Introduced in the third series of Primeval as the head of the military side of the ARC, Captain Becker was the only operational link left to the old days at the start of the fourth season. From being the new boy, Ben Mansfield is now one of the show’s longest-serving castmembers – but he doesn’t think that necessarily makes him secure…
Words: Paul Simpson
How did you feel when you heard Primeval was returning?
Elated. I felt really pleased and surprised, because I really did think it was dead in the water, but then they heroically revived it and reincarnated the show.
What do you think of the way that Becker’s character has developed across the two seasons?
I knew that the aim was that he would become a more cemented part of the team. There was a nice chemistry on set in series three, and maybe he became more of a member of the team than he was originally meant to be.
It was a really nice process. I had never done anything as long as six months filming before, and you do form bonds with all the cast. That bleeds through into the characters, because the scripts aren’t worked out years in advance; they’re a work in progress all the way through. You hardly even know what’s going to be changed after you read the first copy of it.
I loved the development of my character – I can thank the writers for that,
Were there things you asked to be able to do with Becker when you came back for the new year?
I wanted him to be a little more mature, and have more to do in the make-up of the team, which was really inevitable, because I was the only on the active mission circuit left. That propelled the character into a more senior position in the team, and now that Philip has taken over the ARC and recruited more military personnel for the whole place, after losing civilians, it was always going to happen.
Matt is a great character for Becker to have a rapport with. It’s a good, slick, professional relationship, with them obviously slightly rubbing each other up the wrong way sometimes. He’s the team leader; I’m in charge of the military guys.
If he makes a decision you don’t like, then you have to go along with it?
Unless I decide to go above his head to Lester with it, yes, usually. I take orders from him. You can tell from the first episode that they’ve got some history of doing this, and they know how to run quite a slick operation.
They’ve been together for about a year, and this is how I think Becker’s maturity level has happened. He’s experienced a lot, lost people he loved and cared about and effectively not done a particularly brilliant job in losing the people he was meant to look after, although I blame the writers! He’s very strict on not going through the anomalies any more after losing Danny, Connor and Abby, and then other people as well. It means he does rub heads with the other characters sometimes.
There’s unfinished business for him at the ARC. He moved with Lester, and I think his loyalty is now with Lester even though he’s responsible to Philip – but Philip doesn’t take an active interest in each anomaly alert, every creature incursion. He runs the whole thing – for whatever reason!
As we saw in the first few episodes of this season, Jess obviously has a crush on Becker…
And he reciprocates that as well. I think he’s slightly emotionally retarded, and having lost these people he loved and cared about, he’s reluctant to let his façade slip. Maybe he just seems oblivious to it, but he does do little things that make you think that maybe he does care about her. And who wouldn’t – she’s very sweet.
What does he think of the new EMD weapons?
His beloved shotgun has been taken away from him and he has to fire these ridiculous laser guns that he’s not very pleased with. Coming from a military background, you want something that shoots to kill and doesn’t have as many restrictions as the EMD does. But in the end he does understand the necessity not to just blast the creatures apart, but to try to take them out and push them through the anomalies so they can go about their lives happily in their own time.
How have you found working with the effects – has it got easier with time?
It has. I spent a morning yesterday shooting at invisible things with something that didn’t really fire, then jumping over one dinosaur that was actually meant to be another dinosaur… it was really confusing! It gets easier – and it’s much easier when there are other actors there. You feel less mental. But it’s acting! You have to imagine the threats are there, and hope the special effects team can support your reactions with actions.
I loved filming episodes four and eight of series three, blasting around in Futureworld. I love the future predators: I think they’re absolutely hideous. They’re such a sinister force. They’re able to climb over everything, they can be anywhere. They’re so malleable as an idea: instead of rolling on wheels. they can creep up behind you, and the idea that they can see by hearing you… I hope they come back in this series. I’d be surprised if they didn’t.
What’s been the biggest challenge of the new series for you?
I was spoiled last year with my arsenal of weapons. This year, there are certain things that the EMDs can’t do, so we’ve been trying to get around those. They fire an electrical pulse so shooting in or around metal can be a bit dangerous because they can reflect off things. You can’t shoot through certain substances – little things like that. But I’ve been having a lovely time. Becker has some very interesting storylines, and let’s hope he’s around for the whole series. I’m not sure he will be though…
Primeval continues on Watch, Tuesdays at 8.00 p.m.
Click here for our new interview with Primeval co-creator Adrian Hodges