Eastenders actor Max Bowden who plays Ben Mitchell will exit the series later this year, after joining the British soap opera in 2019.
The 29-year-old actor – who was recognised as Soap Superstar of the Year at the 2023 Inside Soap Awards – was the sixth person to step into the shoes of Phil Mitchell and Kathy Beale’s gay son, Ben Mitchell. The role has also been notably played by Harry Reid, Charlie Jones and Joshua Pascoe.
An official BBC spokesperson announced Bowden’s departure, saying: “We wish him all the best for the future.” Bowden has not directly addressed the news but took to his Instagram Story on Sunday with a post reading: “Grateful for family and friends. Thanks for all the messages. Big love.”
It is unclear whether the character will be written out of the show or a seventh person will take up the “Ben Mitchell” mantle.
Max Bowden as Ben Mitchell in Eastenders. (BBC)
Ben has been part of some heartfelt and pivotal LGBTQ+ storylines on Eastenders over the years, from his on-and-off fling with Johnny Carter to watching his dad defend him after a homophobic attack.
In recent years, Ben has had to navigate a tumultuous but enduring marriage to Callum “Halfway” Highway (Tony Clay), been involved in a powerful male rape storyline, and confronted an eating disorder.
The news of Bowden’s impending exit sparked outrage among some fans which led to Eastenders writer Daran Little defending the decision on X/Twitter.
“I’m blocking those who accuse me of hating EE characters,” he wrote. “We spend our time coming up with stories and characters, creating balance, listening to viewers and trying to keep a 38 year old soap fresh and relevant. It’s the best it’s been for years. Honoured & proud to be part of it.”
Although Ben Mitchell’s future on the show is unclear, his departure from Albert Square coincides with the return of fan-favourite gay character (and Ben’s former love interest) Johnny Carter.
Johnny Carter, son of Linda (Kellie Bright) and Mick Carter (Danny Dyer), will be played by new actor Charlie Suff.