From ‘Blade Runner’ to ‘Call The Midwife’, Orion Ben is a dynamic young actress and ‘one to watch’. Orion is more commonly known as “Varde”, a series regular in the twice BAFTA-winning series, ‘Detectorists’ on BBC Four. Many UK fans will also know Orion from her roles in some of the most high-profile dramas and popular series including BBC TV’s ‘Doctors’, ‘Call The Midwife’ and Stan Lee’s epic Sky1 ‘Lucky Man’ thriller series.
After graduating from The Oxford School Of Drama, she started making waves in the theatre and film industry, playing at different London theatres, before breaking her way into film and TV. In this exclusive interview, she told us more about her work, how it began and how she was given the incredible opportunity to appear in the ‘Blade Runner’ 2048 prequel, appearing alongside stars such as Dave Bautista and others.
Orion, can you tell us how you got into acting?
I saw ‘The Seagull’ by Chekov at the National Theatre with Juliet Stevenson and Ben Wishaw and I was so moved by it that I left the theatre with one intention – to go to drama school and become an actor. I applied and got into The Oxford School Of Drama with a full scholarship. After graduating I wrote letters to a few directors and casting directors, one of them replied and gave me my first job in a Chekov play, ‘Three Sisters’ at the Young Vic Theatre. It was a tiny role – I was the maid; but it was an incredible learning experience as I got to act alongside some formidable actors like Vanessa Kirby and Mariah Gale, be directed by an immensely talented director, Benedict Andrews, and perform in a beautiful theatre on the Southbank in summer. The best bit was that on our press night Ben Wishaw came to see our show and I got to meet him. I told him that I got into acting after seeing him in a Chekov play and he said – ‘and now I’ve seen you in a Chekov play!’ It was a tiny comment from him but a very special moment for me.
What do you enjoy most about acting?
I love being able to tell different stories and really get into the world of each character. It’s such a creative and collaborative process. With every role, I am inspired by other people’s talents and get to learn so much. The beauty of being an actor is that for every role you really have to research not only the era but also the character’s history and life. On ‘Call The Midwife’, for example, I played a pregnant young Jewish lady in 1950’s London. We actually had a workshop about giving birth, with a real midwife, as my character was giving birth on the show.
“I also learned a lot about London in the 1950s, the struggles young women went through and the way they lived. My character was dealing with an agoraphobic mother. I didn’t know much about agoraphobia before that and in fact after the show aired I received a few letters from fans opening up to me about their own struggle with agoraphobia and how much watching the show helped them identify with it and feel less alone. “
That really moved me and made me really appreciate the power of storytelling in film and TV.
What are your best projects to date?
That’s a hard one, I loved working on ‘Blade Runner’ alongside Dave Bautista, and it was an incredible experience! Blade Runner is such a cult film and I knew the fans would be really excited to see the sequel, so being part of something so iconic was a real privilege. I also loved playing Varde in ‘Detectorists’, because it spans over three seasons; the cast developed a real friendship and it became more than a job, more like working with friends. I’ve never laughed as much as I did while filming Detectorists.
How did acting change your life?
Acting gives me the freedom to feel emotions intensely that you don’t always get to feel in your day to day life. There is something really liberating about crying your heart out on stage or getting to practice giving birth on TV. In real life I can be very reserved and quiet so to really dig deep and tap into those emotions is a really exciting and liberating thing. I’ve met amazing people in my career so far, people that inspired me and continue to inspire me every day and a few life-long friends that I cherish. Financially it also helped me buy my first flat in London, which for a young actor is a dream! Drama school prepared us for a life of unemployment and urged us to treat acting as a part-time job, so I’m incredibly grateful I’ve been to be able to make a living out of it so far!
Do you have any interesting film or TV projects coming up?
At the moment I am working on a second short film which I hope to complete in the summer. It’s a horror/thriller film and it’s very different to my last film, which was a comedy and was runner-up as ‘audience favorite’ at the 48 hours film festival in London a couple of years ago.
Photo credit: ByPip.