EastEnders is set to take a dark turn next week. In a heartbreaking scene,Ben Mitchell will be rapedby Albert Square’s newcomer; bar manager Lewis Butler, played by Aidan O'Callaghan.
BBC soap EastEnders viewers have seen Ben, played by Max Bowden, struggle recently after he and husband Callum were targeted in a homophobic attack, which has triggered painful memories of when Ben's first love Paul was killed in similar circumstances.
The long-running soap has been working closely with various charities and organisations on the new storyline – including SurvivorsUK, Survivors Manchester and the Male Survivors Partnership – to ensure the storyline is portrayed accurately and approached realistically and with sensitivity in mind.
Away from EastEnders, this isn’t Aidan O'Callaghan’s first stint in soaps and he was previously in Emmerdale in 2018.
Aidan played chef Mike, a man who Bernice Blackstock introduced to Robert Sugden at a gay bar.
Though, he isn’t just a soap star and recently finished shooting The Witcher: Blood Origin spin-off for Netflix, starring opposite the likes of Michelle Yeoh, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Lenny Henry.
Aside from his stints in acting, Aidan studied pharmacology at Trinity College Dublin.
He told theIrish Examinerthat he worked in chemists in between acting gigs as he admitted never believing that acting would be a serious career for him.
He said: “In secondary school, I joined a theatre company. We were involved in theatre classes. It was a hobby. Acting was very far from me: Cillian Murphy and Graham Norton were the only two people in the industry. I didn’t have it in my mind.
“I studied pharmacy. And then I did a master's degree in the Royal College of Surgeons. I was going down that career. I moved to London to pursue pharmacy. I picked up acting again as a hobby – joined some classes.
“And as I was working as a pharmacist, doing classes, I was like, ‘you know, I like this’. I started the audition process. You keep knocking on those doors and some opportunities open up.”
Recently actorMax Bowden opened up about filming the rape scenes and keeping his distance from his co-star: “I was probably a bit of an a**e really!”
He added: “I deliberately kept my distance from him for about six weeks, because I didn’t want to find myself in a position where we became close. After we’d finished the scene, I said, 'I just want you to know I’m not an a**e,' and explained why I was doing this. After that we had a good chat. I did feel quite bad for doing it, but I think it helped.
“We had to kind of choreograph it, to make sure there’s no confusion for the audience about what’s happening and the decisions the characters make. There was an intimacy coordinator on set, so that helped free up the experience.”
He added that turning to experts to help during this storyline was important: “I met with some survivors and I spent hours in conversation with Duncan Craig from Survivors Manchester [a charity that supports abuse survivors]. What an amazing man and what an amazing charity.”
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