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From Kenickie to Spielberg: Hurtwood House alumna’s rocket to fame

Meet Ben Radcliffe, an up-and-coming star to watch in film and theatre. Find out how he first discovered his passion for acting when starring in musicals at Hurtwood House, and since leaving, about his success landing a series of exciting roles for Disney, Netflix and even a mini series produced by Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg!

I grew up in Leeds, where I started drama and dance classes at a young age. I was signed with a young talent agency with whom I landed a role in London with the musical Oliver! After a year of performing to a crowd of over 2,000, I decided I didn’t want to leave. So I stayed in London to attend theatre school, where I continued to learn and audition. I was then lucky enough to get a place at Hurtwood House A-level college, which confirmed for me that acting was something I had to do.

Since finishing college I have worked on a range of exciting projects, including a lead role on a Disney series, a new Netflix drama starring Sienna Miller, and most recently the new mini-series produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg ‘Masters of the Air’, where I play an American Bomber Pilot in WW2.

Hurtwood House played an immense role in my career. I took part in all of the school shows, the most notable was the Christmas musical where I played Kenickie in Grease. This was not only one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life, but it gave me the opportunity to perform in front of talent agents, leading to a meeting with Waring and Mckenna agency, who I have now been signed to for six years.

I have experienced both the ups and downs of being an actor. It is a job that is filled with a lot of uncertainty. I would like to say I wish I had known when the next job is coming but I truly believe experiencing the struggle of waiting and learning to deal with that stress makes you a better person. When the next job finally does come, you appreciate it more.

Acting for me is about instinct, knowing how certain people react in certain situations and recreating it. But to deliver on this, repeatedly, in front of the camera and a crew of 100 plus takes confidence. You have to push yourself to try things, be brave, and that can result in the best performance.

The show I am currently working on ‘Masters of the Air’ is an upcoming American war drama mini-series based on the actions of the Eighth Air Force of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. We film scenes at Apple’s new film studio, in something called a ‘volume’. This is a large cove of LED screens, at the centre, a B-17 bomber plane is rigged to a moving gimbal. So not only does the plane move but when we look out the window we can see everything you would see being 40,000 in the air, flying over enemy territory. Shooting scenes like this on such a big scale, being flung around by the simulator has to be a highlight.

There have been many low points, mostly coming from times where I have been very close to getting a big role and just missed out. This is something you have to learn to deal with. I no longer see it as rejection. There are so many reasons why you might not have been cast, but getting any sort of traction with a casting director is a win. They will keep you in mind for another project.

My advice for aspiring actors is to get involved and get creative. The first step everyone usually associates with being an actor is getting an agent. But prove yourself first and then an agent will become interested. Get involved in as many projects as you can, gain knowledge, confidence, and learn by doing. @ben_radcliffe

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