“It was a really boring trade off with my parents,” says British actor Ben Aldridge, “I was doing piano lessons when I was about eight and I hated it. There was a theatre school opening in Devon; they said I could drop piano lessons if I got into this school.” For the next five years, he attended drama classes three nights a week. Then when he was 16 he joined the National Youth Theatre, where he cemented his future as an actor and went on to graduate from the London Academy of Music and Drama Art in 2008.
“The thing that attracts me to acting or a role that I am working on, is worlds that I can completely dive into and have a vast amount of research,” shares Aldridge. He entered the deep-end with a lead in 20th Century Fox’s pilot Detour, inspired by the life of Weezer’s frontman Rivers Cuomo. He found himself playing lead Michael Sturges, and recounts his experience singing in front of the American Idol audience pre-show, knowing judge Jennifer Lopez was to walk out any moment. “I had to pretend to be at one of my own gigs,” he laughs. Luckily, he welcomes the spontaneity of live theatre.
The last theatre production he starred in was the musical adaptation of Bret Easton-Ellis’s American Psycho at London’s Almedia Theatre in 2014 – in which he found himself divulging in the world of 80s investment banking and “getting hacked to do death with an axe every night.” Finding another atypical musical is on his agenda; he gets more nervous for theatre and the fear challenges him. He compares it to film: “A film set is more instant coffee. You turn up. You know your lines, you’ve done all your research, and you’re trying to make this magic, this scene, work very quickly with or without much rehearsal.”
There may be little rehearsal time for film, but it boils down to the preparation. In the BBC One drama series Our Girl, Aldridge plays the role of Captain James and was chucked into an intensive bootcamp. “When I was graduating from drama school I never expected to play a soldier,” he remarks, sheepishly. And surely he never anticipated the he’d have to learn the piano for an upcoming role as George Gershwin in a film set in the 1920s, AMRE. “I am doing a serious amount of miming being an expert pianist.” He laughs — he’s come full circle: “This year on my New Years Resolution list was ‘learn the piano.’”