Interview with Ben Forster (Mr. Perkins)

Viewers were first introduced to a new live-action character featured on the Splish, Splash Sposh DVD interstitials in 2010.  Since then, character actor Ben Forster has delighted us with his portrayal of Mr. Perkins, a driver on the Sodor railways.  Ben was kind enough to share his thoughts with us about his role.
- Interviewed by Callum Walker, June 2012.

1. How did you become involved with Thomas and Friends?
Along with many other actors I auditioned for the part and was lucky enough to be offered the role. I was delighted because the character of Mr Perkins is very similar to my own and so I feel comfortable playing him.

2. What other TV/Film roles have you starred in?
I've been an actor for over 30 years and so have been in many productions. You may have seen me in "My Parents are Aliens" or "Casualty" or "The Bill". More recently I have been in "Miranda" for the BBC and have completed a film called "The Great Ghost Rescue".

Mr. Perkins relaxes in the Staff Common Room
Mr. Perkins relaxes in the Staff Common Room

3. Were you familiar with Thomas from the Rev. W. Awdry's books and Ringo Starr/Michael Angelis narrating the early series?
Of course! I remember the books very well. Although when reading them, I never imagined that one day I would be playing one of the engine drivers!

4. If you had a favourite character, who would it be?
Thomas of course, but I also have a soft spot for Percy.

5. You mention Driver "Mr. Arkwright"  in a few of your skits, will we ever see yourself Robert Slade together in a skit? What do you think of the idea?
I think it would be a great idea! it does get a bit lonely in the engine drivers common room so it would be nice to have some company.

Mr. Perkins makes a special cake
Mr. Perkins' cake ( "Splish, splash Splosh" DVD)

6. Did you have a chance meeting Robert Slade (Mr Arkwright)?
No, unfortunately I've never met him. But I've heard about him and he seems like a very nice man.

7. On the "Wobbly Wheels & Whistles" DVD, you enter the office and throw your hat up on the coat hook where it lands perfectly. Was that done in one take?
Ha! well spotted . I did it first time in rehearsal, which is why the director wanted to keep it for the real film. But I must admit I struggled to match my first lucky throw and it did take a few takes before I got it right again. Maybe the pressure of everybody watching put me off!

8. Did you ever have a chance to examine the set props more closely in between takes? We'd certainly love to know who painted the portrait of Sir Topham Hatt that hangs on the wall behind you.
Yes I too was fascinated by the amazing detail in the props. The set and props were built by a very talented team of set designers and they painted Sir Topham Hatt and all the other pictures.

9.What was your favourite DVD Segment to work on? (Mine is the Trainset lesson)
Yes that was fun, I think that might have been my favourite too. I haven't had a train set since I was a little boy, so it brought back many memories. It was also great fun working with the parrot who behaved impeccably and appeared to have worked on the script before he arrived, because he always reacted perfectly! It was extraordinary.

Ben Forster (Mr. Perkins) with Parrot
Ben Forster (Mr. Perkins) with fine feathered friend from the "Thomas and the Runaway Kite" DVD

10. Was the Thomas when finished cake from the DVD "Splish Splash Splosh" all made by you? Or did you have some help?
I would love to say it was all made by me, but it wasn't. I did make some of it but it looked terrible! So those talented set designers helped a lot.

Mr. Perkins dresses up as the Fat Controller
Mr. Perkins as Sir Topham Hatt from "Pop Goes Thomas" DVD

11. In real life, what would of the Fat Controller have said if you have gone to the fancy dress party impersonating him?
Do you know I wondered that myself. I almost think that I might have changed my mind half way to the party. He might well have thought I was being a bit cheeky! But, maybe he would have been surprised at first and then found it funny!

12. What were the extras like on the "Merry Winter Wish" DVD and "Rescue on the Rails" DVD - Fun to work with?
They were great! It was so nice to have other people around in the engine drivers common room. The carol singers made it feel like it really was Christmas and the audience in the magic show made me quite nervous because it felt like a real magic show. Also, they kept making me laugh!

13. You've played the New Thomas theme so far on a piano and a one man band… Would you consider playing the old classic series theme tune if you could for an upcoming segment?
Yes I like it, I actually think it might be easier to play than the current one. I'll start practising now!

14. We're looking forward to your upcoming adventures on upcoming Thomas DVDs and wish you luck.  In closing, is there anything you'd like to say for your fans?
Well I must be careful not to give any secrets away. But, we've just been filming some very interesting sequences where I leave the engine drivers common room and go off to see some Steam Engines. It was great fun to shoot and i'm sure you're going to love it. Thank you for asking your interesting questions, and thank you all for watching. See you soon!
 
Best wishes
Mr Perkins

The Magnificent Perkins the Magician!
The Magnificent Perkins the Magician from "Pop Goes Thomas" DVD

Related Videos

Ben sadly passed away following a sad battle with cancer on the 2nd of January 2017, surrounded by family and friends.  The Thomas fandom was deeply saddened by his passing.

 

A tribute to the late Ben Forster who played Mr Perkins in the live action segments of the Thomas and Friends DVDs from 2010, uploaded to our YouTube channel on behalf of Callum Walker who asked us to share it for him.