William Wyn Davies can currently be seen playing new social worker Ben in the CBBC series The Dumping Ground, having joined the cast at the start of Series 10. Ben marks William’s first major role on screen, and during his time in the show so far, he has filmed for many characters’ leaving episodes including Jody and May-Li, and he has been a guest on Saturday Mash-Up. Before joining The Dumping Ground, William had performed on stage in shows such as Shakespeare plays and Manifesto For A New City by Julia Darling, and he is set to perform in The Tempest in Roker Park, Sunderland this summer, and be in the cast of The Central Theatre’s pantomime Aladdin in Chatham, Kent in December. We talked to William about joining The Dumping Ground in Series 10, playing Ben in the CBBC show and his stage experience.
Can you tell us about your character Ben in The Dumping Ground and what it was like joining the CBBC show?
Ben is a new care worker at the DG, and reeeeally wants the kids to like him, but maybe not quite as much as he wants his fellow care workers to think he’s doing a good job. He has a huge heart, but he’s got a lot to learn too! (Not unlike some of the kids…)
Joining the show was a huge honour. The show has such terrific stories to tell and such a loyal fan base – being trusted to be part of the project filled me with pride.
Was there anything that encouraged you to audition for The Dumping Ground and how did it feel finding out you’d booked the role?
I loved The Story of Tracy Beaker when I was young. I was a bit of a goody-two-shoes back then, so watching Dani Harmer‘s brilliant portrayal was how I indulged my more rebellious thoughts without acting on them. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to tell similar stories for the next generation.
When I was told I had the part, I couldn’t speak. I was on holiday with my partner, and he kept saying “What is it?!”. It wasn’t just that I would be working on the show, but that I would be working on A show – for an actor without much experience beyond the stages of the North East, long jobs in one place are quite rare, ones in television are rarer still, so I count myself as very fortunate indeed.
Can you tell us what you enjoy most about filming as Ben and working with the rest of the cast?
Ben’s scenes range from silly hilarity to emotional and heartfelt, which is a real treat as an actor. But besides the part, being on set with my fellow cast – adult and child – as well as the brilliant crew, is a privilege in and of itself. Everyone is so canny. And everyone’s got their own quirk: funny, bright, honest, curious, all brilliant things that make everyone unique. Being in such company is a joy and a privilege.
Do you have any stand-out highlights from your time as Ben so far?
Silly highlights would have to be getting covered in sewage, paint, and mustard – whatever will Ben get covered in next??
But more serious highlights would be when Ben consoled Fraser when he didn’t get into the football academy – breaking bad news softly is such a big responsibility. Also, the departures of Jody, Bird, Jay, Candi-Rose and May-Li from the DG were sad highlights, as they were professional challenges that I think we handled well.
How is it having Ben as your first recurring role on screen and playing a social worker?
I couldn’t have asked for a better first big screen role – the ins and outs of filming took some getting used to, so Ben’s intermittent presence in the show has been a nice, gentle start for me. I’m so grateful to m’colleagues (and that includes some of the kids!) for their guidance and support.
Playing a social worker, especially someone who’s quite new to the job, is a really interesting challenge. I’m only too aware that social workers in real life have one of the hardest jobs going, emotionally speaking as much as anything else, so striking a balance between enjoying the frivolities of the DG, and conveying the stress of taking care of so many vulnerable children, is really important.
What was it like seeing the viewers’ response to your character joining the show and why do you think The Dumping Ground has stayed popular with CBBC audiences?
I think some viewers were initially surprised by Ben’s appearance, because he started his job before Series 10 started, so he just appears without much fanfare. And naturally, the DG kids are the stars of the show, and therefore the ones most viewers relate to and invest in. Having said that, what comments I have seen and heard have been really encouraging!
As for the show’s enduring popularity, it’s no surprise to me. The writers always cover a great range of comedy and drama, with really distinctive and relatable characters. Add to that the love and care with which the creative team, crew and cast put the show together, and you’ve got yourself a pretty sweet recipe.
Can you say what viewers can expect from the new episodes in Series 10?
Most of it’s out now, with the exception of the grand finale, which I’m afraid I daren’t say a word about – it’s a corker! Although I suppose I could say that – and this goes for Series 11 too – if you think Series 10 saw some big changes at the DG, you ain’t seen nothing yet!
What is it like being a guest on shows such as Saturday Mash-Up?
It’s so much fun! I was grinning ear to ear all day. I used to watch Saturday morning TV religiously (SMTV Live, Up On The Roof, Toonattik). So going on Mash-Up was a proper ‘pinch me’ moment. My fellow guests, the One Zoo Three fellas, were real gents; Joe Tasker, the presenter, is impossibly funny; and my DG friend Kia Pegg was guest presenting, so I was in brilliant company too. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get Masterslimed though! Maybe one day…
We understand you have stage experience, can you tell us about some of the shows you’ve performed in?
Yes, except for the odd short film, before the The Dumping Ground I had only ever done stage work: Quite a lot of Shakespeare, a fair bit of pantomime (most recently Rapunzel at The Customs House, South Shields), as well as some modern work at theatres in Newcastle, such as Alphabetti, Live Theatre and Northern Stage. It was at the latter in 2015 where I had my first and one of my most favourite jobs, a sung play called Manifesto For A New City by Julia Darling. I’m no Jonathan Groff, but I do love to sing!
Had you always wanted to be an actor and how did you get into the industry?
I hadn’t. Until about the age of 16, all I wanted was to be a rock drummer – a jolly good and famous one at that. But I had always loved comedy, sketch comedy in particular, so it wasn’t totally out of the blue when I took up an A-Level in Drama. In theatre, I discovered an art form that stimulated all of one’s senses, and one’s brain, and one’s heart; electric! I fell in love, head over heels. I couldn’t see enough theatre, and I did it wherever anyone would let me, which at that time was in my local amateur group at The Little Theatre, Gateshead, and in a youth theatre – the head of which gave me my aforementioned first job!
Do you have any favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch?
I love history, politics and current affairs, so any play, TV show or film that can dramatise or satirise topical or historical issues well is really appealing to me. And I love comedy, so the first show that comes to mind is The Thick of It, and the film The Death of Stalin, which is by the same writer, Armando Ianucci. I also love sketch shows like That Mitchell and Webb Look, The Armstrong & Miller Show, and Smack The Pony. And Friends. I love Friends.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I love walking in the countryside, I sing in a contemporary choir, I (try to) read as much as I can, usually non-fiction, I (try to) stay fit and healthy, and I read and listen to way too much political journalism.
Have you been given any advice over the years that has stuck with you and what advice would you give a young actor starting out?
Yes, here are two bits of advice I’ve always remembered, and would repeat to any actor starting out:
- When auditioning, you’re not trying to get a job, you’re portraying a character. How well you portray that character is entirely within your control. Getting the job is not.
- People get work in the arts because they produce good work, turn up on time, and are good to work with. And you don’t even need all three. Two out of those three is fine.
Do you have any upcoming filming work that you can tell us about and what are you hoping 2023 brings for you?
Work on Series 11 of The Dumping Ground is well underway, which is so exciting, and in August I’ll be doing a short run of The Tempest in Roker Park, Sunderland. Afterwards, it won’t be too long before it’s time for panto! This Christmas I’ll be appearing in the GENIE-US panto adventure of Aladdin at The Central Theatre, Chatham, Kent, from 8th – 31st December. Other than these fabulous projects, all I can hope for is good health, good company and good weather!
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