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TV PREVIEW; Ben and gone Hollyoaks suicide was 'hardest role'.

Byline: STEVE HENDRY LOOKS AHEAD TO THE NEXT SEVEN DAYS ON THE BOX

SOAP star Ben Hull is about to take his final bow as Hollyoaks favourite Lewis Richardson with the most traumatic role of his career.

Troubled Lewis is seen sexually attacking old flame Ruth before committing suicide by taking an overdose of paracetamol.

Ben, 28, told how he was deeply touched by the scene. He said: "Lewis's greatest fear was that one day he would become like his father, alcoholic and abusive - and he has.

"Once he decides to commit suicide, it's done in a way that doesn't romanticise it in any way. With an attempted suicide, you take tablets and go to sleep expecting not to wake up.

"But more often than not you do, and you realise what you've done and you think, 'Right, that's it - I'm going to live my life'. But it's too late. The damage has been done and your liver just disintegrates and you die a slow and agonising death.

"I had to be severely jaundiced and wear yellow contact lenses for the scene. I was screaming in agony as if my liver was shrinking and the people all around me who play my friends and family were bawling their eyes out. It was awful - really traumatic."

Ben has been in the show, set in Chester, since the third episode six years ago, recently joining the soap's late-night spin-off show, Movin' On.

He's seen Lewis descend from nice guy into drinking, debts and violence, before his sickening assault on Ruth - played by Terri Dwyer, who is also leaving the soap. But he was delighted to be given such a challenging farewell.

"I couldn't have asked for a better send-off," he said. "When the producer outlined the story of Lewis's self-destruction, my reaction was, 'Brilliant!' Lewis was a good bloke for most of the time, but he's always been involved in something a little bit dodgy. Where can he go from here except to reform and mend his ways?

"I think we've all seen that before, so for me it was better to do something totally unexpected and challenging, rather than just fade away.

"It's been an absolute nightmare to film. Doing the final scenes was really tough. But I think we've done it responsibly. It shows the reality of suicide and there are helpline numbers at the end of the programme. If it can help one person then what we've attempted to do will succeed."

Leaving Hollyoaks was a tough decision for Ben. He has nothing lined up beyond a holiday with his girlfriend, who he refuses to name.

He said: "It's just time to do other things. I'm 28, and when you're seeing people aged 17 coming into the show, it feels like it's time to go. But I'm very proud of Hollyoaks and what we've done with it.

"It was once a week when it started, but we're now on four times a week, there are late-night specials, spin-offs and the programme's involved in all sorts of educational videos.

"Playing Lewis has been a wonderful experience. It's been hard work, but well worth it. I'm going to miss everyone, from cast members to the crew and the people who work in the office.

"I'm also going to miss regular work and pay packets - but, hopefully, not for long. I'm not going to pick around saying no comedy, no adverts, no soaps. I just want to work. I'm really excited about stepping into the abyss - but I know I may never get a job as good as Hollyoaks again, so fingers crossed.

David's a gem as a ladies' man

RISING star David Harewood was perfect for the role of a ladies' man looking for the ideal partner in the new BBC2 drama Babyfather.

He's 35 and the only one of his family not to be a parent.

David, who has starred in The Vice and A&E, plays sharp jeweller Gus in Babyfather.

The Brummie actor said: "It's weird I'm playing this part because I am at the same stage as Gus. I've done all the clubbing and got to a point where I felt the need to find something else. I want someone who will bowl me over.

"I can see the problems Gus has. He has done it all, had lots of sex and now his parents want him to be married."

The actor admits with some embarrassment that his mum calls him a "heartbreaker" because he is still single.

"It's a joke - I think," he said.

"It's just that I'm the only one of her kids - I have two brothers and a sister - who's not a parent yet and the clock's ticking a bit. I confess, I'm very broody."

In Babyfather, which begins at 9pm on Wednesday, David plays one of four black thirtysomething friends - Beres, Linval and Johnny, played by Wil Johnson, Fraser James and Don Gilet.

They deal with the women and problems in their lives through the holy trinity of pub, football and mates.Switch off...The Fattest Men in Britain. ITV, Tuesday. Can somebody tell me what is the point of this show? Jack Taylor and Barry Austin both weigh around 50st, but guess what? We get to find out exactly what they weigh. Yawn. There's a discussion about what makes them overeat, which is valid, but it smacks of poking fun at fat lads. Why they never contacted me and my pal Billy Sloan is beyond me. Pass the pies, Billy.

FACTUAL

Trips Money Can't Buy,

BBC1, Sunday

Star Wars leading man Ewan McGregor shows the force is with him when he takes on the jungles of Central America for a ten-day hike with survival expert Ray Mears.

DRAMA

Gas Attack, C4, Monday

Kenny Glenaan's award-winning film is a documentary-style drama about neo-Nazis launching a gas attack on asylum-seekers in Glasgow - and is made all the more terrifying by the current state of world affairs.

SOAP

EastEnders, BBC1, Tuesday

There's trouble at the Vic when Phil tries to persuade Sharon to let Peggy move back in. The claws are out as the two blondes in Phil's life circle round each other... but will it descend into a bar room brawl?

DRAMA

Holby City, BBC1, Tuesday

The ever-improving hospital drama returns for a new series and the first patient on the operating table is the arrogant, but brilliant, consultant Anton Meyer (George Irving) who has been shot after a road-rage incident.

COMEDY

My Family, BBC1, Friday

Robert Lindsay stars as Ben Harper, a middle-class dad, living in a nice house, with a pleasant family. The trouble is: things are always going wrong. Nice, gentle humour, but brilliantly done.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:TV Preview
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 7, 2001
Words:1114
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