Former rugby champion and longtime LGBTQ ally Ben Cohen officially made his acting debut in the brand-new anthology series Patterns, which is now streaming exclusively on Dekkoo.
Told through mini narratives, the British camp comedy explores several unique themes that make up the lives of LGBTQ people and their allies, including family dynamics, coming out, dating, therapy, and surviving an existential crisis. Each episode tells its own distinct story, but all episodes take place in the same universe so that a minor character in one episode may reappear as the lead in another, and vice-versa.
According to Patterns director Rex Glensy, the project was created to reflect everyday queer life and how we navigate different social circles at work.
“With friends and family, and behaving differently within each circle we frequent, the beauty of the series is that it explores this dynamic with humor and heart,” he says.
Cohen, who was one of the heroes of England’s championship-winning 2003 Rugby World Cup team, knew he needed to be a part of Patterns after reading the script. Over his illustrious career, the athlete has been a force in the world of LGBTQ advocacy and launched the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation in 2011, a charity that combats bullying. While Cohen is far from the only LGBTQ ally in pro sports, he is one of the few who has made it his primary focus – especially in the UK.
Audiences will see Cohen appear in the second episode of Patterns as the personal superhero of Liam (Rufus Gleave), a teen boy that’s in the process of accepting his true, authentic self. Liam looks for guidance from the shirtless poster of Cohen on his wall, and miraculously, Cohen answers Liam’s request and helps him build up the confidence to overcome school bullies and come out to his dad.
Instinct had the opportunity to catch up with Cohen and talk more about Patterns and his role, as well as why he wanted to be involved with the series and the lovely advice he received before stepping in front of the camera.
Ben, thank you for taking some time to chat with me! How exciting was it to make your acting debut in the new LGBTQ series, Patterns?
Oh, it was great fun! This is something I thoroughly enjoyed, and it’s something that I truly aligned with as well. Supporting the LGBTQ community and being an ally with my work, I very much enjoy being around this space, and I appreciate what Rex Glensy wanted to bring to this series. I appreciate what he wanted to achieve, focusing on different backgrounds and problems of these characters, and that’s why I wanted to do it. But to the point of this being my acting debut and learning from a script, that was very hard for me, but everyone involved with this project helped me along massively, which was great.
You’ve always wanted to do some acting work, haven’t you?
Yes, always. I’ve been in front of the camera before, but not like this. This was a very different scenario, but it was cool. I really enjoyed it.
What would you say was more terrifying: being in front of the camera or playing rugby for England?
Being in front of the camera for this series, without a doubt (laughs). To go out and play Rugby in front of a hundred thousand or a hundred million, that doesn’t really bother me. To act and recite these lines word for word, that was terrifying! I didn’t want to let anyone down.
You appear in the second episode, where viewers are introduced to Liam, a teenager with a questionable obsession for his favorite athlete. You play Liam’s personal superhero, who helps lead him out of his inner turmoil. Can you elaborate more on why this role appealed to you?
I have children myself, and I would never want them to feel like they couldn’t speak to me. I would be devastated if they ever felt like they couldn’t be open and honest about themselves with me. I generally think that I’ve done something wrong as a parent.
So, to be given an opportunity to play a version of myself in this episode, where Liam is going through the process of understanding his sexual orientation, I enjoyed it. I believe the whole point of my character was for him to encourage and stand alongside Liam. For Liam to not only come out to himself, but accept himself, his passion for dance, and stand up against the bullies at school.
Were you given any acting advice beforehand?
Yeah, don’t fuck it up (laughs).
I hope I made everyone proud!
What do you ultimately hope audiences take away from Patterns?
Honestly, just the whole infrastructure that parents need to be open and honest with their children, and they’ll return that respect. That there’s plenty of love and understanding, and if you’re open and honest with me, I’ll do the same to you. Never stray away from having a conversation. Parents need to be present in their children’s lives, and there’s so much out there for kids to see that is readily disposable.
You need to be upfront, honest, and educate them on what the real world is like because it has massively changed since I was a kid. Social media and the internet are obviously the biggest ones. So, create an environment where your kids can thrive and they’re not afraid to come and talk to you.
Would you like to do some more acting projects in the future?
I really don’t know. I like being in front of the camera in different aspects. Currently, I am shooting a documentary, and I like that side of it. We recently wrapped up filming, and I did this project because it’s something I was passionate about. It was great to be involved with it, but I don’t know what else is in store for me.
What are some other goals you hope to accomplish with your career?
Good question! I really love my work around mental health, diversity, and inclusion. I think these are pinnacle topics right now, and there’s always more work that needs to be done. Then like I said about other acting projects, we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m kind of just riding this wave and we’ll see where it takes me!