thought pattern, so much is happening in such a short space of time. So as actors, we have to kind of choreograph it too, to make sure that first of all, it reads perfectly for the audience. So there's no confusion about what's happening and the decisions that have been made," he explained.

"And two, it just gives us a bit of clarity as actors so that we know where we're going in our journey. So there was that and the intimacy coordinator really helped, it freed up the experience for us."

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/.

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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