‘You’ star Ben Wiggins says his character Roald was inspired by 'Made in Chelsea’

‘You’ star Ben Wiggins says his character Roald was inspired by 'Made in Chelsea’
You season 4 part 2 trailer

Ben Wiggins couldn’t be more different from his character in You – the cocaine-quaffing, “peasant”-shooting aristocrat Roald Walker-Burton.

Roald is a callous, west London snob with murderous intentions, while Ben lives happily in Battersea with his younger brother and smiles with all the warmth of a young Labrador.

“It's quite interesting actually... Since the show came out, some people have come up to me and been like, ‘It's so great to see you playing that role because you’re so nice in real life. I hardly recognise you,” he told indy100.

“While other people ominously go, ‘Hmm… I can totally see why they cast you."

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For anyone who hasn’t caught season 4 of the hit Netflix series, Roald is a billionaire who is “mostly known for his boats, one-night stands and alarming knife collection" and who swiftly becomes love rival to Penn Badgley's Joe Goldberg (who now goes by the alias Jonathan Moore).

He is a linchpin of the hideously classist crowd with whom our protagonist falls in, and even has the gall to ask him: "Do you resent us? for what we have that others like yourselves do not?"

So what was it like playing such a distinctly unlikeable character?

“It was incredibly fun to get that deep into the psyche of someone just so privileged,” he said.

Having gone to secondary school in South Africa before studying Politics and Psychology at Exeter university, he stressed: “I'm not unaware of my own privilege – I was so lucky with my upbringing.”

But, he added: “To go so much further and be like, this guy has never wanted for anything, has only really socialised with the absolute upper echelons of society, has so much money that in the show they talk about my parents naming a dinosaur after me and spending £2 million on my sixth birthday – that's the kind of people we’re dealing with.”

Ben (right) as Roald alongside onscreen nemesis Joe (Penn Badgley)Netflix

Ben explained that in order to fully embody the role, he decided to do a little fieldwork which included some important reality TV research.

“In terms of inspiration, Made in Chelseawas a real gift," he said. "Plus, I don't live that far away, so watching that show and real-life people-watching in Chelsea was amazing."

“Just going to a cafe on the King’s Road and overhearing conversations, you're just like, wow, you guys exist. And walking around Harrods and overhearing the amount people are spending at the till, I’m just like yeah, god, that's a couple of months’ salary.”

As a Londoner, it’s hard to watch the latest episodes of You without dropping your jaw at its depiction of the city. “Joe’s a teacher who lives in a massive flat in Kensington??” we hear ourselves cry. “The fictitious university he works in is apparently in Spitalfields market??”

As one Twitter user pointed out:

However, Ben is unsurprisingly tactful when asked whether the show offers an accurate insight into London life.

“I think with TV shows there are always elements of truth and elements of hyperbole – like, how far can we push this narrative,” he said.

“And the thing is, lots of the viewers (i.e. the US audience) don’t know London so they’re not scrutinising it in the same way as we are. We Londoners are like, hang on, he just turned that corner and ended up there? The point is it’s done to get some gorgeous shots, and that doesn’t bother me at all – you get to see some of the things that make London beautiful.”

He also pointed out that Joe (aka Jonathan) has been lent his luxurious apartment by a colleague, so the obvious disparity between his likely salary and would-be rental costs is irrelevant.

“Just in terms of the structure of the story, he has to be there,” Ben stressed. “He’s hanging out with people that live in Chelsea, that live in Knightsbridge, that live in Kensington – that’s where the money is, that’s the crowd he falls into. It would be a different show if he was (more realistically) living in a flatshare in Leytonstone.”

And what about the depictions of the elite?

“In terms of rich people going out to their country manors, having wild parties and getting absolutely effed up, I think it offers a really good insight. Plus, we've got Sundry House, which is in the show is basically Soho House, and which captures the vibe of wealthy people having drinks and having an amazing time."

However, he went on: “In terms of just how unlikeable quite a few of the characters are, how they all quite often seem to be so negatively affected by the wealth that has been bestowed on them, yeah… I hope there aren't too many people like that in London, but I'm sure there probably are.”

He concluded: “If I were an American watching the show, I wouldn't necessarily look at it and go, wow, that's how English people behave. But I can buy loads of it, I think lots of it is probably quite accurate.”

Ben with his 'You' castmates who he described as "down-to-earth, awesome people"Netflix

One thing Ben is clear about is that his castmates are worlds apart from their unsavoury onscreen counterparts.

“The best thing about working on You was the cast,” he said. “I think it was John Candy who said that actors aren't paid to act, they're paid to wait. Especially in film and TV sets, there's a lot of sitting around while the cameras do their thing, so acting with a bunch of people that are really lovely, down-to-earth, awesome people is so important. If you've got fun people, the time flies.

“Also, there were so many scenes where the camera's just panning around and it’s all genuine laughter because we're just talking absolute s**t and having a great time.”

Ultimately, viewers don’t turn to a series like You for accurate portrayals of everyday life: they’re looking for a sexy thriller with charismatic antiheroes and enticing backdrops.

As Ben put it, people turn to You for something “exciting and different and taboo and bad that breaks up the humdrum of what is otherwise a normal life”.

And with part two of season 4 set for release on Thursday (9 March), it’s nearly time to pour yourself some champers, suspend your disbelief, and enjoy the ride.

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