With the Forum Theatre Billingham’s pantomime Beauty and the Beast opening 3rd December, Ben-Ryan Davies will be playing Gaston over the festive season until the run ends 2nd January. As a screen actor, Ben-Ryan has been involved with many projects over the years, including playing Nick Savage in Hollyoaks, Edward Grange in TV mini-series Harriet’s Army, and in 2010, he joined the cast of Waterloo Road playing Ronan Burley before leaving in 2012. Recently, we spoke to Ben-Ryan, who answered our questions about his upcoming run as Gaston in Forum Theatre Billingham’s pantomime Beauty and the Beast, his time as Nick Savage in Hollyoaks and playing Ronan Burley in Waterloo Road.
This Christmas, you are playing Gaston in the Forum Theatre Billingham’s pantomime Beauty and the Beast, what do you think the role will be like to play?
I’m excited to play Gaston this year, purely because he’s so different to the characters I’ve played when I’ve been in previous pantomimes so I’m excited to see the reaction I get this year!
How is it being part of a pantomime cast and how do you find the experience interacting with a pantomime audience?
I absolutely love this time of year and having the pleasure of entertaining people and being involved in the Christmas plans of lots of people. I always love the camaraderie of being part of the cast over Christmas, it is a great buzz to get on that stage every day and it’s a real joy to go into ‘work’. I find interaction terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure… The little voice inside your head is saying ‘please respond, please respond!’.
The audiences never let us down in Billingham, they’re a brilliant audience for panto and love to get involved and that’s exactly what we want.
What do you feel you’ll bring to the role of Gaston and what can audiences expect from your portrayal of the character?
I’m looking to have a lot of fun with this character this year, like I said previously, he’s going to be different to the characters I’ve played previously so that means I can go in with a really open mind and play around!
Is there anything you are looking forward to most for being part of Beauty and the Beast at Billingham, which runs from 3rd December?
I look forward to going back to Billingham every year because I’ve made friends up there from the cast, crew and members of the audience who I’ve got to know. It’s a great theatre with a good atmosphere both front of house and backstage.
Why would you recommend families book tickets to see this year’s Christmas show at the Forum Theatre Billingham?
Because it is good fun for all the family and there is always a high quality production. The cast are a really talented bunch and will give top performances all Christmas. Plus, it’s not really Christmas if you don’t go to see a panto!
What are some of your stand-out highlights from playing Nick Savage in Hollyoaks and what was the character like to play?
I think the stand-out highlight is that Hollyoaks tackled a very controversial issue in a very thought-provoking way. The characters that were involved in the storyline were all just run-of-the-mill everyday characters which made them very relatable to the audience and I think that made the impact of the story land very well with the viewers.
You played Edward Grange in the TV mini-series Harriet’s Army, what was this like to film?
I had great fun on this job, although it was winter when we filmed it and it was freezing cold and I was wearing shorts most of the time! The production was brilliant and it was a well-written piece of work and the cast did a great job bringing it to life.
Do you remember how you felt booking your role of Ronan Burley in Waterloo Road and do you have any favourite memories from your time on set of the series?
This memory is so vivid in my mind! The feeling was such a buzz and I was excited to start from that moment right up until the point I got to the first day. I have lots of great memories. One in particular is actually on a bloopers reel somewhere, I got a character’s name wrong in a scene and I think either Linzey Cocker or Tina O’Brien corrected me during the take, which made us all laugh and then someone else said the same thing in another take later on. It just summed up the show, the cast and crew all got along and it was such a great atmosphere on set.
What would you say you miss most about playing Ronan Burley and working with the rest of the cast?
I loved playing Ronan, he was such a fun character to play around with and you could literally have so much fun, try things out, and I think that’s why people liked him because pretty much everyone knew someone like Ronan in school.
Can you tell us about some of your other projects you’ve been involved with over the years on both stage and screen?
I could literally bore you to sleep, you’ll be reading this and you’ll fall off your chair because you’ll be asleep if I started banging on about the projects I’ve been in so I’ll summarise some stuff quickly. I did a play about the miners’ strike in the 80s, I loved it, really fun to be a part of and never thought I’d get to be on a stage in London so that was cool. I did a Hollywood film called The Monuments Men, blink and you’ll miss me, but I was in it – my scene was also very dark so even if you didn’t blink you’ll probably still miss me, but you can tell it’s me because there is a distinct Rochdale accent bang right in the middle of a Hollywood film. I’ve also done a lot of pantomimes now to the point where if i didn’t do panto I wouldn’t know what people who don’t do panto do at christmas!
Where does your love of acting come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
I have no idea, I seem to remember as a kid having a small table and a microphone and pretending all the time. I think there was a dress up box in primary school, I dressed as a priest and just went around the classroom giving it my all (as a four year old!?) and the teacher pointing it out and laughing at the fact I was proper getting into it so maybe that’s where it came from. But I didn’t take it seriously until high school when I started doing the shows and was lucky enough to have some fantastic teachers inside and outside of school who supported me and a brilliant agent Elizabeth Stocking who really looked after me.
Do you have any favourite TV shows and films to watch?
There are too many favourites but all because of different reasons, like I love the Into the Wild soundtrack but then I love the Marvel films for their SFX and how they manage to string a huge universe together. But then I’ll watch a real simple storyline like Hunt for the Wilderpeople (if you haven’t watched it, give it a go) because the characters are so compelling and well-written you want to watch more.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I like walking, I occasionally play cricket when I can and I like spending time with my girlfriend and family and friends. I’m actually training for the London Marathon at the moment so if anyone reading this has any inclination to sponsor me (please do!), I’m doing it for a hospice charity called Springhill Hospice, then the link is below.
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