elcome to The Ben Hardy Network, your comprehensive source for all things on the lovely British actor! You will be able to find the latest news, information, and photos to keep you up-to-date on the wonderful Mr. Hardy! Our gallery contains over 16,000 photos and growing. You may know Ben from the BBC series EastEnders, Bohemian Rhapsody, BBC/MAX's The Girl Before, and the Netflix romantic comedy Love at First Sight. This site is proudly paparazzi and gossip-free and we respect Mr. Hardy's privacy. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns; don't hesitate to contact the webmistress.
July 5, 2024   Comments Off on Ben Hardy on EastEnders and his new LGBTQ film Unicorns: We’re all multi-faceted. Why stick to one label?   Ben Hardy Interviews Projects Unicorns

CITY A.M. – Last month, photos went viral of former EastEnders star Ben Hardy canoodling with the actor Jason Patel. In videos, the two often are tactile as they speak; a quick glance and they can look like absolute couple goals. Hardy, who has turned film actor and played Roger Taylor in the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, has had high profile relationships with female co-stars, and has a big female fan following, but here he was, comfortably intimate, in public, with another man at a press conference for his new LGBTQ romance drama, Unicorns. The narrative among the toxic trolls was clear: ‘Omg, Hollywood hunk is gay!’

“It’s interesting,” Hardy begins, relaxing on a bench in a London park one blisteringly hot June morning. “We’re not a couple, but we looked like a couple. We’re very close, we’re very good friends, and he’d be there blowing a kiss near my cheek. Then on Instagram I experienced a drop in the open of what it’s like to be an openly gay or queer person. I started getting comments and DMs and I was like, ‘What the f*ck?’ I spoke to Jason and he’s like, ‘Yeah, I get that every day,’ To experience it first hand even in a tiny way was shocking. Man, I can’t imagine going through that every single day. I don’t usually look at comments, it just sort of flagged up ‘cause it was big all caps: ‘OH MY GOD HE’S GAY.’”

Sadly, the abuse won’t stop. In Unicorns Hardy plays Luke, a single father who unravels when he falls for an Asian drag queen called Aysha, played by Patel. Given Hardy has achieved what most EastEnders alum can only dream of, playing opposite Ryan Reynolds in 6 Underground and landing the role of Angel in the X-Men franchise twelve months after he left Albert Square, it was brave to take on the LGBTQ indie – and the inevitable abuse – just as his Hollywood career gains traction. Lest we forget, homophobic hate crimes are rising in the UK and USA and it’s an established fact in film that you lose audiences in middle America – anywhere between the two coasts, where homophobia is rife – if you come out as gay, which’ll have a drastic effect on the roles you’re hired for.

Was he worried about the reception? “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind,” starts Hardy, pausing. “It’s odd, I can still hear that voice of concern, but that’s part of the social conditioning, isn’t it? That’s part of the problem. Why shouldn’t an actor play any part? Why should they worry about being seen as something because surely it’s okay to be that something? So why the hell should you worry about portraying something? Yeah, it crossed my mind, but sometimes you have to just ignore the voices in your head. It was a really powerful script and a story that I wanted to be a part of so I wasn’t going to let that fear get in the way.”

It’s the sort of mental strength and clarity of thought that must have helped Hardy establish a career beyond the soap opera in the first place. The drive is undeniable: Speaking to Deadline this year, the 33-year-old said that when his EastEnders role became unchallenging, he felt like “I need to get out of here,” adding: “I think there’s a point where I had to leave, though, because I felt like if I didn’t leave, I’d get stuck in this.”

The conversation about which actors can play queer roles is complex, controversial and evolving. A few years ago the established narrative was that ‘straight’ actors playing gay was a cardinal sin. Russell T Davies, who rebirthed Doctor Who, is a posterboy for that narrative, criticising any non-queer actor playing queer roles. In 2016 Ben Hardy met a similar wrath when he was on the cover of gay magazine Attitude. One publication ran a hit piece entitled: “Gay UK Magazine Put Straight, White Ben Hardy on Cover.”

But therein lies the problem: how can we be so sure of anyone’s sexuality? More and more people are defining as bisexual or pansexual as we come to terms with the fact that, shock horror, it’s just not as simple as being gay or straight: there’s much grey area in-between. As the theatre director Mike Bartlett explained to City A.M. when he spoke about casting Cock, his play about bisexuality: “What’s tricky is, are you going to say to the actor, ‘I want a full list of everybody you’ve ever slept with?” It’s exactly the point Unicorns is trying to make.

How does Hardy feel about labels? “James Floyd [director of Unicorns] talks about it, he’s very anti label really,” he says. “He’s very much about how he doesn’t want to be put in a box. He was raised as an Asian guy, white dad, Asian mum, he’s sexually fluid himself, he’s still exploring that and figuring it out. He says there’s very much a hashtag culture, where people define themselves by their hashtags.

“I learned from him and I agree with him and I find it really interesting, you know. We’re all just people, we’re all so multifaceted. Why stick to one label or one thing? I think it can be empowering, don’t get me wrong, especially when those labels have been marginalised, but yeah, I think it’s much more interesting…” He trails off. “We’ve just met, there’s a million things I don’t know about you. You could tell me you’re queer, bi, pansexual, straight, whatever, but that doesn’t mean I would know you. There’s so much more to know about you than that.”

Is there a certain power in not being defined by a label like gay and straight? Is that how it feels? “Yeah, yeah,” says Hardy, thinking. “I don’t know if it’s powerful. I don’t know. I suppose my answer would be I don’t know. I’m just, you know, I’m Ben.”

So what are the “million things” to know about Ben Hardy? Well, he likes “to sit and bake” in the sun, I learned off the bat. An hour’s sun soak later we had a sweaty hug goodbye even though neither of us had moved. It’s a refreshingly unstarry approach to a skin regime, and yes, that is a bellwether for now ‘ordinary’ Hardy is given his fame. He likes to run around this park, to get “lost in the middle of greenery”, works out a lot, is a cinephile, and plays the joker among friends. One pic on his Instagram (not that bloody thing again) of him mucking about at Royal Ascot is captioned: “Another year of successfully lowering the tone.” Under another post advertising the watch brand Bremont, which has watches starting from £3,200, he’s written: “Finalllyyyy @bremontwatches have found someone who’ll add a little class to the brand.” “I try and be semi authentic with that,” he says about his social media persona.

He’s an open book, and incredibly direct, but never impolite, telling me a minute after we met the intricate details of his last flat share (I’d been sharing my London living woes.) He speaks in a baritone that only changes when he’s enraged or passionate. Growing up in a suburb outside of Bournemouth, Hardy went to an ordinary comprehensive school and was in part brought up by his working class dad who used to make films in his spare time. “This is very broad brushes, but often people from a working class background put the emphasis on getting a job that pays,” says Hardy. “He was very open to me trying something else.” After a series of injuries halted trials to become a rugby player, Hardy pursued drama, which he’d loved alongside sport, taking it to acting school aged 18 at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. His first job was on the London stage in Judas Kiss opposite Rupert Everett where Hardy stripped off fully naked, an experience he described as “nerve-wracking.” He landed the role of Peter Beale on EastEnders in 2015.

He’s grateful for the platform EastEnders gave him, but “in the nicest way, wouldn’t want to experience it again. You’re in someone’s living room four nights a week. I’ve never experienced anything like the fan attention.”

Mostly, he’s just an incredibly warm bloke you want to go down to the pub with. Tabloids run headlines about Hardy peddling the ‘EastEnders to Hollywood’ narrative but it makes him uncomfortable. “I mean, it’s not true,” he says. “Like, I wish I had as much money as people think I do. But don’t get me wrong, I’m very thankful to be doing something I love for a living and I do make a good living, but yeah, I’m not a millionaire. Which people often think.”

After a few months off, he’s looking forward to getting back to work. (As much as he loves recreational time, like most of us, he struggles to do nothing, and prides himself on a 9-6 daily programme of enrichment activities, from learning piano to working out, even when he’s off. Does he stick to it? Mainly.) In the future, he wants to do a few more “bid budget profile building” roles in order to help facilitate bringing more indies into the world, either as an actor or producer. “I’d love to be able to have the profile to be able to green light small budget movies, bring the story to the screen.”

Hardy is ultimately a pragmatist; something that grounds him. He’s taken to lying about his success when EastEnders fans – often in a silo and unaware of his broader career – ask him if he’s still acting. Forget Unicorns, role-playing the demise of his career may be his bravest part yet. “They’ll be looking at me and pitying me,” he says. “Sometimes I play a role, say it didn’t work out and I’m not acting anymore. I do it for myself, like a rehearsal for if that would ever happen. Ultimately, I’d like to not give a f*ck about acting profiles and jobs anyway. It’s hard not to be a desperate hungry actor. I think I’m constantly trying to not give a f*ck about that.”