Get to Know: Ben Aldridge

As far as best character names of all time goes, the award may belong to “Arsehole Guy” in Phoebe Waller Bridge’s brilliant Fleabag, in which said Arshole, portrayed hilariously by Ben Aldrdige, played as object-of-desire to both Waller-Bridge’s titular character and Olivia Colman’s Matrigna. Perhaps since best known now as Thomas Wayne in Pennyworth, the English actor has been snagged up by M. Night Shyamalan to headline his newest horror-thriller, Knock at the Cabin.

Below, Aldridge sat down to discuss films in the time of streaming, understanding the assignment, and Hollywood’s rapidly changing acceptance of LGBTQI+ in cinema.

LEO: Where did you grow up? 

BEN ALDRIDGE: I grew up in Exeter in Devon, in the Southwest of England. I grew up in the city but my granddad and my two uncles had farms, so I was out and about a lot as well. And my parents were good at getting us back into the beach and to the moors. I had a lovely childhood in terms of what I was surrounded by.

Tell us about your new film, Knock at the Cabin.

Knock at the Cabin is the new M. Night Shyamalan psychological thriller. A family of three – two dads and their daughter – go to a vacation cabin for the weekend, where their home is invaded by four strangers, and they are tasked with the ultimate ultimatum of either saving their family or saving humanity.

Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

What was it like working with M. Night Shyamalan? 

It was a very intense experience. He’s a lovely and very warm and kind man, but he’s an extremely exacting and precise director. He envisions the film frame by frame and then transposes that to a storyboard, and then sets about executing that vision on set. And as an actor, you are slotting into part of his vision. So, you’re really there to understand the assignment and give him what he wants. He deeply cares about the characters he’s created. And he also really cares about his audience. He is making a film for the moviegoing experience. He really wants it to continue in these times where less people are going to the cinema than ever, so he’s determined to make films that get people to turn out and turn up.

Sounds like that doesn’t leave much room for improvisation or interpretation. How is it working under such exacting conditions?

It’s really different. I’d not worked like that before. And it’s a new skillset to learn because it’s, whilst you are all at once being precise, he also wants a freshness in the performance. The film I had done previously was very improvisation based and quite loose and organic. So, it was a real switch-up for me. And it took me a while to get used to his way of working. That’s how he makes these movies that are extremely economic in a way, because he’s meticulously organized and pre-planned. So, there’s a challenge to that bit. But it’s a good challenge.

“10 years ago, I wouldn’t have made that choice [to come out] based on what I was absorbing via osmosis, but also because societally and the business didn’t feel like it was ready to do that.”

As you mentioned, the family in this film has two dads. You came out three years ago. Do you think that coming out today is quite different than it might have been as little as a decade ago?

I think it’s probably changed. Well, it’s definitely changed because 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have made that choice based on what I was absorbing via osmosis, but also because societally and the business didn’t feel like it was ready to do that. But what’s changed the most is that there are queer stories being told. Whereas before we had gay films quite rarely other than niche gay cinema or very arthouse, very few mainstream queer films [were being made] and we didn’t have the queer stars to play those parts. You know, if you’re doing a big film, more often than not, the draw is casting someone who will bring box office numbers and there wasn’t anyone out that could step into those shoes. And we also had Rupert Everett famously saying it destroyed his career.

But I think now there is more acceptance of the LGBTQI+ community. There’s more knowledge of us, we’re more visible. I think our rights have been taken seriously. And therefore, I think it’s been a very rapid time of change, and I feel like I am in a sweet spot at the moment, having come out publicly three years ago, still with the risk that it might cost my work, that people might not want to cast me in certain ways. And I’ve been playing straight and gay characters, but I’ve told some stories that feel very close to my heart that I’m connecting to in ways that I haven’t before that feel significant. I also feel like there’s an openness to me, a kind of rawness now, whereas I may have been protecting myself and hiding a little bit before, even socially. But I now have access to a different level and depth of emotion in my work. And it just feels great. 

Particularly with this film, it’s a studio-backed genre film that centers a queer family. It doesn’t make a lot of comment on that as a film. They are a loving family, which is a very universal thing to connect to, but at the same time, the film does honor what they’ve lived as queer people. It touches upon it and respects and honors that. So, I think the film is really progressive.

What was the most challenging part of making this film? 

The most challenging part was the relentless tension of it. The film has very little levity in it, and therefore I never got a break from playing that level of fear and anxiety. [My character] is fiercely trying to protect his family. He thinks his life is slipping through his hands for the entire film, and he also thinks he’s being attacked because of who he is, which is extremely disturbing. So, that was the biggest challenge, rising to that level every day relentlessly. And doing it for eight weeks in a cabin. It was a lot.

What was your favorite part of making this film? 

That’s easy to answer. The people. M. Night assembled a really lovely group of people who just were so supportive of each other, who really understood that we were all having to dig really deep. And it was a wonderfully supportive environment. We had a lot of fun outside of the four walls of the cabin. There’s a great chemistry between all of us. So that was the best part of the job.

How was Rupert Grint to work with?

Rupert is incredibly chilled and low-key. You couldn’t meet a more relaxed actor who has lived what he’s lived, having been a recognizable face and an icon since he was 11. I can’t imagine that. And he’s just a really nice guy.

Do you have any hobbies that help you keep sane? 

I do transcendental meditation twice a day. And fitness helps me keep sane. I used to work out just for the aesthetics of it all, but now I work out for the wellness and the endorphins it gives me. And I’m good at making time to do nothing, to rest. I think resting is really important. It’s something we’re not great at now, with our phones and so on. It’s hard to switch off, but I do make a lot of time for that.

And finally – outside of family, who is your role model? 

Mine is going to be a very sincere and earnest answer. I feel very lucky to be blessed with a wonderful group of friends and they’re really my role models and my barometers for how I live my life. I’ve never had an icon or someone I’ve looked up to that’s that famous. It would be the people that I spend my time with.



As Andrew in M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin


As Thomas Wayne in the HBO Max show, Pennyworth

As Kit Cowan in the romantic drama, Spoiler Alert

As Arsehole Guy in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag