In last year’s Amazon Prime TV thriller The Devil’s Hour, Benjamin Chivers plays Isaac Stevens for his first ever screen role, and today, it’s been announced he has been shortlisted for Best Rising Star at this year’s National Television Awards, which he will be attending on September 5th at The O2. Benjamin appears in the Tom Moran series opposite Jessica Raine as his on-screen mother Lucy, and Peter Capaldi, and he will be reprising his role in the future release of Series 2. This November, Benjamin will be seen as Young Eugene Beauharnais in feature film Napoleon, where he worked alongside Joaquin Phoenix, and he previously played a Canary in Lockwood & Co for Netflix. Continuing with his acting career, Benjamin has been auditioning for further roles and is represented by Mark Jermin Management. We spoke to Benjamin about playing Isaac Stevens in The Devil’s Hour, hearing he’d been nominated for Best Rising Star at this year’s National Television Awards and filming with Joaquin Phoenix for the upcoming feature film Napoleon.
Can you tell us about your character Isaac Stevens in The Devil’s Hour and how did you feel finding out you’d booked the role?
I was absolutely overjoyed and excited to be offered the role of Isaac Stevens. The news came immediately after a family funeral and so it gave us all an amazing boost. Being my first ever screen role, Isaac is incredibly special to me. His character was particularly challenging to play and Andy Pryor Casting, Hartswood Films and the writer Tom Moran clearly put an awful lot of faith in me. Isaac is withdrawn and emotionless. He cannot feel pain and sees ghosts (or does he)? He is very obedient, but doesn’t know how to play, never crying or laughing. The role was really intense.
What is Isaac like to play and how is it getting into character?
Playing Isaac is hard work as you have to be straight-faced and distant. Jessica Raine said it was like watching a veil come down over me and Isaac would appear. I had to stay incredibly focused and then the director would say cut and I would just come back from where I had gone to!
Have you had a most challenging scene or episode to film so far and how is it reading Tom Moran’s scripts for the first time?
Definitely the scene in Season 1 where Phil Dunster (Jamie Tartt in Ted Lasso), who plays my estranged dad had to callously pour real beer over my head. We did it in three takes and I had to stay perfectly still throughout without reacting. It’s a scene which shocked a lot of viewers but it was made great fun for me by director Johnny Allan, as I got to pour beer over his head during the subsequent lunch break!
As for Tom Moran’s scripts, they are simply wonderful; I was on the edge of my seat just reading them.
How do you find the experience filming opposite the rest of the cast, which includes Jessica Raine as your on-screen mother and Peter Capaldi?
It was so inspiring to work alongside such amazing actors. I had a particularly close relationship with Jessica Raine on and off set; she is so lovely. With Peter Capaldi, you just watch and learn. It’s better than any acting lessons. Barbara Marten, who plays my grandma in the series, is such an incredible actress. I loved the scenes we did together, there was such a special bond. The whole cast and crew treated me as their equal and made it very easy for me to walk on set and do my job.
Is there anything you enjoy most about being part of The Devil’s Hour and how was it returning to set to film the upcoming Series 2?
The whole team at Hartswood Films were so lovely and caring. The hotels were brilliant. I was ferried around in great cars and, whisper it quietly, I had a McDonald’s Happy Meal quite often!! I formed a close bond with my chaperone, Kev. We had a lot of fun and he really kept me going in my tired moments. This was so important to me throughout the five-month shoot schedule. Returning for Season 2 was easy. Isaac is such a wonderfully-drawn character; it was like meeting up with old friends on set.
For your portrayal of Isaac, you’ve been nominated for Best Rising Star at this year’s National Television Awards, how was it hearing the news and what are you looking forward to for attending the ceremony?
I did not expect to be nominated for any awards, particularly on my debut. When my agent, Mark Jermin, told me on a Zoom call that I had made the shortlist and was going to the ceremony on September 5th, I was speechless and quite teary. Now I am really excited to hopefully meet some celebs at the ceremony. Maybe Ant and Dec will pause for a photo, they are my favourites!! I am definitely going to go and soak up the atmosphere.
Who do you think will enjoy watching The Devil’s Hour?
People who love thrillers, time travel and scary movies will enjoy this show. It’s a complicated story and scrolling on your phone while watching is not an option as you will miss all the clues.
Later this year, you will be seen playing Young Eugene Beauharnais in the feature film Napoleon, is there anything you can tell us about this and how was it filming scenes with Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby?
On my first day on set, I had a tummy bug. I felt so sick and Kev, my chaperone, said I looked grey. After that though, it was just an amazing experience working with Ridley Scott. My final audition for the part was just chatting to him in a room for 15 minutes. We just talked and laughed about school.
Filming with Hollywood royalty, and my two solo scenes with Joaquin Phoenix, is something I shall never forget. Joaquin was really nice, tweaked my ear and said, “Well done” after we had finished.
Why would you recommend watching Napoleon when it is released in November?
The film is going to be epic in every sense of the word, you just have to watch the recently released trailer to know that.
How was your time playing a Canary in Lockwood & Co for Netflix?
I was only on set for this production for one week, prior to filming the Ridley Scott project. I had no dialogue so it meant I could relax a little more. It meant I could have fun with the four other children who played the Canaries (children with psychic ability), three of whom are also represented by my agent, Mark Jermin Management.
How did you get into acting and was it something you always wanted to do?
My mum signed me up when I was six to my local drama, singing and dance classes in Buckinghamshire called All Stars Academy. It is a brilliant academy that has just won the gold medal at the World Dance Championships for Best Group Routine. Anyway, as we came out of the first COVID lockdown, the academy advertised an in person stage-screen acting course at the end of the summer holidays. I was lucky that my current agent, Mark Jermin, was scouting at the course and selected me to go and have some online acting lessons with his agency. After two months of online lessons, my parents got a phone call saying Mark Jermin wanted to sign me up. I was really happy as I love acting. Everything that has happened to me since just flowed on from there, and I am very grateful to my agent and his team who look after me so well.
What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch?
I love the Transformers movies, Young Sheldon, Wednesday and BattleBots.
How do you like to spend your free time?
My free time is very important to me as self-taping and acting lessons take up a lot of my time. I love to play basketball and football with my friends. For relaxation, I like being creative with baking, writing and building LEGO. Both my parents are professional classical musicians, and so my violin and piano playing is sort of a natural extension of family life. I’m not keen on practising though! Aside from that it’s gaming and my beloved iPhone!
Do you have a favourite aspect of working as an actor and have you been given any advice over your career so far that has stuck with you?
I love acting especially feeding off really experienced actors. I also love meeting the whole on set crew and asking questions particularly to the camera and sound team about their jobs. It’s fascinating. Acting can be hard work though: early starts, sometimes filming at night and fitting in lots of school tutoring on set around your working hours. But I have been very lucky to have had a very supportive school, friends and family helping me to stay “normal”.
I think some of the best advice I have been offered is to stay grounded, enjoy school and life outside of acting (you never know if you will carry on, but also life experiences do help your acting skills). I have also taken on board some great advice after my award nomination was announced. Being nominated for an award is obviously a great honour, but the best award and reward is the actual craft of acting itself where you are continually learning and striving to be better. One of my favourite actors, Eddie Redmayne, once said the moment you want to be famous as an actor, you’re finished!! I hope to take that forward into whatever happens in the next few years and just be the best I can.
What are you hoping the rest of the year brings for you and do you have any upcoming plans that you can tell us about?
Now that I have wrapped on Season 2 of The Devil’s Hour, I have some ADR to do on my scenes in the autumn. The actors’ strike in Hollywood has delayed possible news on some major exciting projects for me. In the meantime, I shall be playing basketball…
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