YOU’LL know the face and almost certainly the name.
At 18, Northern Lights and Early Doors star Mark Benton was rejected when he first tried to get into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Not many people round his way went to drama school. Teeside-born Mark grew up in Grangetown. “It was basically a big council estate right between British Steel and ICI,” he explains.
“My dad was from round the corner in a place called Southbank, which also spawned such luminaries as Paul Daniels and Chris Rea, so I’m in good company.
“In my teenage years I was always in bands or in local plays and youth theatre. I didn’t want to do anything else. When I spoke to the careers officer he just didn’t have a clue what to say to me. He suggested being an engineer instead. Where I come from, at the time, acting was an odd thing to do.”
But Mark didn’t give up on RADA. “When I was 20 I was in a bit of a no man’s land. I was on the dole, so I thought I’d try once more and if I didn’t get in then I’d be a teacher instead. I was accepted and I expected everyone to be dead posh and all kind of Merchant Ivory. But they weren’t at all.
“It was a brilliant course and really down to earth. I loved it. I learned a bit of humility at college and that it’s the work that I love. I’ve got no ambition to be on Celebrity Duets.”
He’s rarely been out of work since and is back on screen this weekend in Bury filmed BBC3 comedy series I’m With Stupid – the subject of today’s MEN TV feature – alongside co-star Paul Henshall (right).
Those who have followed Mark’s career will know he’s a terrific actor. There wasn’t room in the feature to list all of his many roles but one of my favourites is his portrayal of Fred in the award-winning BBC2 drama serial Nature Boy, screened in 2000. That starred Lee Ingleby in the lead role alongside the likes of Joanne Froggatt and Vicky Binns, currently appearing as Molly in Corrie.
Reality show wannabes often talk about their ambition to be famous, not realising just how hollow fame is once you achieve it.
Being a recognisable face is a double-edged sword, even when, like Mark, you’ve become famous through your work and talent. And yet he’s never forgotten that “bit of humility” he learned at RADA.
Last year I found myself alone with Mark in a lift at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. It was late evening and we’d both just checked in – Mark was filming the pilot episode of I’m With Stupid at the time.
Heading towards our respective rooms, I re-introduced myself. Mark then asked me where I was originally from, and I told him it was a place in Newcastle upon Tyne called Benton.
Forgetting he had one of the most famous faces in the hotel that night and that I knew full well who he was, he replied: “Isn’t that funny, because my name is Benton!”