Words: Steve Brown
EastEnders boss has defended recasting Ben Mitchell in the hit BBC soap.
It was reported this week that former Waterloo Road star Max Bowden is set to take over the role from Harry Reid, who played Ben from 2014 until the character's departure last year and had previously expressed interest in reprising the role.
And although Bowden, 24, will be the sixth actor to play Ben, and fourth in the last nine years alone, senior executive producer Kate Oates has defended the recasting saying she wants to take the character in a “different direction”.
Speaking to DigitalSpy at the National Television Awards, Oates said: “"Harry Reid is an awesome actor, and I think he did really well with Ben. I really enjoyed watching him.
“[But] I just want to take the character in a different direction and that's why I've gone for somebody different and I know that recasts sometimes ruffle some feathers and I know that sometimes people think they won't gel with that character the same way they used to.
"I just hope people give Max a chance, because he's a great actor and I'm really excited by what we've been storylining.
“It does shine a light on a different facet of Ben and that's why we've gone somewhere else. It's a whole new era and that's what we want to emphasise."
Since coming out as gay on screen in 2011, Ben has been involved in several important LGBT storylines, including a horrowing storlyine dealing with the death of his former boyfriend Paul Coker (Jonny Labey) in a homophobic attack.
Ben and Paul were also involved in an infamous gay sex scene in a funeral parlour in the presence of a corpse, which was later cleared by Ofcom after attracting complaints from viewers.