Fans are divided over whether the current actor playing Ben is as good as one of his predecessors
Since his debut in 1996, the EastEnders character Ben Mitchell has been played by six different actors. Viewers are hoping that one of the actors who played Ben, Phil Mitchell and Kathy Beale’s son, will return to the show.
Max Bowden is the most recent actor to play the Albert Square character, though many fans are pleading with the BBC to bring back Harry Reid, who played the character from 2014 to 2018 and was involved in storylines such as Ben coming to terms with his sexuality as a gay man.
Fans of the show have taken to the online forum Digital Spy to discuss Max Bowden’s current performance in the popular BBC soap, with viewers split on whether Max or Harry would be a better fit for the role. The disagreements also center on whether or not there is still room for Ben’s character on the show, and whether or not it is a problem with the writing of his storylines rather than the actor portraying him.
As one fan put it: “Yes, bringing back Harry Reid would vastly improve the character. Because Max isn’t cut out for everyday Ben, [the writers] keep giving him crazy stories, whereas if Harry played the part, he’d be perfect for just being a regular old boring Ben. In a way that Max can’t, he brought innocence and heart to the role.”
Another said: “I have always said many times that Harry Reid played the role better than Max Bowden”
However, not everyone agrees, as one person on the forum stated: “Another recast is too much for me. “It’s getting silly now, either keep Max or go back to Harry,” one person said, while another added, “The obsession with the previous actor is rather baffling.” You’d think he’d be the next Olivier Award winner. It’s been four years since we last saw each other. He’s not going to return. Now is the time to move on.”
One fan even had a novel suggestion to bring in a left field choice for the role of Ben, they said: “Time to recast Ben. With short hair and glasses Daniella Westbrook could transform the character!”
Whilst some have been critical of Max’s acting, one viewer wrote: “Oh please, Max Bowden is a brilliant actor and plays Ben perfectly” and a second viewer came to his defence by saying “Can we please stop the Max Bowden bashing. We get it, you don’t like him.”
Another praised Max’s performance in the role, they said “Max Bowden is a very good actor and has great chemistry with the rest of the cast. Based on those 2 points alone I’d say he’s the best Ben we’ve had, that’s my own opinion of course.”
Others have blamed the current apathy to Ben’s character on the character and not the actors playing them, they wrote: “I’m not even bothered about Ben either way. He’s always been a marmite character to me even when Harry or Charlie were playing him.”
Ben Mitchell’s story has had a series of highs and lows over the past year; he married Callum in May 2021, but the couple has faced several challenges in their relationship, and when one of Ben’s old flames returned to Albert Square, they decided that a night out would help their stumbling marriage.
The night out ended in disaster when the group was stopped on their way to Walford Station and Callum was beaten in a homophobic attack, leaving Ben frozen in fear and powerless to help his husband.
The forum’s main criticism is that, in order for Ben’s character to stay on the show, his storylines and scene writing need to be shaken up.
One person said: “I believe he simply requires better writing and a new storyline, as he is currently very dull following the attack. Hopefully, the new producer will help him and us move on from our ordeal.”
While another concurred, they penned the following: “The writing is what ultimately fails the character and the actor. Because of the things he’s done, it’s difficult to ACTUALLY sympathise with the character when he’s put back into a sympathetic role (which I believe Ben belongs in; he’s NOT the next Phil and never should be).”
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