Glass meets young British rising acting talent Benjamin O’Mahony

HAVING spent several years working in the theatre, the Hackney-born actor Benjamin O’Mahony made his screen breakthough with the film Kilo Two Bravo in 2014. Since then, the 29-year-old  O’Mahony has joined the cast of the acclaimed BBC drama, Ripper Street, as Detective Sergeant Frank Thatcher – a young new cop on the Whitechapel block, with a somewhat rough-and-ready approach to policing – where he performs alongside highly respected actors Matthew Macfadyen, David Threlfall and Jerome Flynn.

Glass recently caught up with this rising talent.


Benjamin O'MahonyBenjamin O’Mahony. Photograph: Justin van Vliet


Up until Kilo Two Bravo, in 2014, you focused on theatre. How have you found the transition to film and TV with Ripper Street?
When I came to the decision that I wanted to make a move into film and TV, I basically chose to be unemployed. I had been incredibly fortunate to have worked pretty consistently for about four years at some of the theatres I had always dreamed of working at, and then I just chose to give that up and sit on my arse at home instead – waiting until I could convince someone that it wouldn’t be the worst, most hammy, idea in the world to let me have a crack at screen acting.

That opportunity came with Kilo Two Bravo (or as it was called here in the UK, Kajaki).

Terrifyingly, I hadn’t had a chance to watch the movie until the premiere and so (surrounded by about 2,000 people), I watched my first attempts at acting on camera, and – shockingly – it wasn’t too bad. However if I had one big criticism it was that I wasn’t playful enough.

And so when I moved from that into Ripper Street, I got the opportunity to really begin to relax on screen, to play, and to experiment. Every day it seems to get a little easier, but I still have a long, long way to go.


Benjamin O'Mahony Front CoverBenjamin O’Mahony. Photograph: Justin van Vliet

The series has gone through a lot of changes since the last season with the introduction of new characters and a change of scenery. How did you prepare to step into an established series with an audience who know the characters through and through?
To be completely honest, I didn’t have a huge amount of time to think about the show before we started filming, both Matt Lewis and I had been cast pretty late in the day, and strangely, I think it turned out to be a bit of a blessing as I didn’t have time to feel daunted by the whole pressure of stepping into a show that has such wonderfully loyal fans, with high expectations. If I had thought about it too much, I probably never would have got out of bed.

What drew you to acting? Did any particular actors inspire you?
I get asked this sometimes and I wish I had a better answer, but I don’t really know what drew me to acting originally. All I do know is that, while I was a pretty crap student in all other subjects, acting seemed to be the only thing that I really put effort into and cared about.

I grew up loving actors like Al Pacino, Alan Rickman, and Sam Rockwell – actors that made odd, interesting choices and seemed to find the fun side of every scene.

Benjamin O'MahonyBenjamin O’Mahony. Photograph: Justin van Vliet

Looking back over your career, what advice would you give yourself starting out?
I would tell myself to relax – that all good acting comes from a place of play and all the worry and the neurosis only ever gets in the way. Also what is the point in sucking the fun and enjoyment out of what is, let’s face it, a pretty damn cool way to make your living!

What upcoming projects do you have in the pipeline?
So next year we have season five of Ripper Street coming out, which sadly will be the end of the story for the Leman Street boys (but it is looking like it’s going to be a pretty glorious ending). And after that, I’m not sure; there are a few bits and pieces taking shape at the moment but nothing firm yet.

by Justin van Vliet

All photographs: Justin van Vliet

Ripper Street continues on BBC Two on Monday

Benjamin is on twitter

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