A relative newcomer, 20-year-old Ben Smith takes on the leading role of Frankie Nash, a young lad from Manchester, who ends up in the dock in deep trouble, in the second of a series of six new dramas from the pen of Jimmy McGovern about crime and punishment, made by RSJ Films for prime-time BBC One.
Each story is about an ordinary person who ends up in the dock. But should these men and women be there? Are they innocent or guilty or somewhere in-between? As each hour long episode unravels we see how these people became the accused and finally whether they walk free or go down...
Ben (represented by Independent Talent) stars alongside Mackenzie Crook in the story of two friends (Frankie played by Ben, and Peter played by 24 year old Ben Batt (Shameless)) who join the British army and discover not obeying orders has deadly consequences
A born and bred Londoner, Ben Smith's youthful good looks belie his 13 years of professional acting experience – a career he came to by chance when his mum suggested he join Sharon Harris's drama workshops to help bring him out of his shell. He's not looked back and has been seen regularly on television since he was seven.
Probably known for his role as Damien Trotter in Only Fools and Horses, Ben is also recognisable as Teg from EastEnders and he played Clive Owen's fictional son, Sam Tanner, in the hit television thriller Second Sight. More recently, he's appeared in Teachers, Doctor Who, The Bill, Skins and the Bafta-winning Misfits.
Clearly not an actor to rest on his laurels, he says he was desperate to get the role of Frankie, describing Jimmy McGovern's script as genius.
"I knew I had to get Frankie but the audition process gets more nerve-racking as you get older – the pool of talent is so much bigger and better. You have to keep raising your game. I always feel privileged to be up for the same roles as up there trained RADA actors!
"It's a seriously challenging part to play about a young lad who has to make impossible moral choices once he's a soldier. He wants to be loyal to his best mate who is a championship boxer – who he's always been two steps behind, as well as do right by his comrades and everyone back home.
"The choice he makes changes the course of his life forever. Frankie starts a boy but by the end of the story he's definitely a man.
"A mate told me that RSJ Films were looking for a Manc for Frankie; so I put on the accent the whole way through the audition and it must have worked. But I didn't want to risk anything; so didn't actually speak in my normal London accent until the read-through. I don't think I was sussed, but I'm still in complete shock that I got Frankie – it's the best job of in my life."
Ben says: "Ben Batt, who is my mate Peter McShane, is totally brilliant in the part and the scenes I had with Bob Pugh, who is Peter's screen Dad, had me on the edge.
"Mackenzie Crook has been my idol for since The Office; so working with him was fantastic. We did have some laughs filming – you need to when the story's so intense!
"There's no denying that Mackenzie plays Buckley with total conviction: he makes you believe Buckley is right to go all out to protect his men. In the scene when Buckley justifies his actions I'm with him – thinking 'yes, Buckley's undeniably right'. But then I pull back and think from Frankie's perspective and then Buckley's methods are unforgiveable."
Summing up Ben says, "Finding right and wrong in this story is not easy. It's about believable people in extreme circumstances, and for me Frankie's story has been an unforgettable experience.