Ex-EastEnders star Ben Hardy: ‘LA is not my kind of scene!’

Ex-EastEnders hunk Ben Hardy - Ian Beale's son Peter in the soap - is thrilled with his new role in BBC period drama The Woman In White!

Ben Hardy has come a long way since he spirited Peter Beale away from Albert Square for the fresh pastures of New Zealand. No languishing on the sidelines for this soap star! Ben was quickly snapped up for roles in X-Men: Apocalypse, the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, and alongside Josh Brolin and Jeff Bridges in Only The Brave. But now the 27-year-old is back on TV, starring in the BBC production of Wilkie Collins’ supernatural tale The Woman In White, alongside Jessie Buckley, Charles Dance and Art Malik.

What’s the story?

“I’ve always wanted to do a BBC drama since like forever so it’s great to finally be in one,” says Ben. “I am kind of leading man but there are so many lead characters in this as there are so many stories going on…”

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Ex-EastEnders star Ben Hardy talks about his new role in BBC period drama The Woman in White…

Soaplife: Hi Ben! You play the narrator, art teacher Walter Hartright, in the period drama The Woman In White…

Ben Hardy: “He’s kind of the audience’s perspective on the story, you see it through his eyes. It’s been shot that way as well – you see the back of my head a lot!”

Ben as Walter

S: Tell us about Walter…

BH: “He’s a really interesting character to play because he’s an artist and that’s all he wants to do and then he gets this letter asking him to go and teach at Limmeridge, a house in Cumbria. He doesn’t want to leave London or the bohemian art scene but it’s good money so he does it. It leads him on this mysterious sequence of events and in the process he meets these amazing two young girls, one who he falls in love with and the other who he has a great friendship with.”

S: And Walter is the first person to see the woman in white…

BH: “He is. He meets this woman on the heath who just really baffles him. She seems troubled, she doesn’t seem insane but she comes from a mental asylum and that disturbs him. Then she mentions Limmeridge which is where he’s about to go and the chances of that are so slim… so it’s all a bit spooky and mysterious.”

S: Had you read the book before winning the role?

BH: “No, but then I did read it. I’m not massively into Victorian literature because it can be endless pages of description about a hill or something. But I loved The Woman In White, it felt like a modern novel.”

S: Did you do anything else to prepare for the part?

BH: “I’m a terrible painter but I had lessons and I did get a lot better at drawing. I tried because there are a few scenes where I’m painting or drawing and I wanted to look like I knew what I was doing.”

S: How did you get on with the Victorian costumes?

BH: “Well it was difficult to go to the bathroom. I was thinking this will take 20 minutes! But it’s always nice to play dress up.”

S: Did you enjoy filming in Belfast?

BH: “I’ll be honest, I thought going to Belfast for three months would be boring. Then I went and it’s such a beautiful city with great bars and a great nightlife and the locations are so beautiful.”

S: Did friends come over to visit you?

BH: “My girlfriend was over a fair bit and she loved it and my family came over as well. I was trying to arrange a big Belfast night out with friends but it didn’t seem to happen in the end.”

S: Are you splitting your time a lot between London and the States?

BH: “For filming, yes. I don’t really like going to LA but I will go over for a few weeks here and there to do meetings. There are lovely pockets of LA but it’s so industry orientated it’s like everyone’s an actor. You get an uber and there’s someone selling you a script or telling you how they’re just driving for research! And you’ll be at an event and everyone is doing that thing where they’re talking to you but looking over your shoulder to see who else is around. It’s not really my kind of scene.”

Ben Hardy, Peter Beale, Lauren Branning, EastEnders

Ben Hardy as Peter Beale with on-screen girlfriend Lauren Branning

S: You must be thrilled with the way things have gone since you left EastEnders as Peter Beale in 2015…

BH: “Yeah it’s been going really well, but touch wood, who knows? I could be driving uber myself in a couple of months!”

S: Do you stay in touch with anyone from the show?

BH: “Himesh Patel, who played Tamwar Masood. I love Himesh. We meet up every now and then. I often message a few people but a lot of them live out in Essex or East London and I’m West London so it’s two hours away!”

S: Have you got anything lined up after Woman In White?

BH: “No I don’t, not yet. I’ve been so full on with this I haven’t done any auditions or anything, so my agent’s kind of despairing of me! I need to sort that out.”

S: Is there anything fancy doing?

BH: “I really want to do some theatre. I haven’t been on stage for three years now and that really jars with me but it’s just finding the right thing, a short run of something. I want to do a modern play, something at the Royal Court or something like that would be great. But I don’t know what’s next, hopefully something good.”