EastEnders star Max Bowden reveals Ben's rape storyline has harrowing link to past plot

EastEnders' Ben Mitchell arranges to meet up with Lewis Butler.
EastEnders star Max Bowden has revealed more about Ben's ordeal at the hands of Lewis. (Image credit: BBC)

EastEnders star Max Bowden has revealed more details about Ben Mitchell's harrowing attack at the hands of barman Lewis which is set to play out on screen next week. 

It was announced earlier this month that Ben would be the victim of rape in an upcoming EastEnders storyline, with his trauma coming just as Ben has hit rock bottom, still struggling to come to terms with the homophobic attack on his husband, Callum, in January.

Since the attack, Ben has been getting revenge by attacking homophobic men in the street, leaving one man badly beaten in hospital, and even attacking his own nephew Peter Beale in a case of mistaken identity. 

What to Watch caught up with Max to hear more about Ben's upcoming ordeal, and he has revealed there is a nod to a past storyline featuring Ben's mum, Kathy Beale. 

EastEnders Ben and Callum

Ben and Callum's marriage has been put to the test recently.  (Image credit: BBC)

Fans might remember that back in the 1980s Kathy was herself a victim of rape at the hands of nasty Willmott Brown. And Max has pointed out that Ben's attack happens in the very same location where his mum was also raped... 

"It was a deliberate move from the writers," shares Max. "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 the fans love.

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

"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!"

EastEnders Ben sees he's hurt Peter

Ben has got a harrowing time ahead.  (Image credit: BBC)

Max has also revealed that he purposely kept his distance from actor Aidan O'Callaghan, who plays Lewis, on set before filming the rape scenes... "I was probably a bit of an arse really 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 close. 

"I felt I thought it would make everything that happens after 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 arse!'. After that, we had a good chat and got on really well. I did feel quite bad for doing it, but I think it helped."

Ben Mitchell talks to Albert bar manager Lewis

Barman Lewis is set to attack Ben on a night out.  (Image credit: BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron)

Ben's trauma following his attack is set to change everything for the character, and Max has confirmed that Ben will try to hide what happened to him... 

"The initial impact of trauma is that element of shock, confusion, fear and loneliness. Ben can be quite an insular person, he is very good at putting on a mask. But we do start to see the mask falling and it becomes more apparent that something's not right. 

"With Kathy, there's obviously that commonality and the fact that she was raped by Wilmott Brown. Also, there's a brotherhood with Jay who can see through the mask, and the people who know him best start to see something's not quite right. There are patterns in his behaviour. Not grooming himself anymore, he starts to look quite dishevelled. And people start to unravel the pieces of the puzzle.

"But for somebody who's as male bravado-driven as Ben Mitchell, it's really tough. So he becomes a complete shell of himself and utterly confused and lost. It's like shellshock. It’s fight or flight for what comes next."

EastEnders airs Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7.30 pm on BBC One — see our TV Guide for full listings. You can also catch up on episodes on BBC iPlayer now. 

Claire Crick
Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 

After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and whattowatch.com writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off

She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 

As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.