OVER the last 15 years, actor and writer Ben Willbond has built up a dedicated fanbase, thanks to his comedic work.
Willbond, who was born in 1973 and studied at Oxford, is perhaps best known as a member of the original Horrible Histories troupe.
He appeared in the show’s original run from 2009-2014 and also wrote several episodes.
Since then, the troupe has continued to work together, mainly in Monty Python-esque multi character comedy projects.
However, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
In this article, we’ll be looking at some of Ben Willbond’s biggest career moments, across film, television and radio.
Let’s go back to the very beginning…
Ben Willbond grew up as a “forces” child and his family moved around frequently.
In a BBC Sounds interview, Willbond said this exposure to military personnel inspired his “Captain” character on Ghosts.
As mentioned, Willbond attended St Catherine’s College, Oxford where he studied Russian and French.
Willbond’s first comedic foray was in the double act “Ben and Arn”, alongside Arnold Widdowson.
The pair won a prestigious Perrier Award (now known as Edinburgh Comedy Award) for “Best Newcomer” in 1999.
Later, Ben Willbond performed solo character shows at several Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, the last being in 2005.
Around this time, he also lent his talent to BBC radio comedies, including Deep Trouble which ran from 2004-2007. Willbond co-wrote and co-starred in the series with Jim Field Smith.
In another military character portrayal, Willbond voiced Lieutenant Trainor, a Weapons Officer aboard a Royal Navy stealth nuclear submarine.
Willbond’s TV appearances in the 2000s included The Catherine Tate Show, Mayo, Lead Balloon and My Hero.
In 2007, Willbond first appeared as Adam Kenyon on The Thick of It, later returning for another episode in 2012.
He had roles in films such as Starter for 10, St Trinian’s, Imagine Me & You and The Gigolos.
Horrible Histories Era
Willbond was hired as an actor and writer for CBBC’s Horrible Histories in 2009.
A sketch comedy show with an educational side, it was based upon a bestselling book series written by Terry Deary.
Willbond joined fellow cast members Mathew Baynton, Martha Howe-Douglas, Simon Farnaby, Jim Howick and Laurence Rickard.
The show aired 5 series (65 episodes), as well as 6 full length specials and three shorts.
Willbond played historical characters including Henry VIII, Alexander the Great, William Wallace, Julius Caesar and Lord Byron, among others.
Each episode had a run time of 28 episodes.
Yonderland, Bill and Other Projects
After Horrible Histories ended, the core quintet wished to continue working together and created a new sitcom, Yonderland.
Broadcast on Sky One, Yonderland was on air from 2013-2016.
Willbond and his castmates once again played multiple roles, as was the case in Horrible Histories.
Some of Willbond’s Yonderland characters included Nick the Stick, Wise Elder Vex and Igor.
Unlike Horrible Histories, Yonderland incorporated puppet characters, with the actors providing these voices in addition to live action roles.
Willbond wrote several Yonderland episodes, primarily with Laurence Rickard.
He and Rickard also wrote the 2015 feature film Bill, a fictionalised account of William Shakespeare’s life.
Joined once again by their Horrible Histories and Yonderland castmates, Bill was likewise a multi-character comedy.
As well as writing the film, Willbond played the main antagonist King Philip II of Spain and supporting characters such as Earl of Southampton, Grubby Thief and Alexander Dimitrievitch.
In 2010-2011, Willbond recurred as Stephen Warwick on BBC Two sitcom Rev., starring and co-written by Tom Hollander. Olivia Colman and Miles Jupp, among others, also starred.
Meanwhile, Willbond had a supporting role in 2016 feature film Bridget Jones’ Baby, the third instalment of the popular Bridget Jones film series.
He played Giles, husband to Jude (Shirley Henderson), a character from the earlier films.
From 2014-2018, Willbond made appearances on a wide variety of series including Inside No. 9, Danger Mouse, Quacks, Playing House and Damned.
From 2018 onwards, he co-starred in comedy-drama There She Goes, playing Chris, the next-door neighbour to the lead characters, played by David Tennant, Jessica Hynes and Miley Locke.
Willbond also worked with Tennant on one episode of the latter’s hit fantasy comedy series Good Omens.
Willbond reunited with his Horrible Histories castmates once again to create Ghosts, a new sitcom for BBC One.
The series follows a young couple who inherit a country estate, only to discover it is haunted by the ghosts of people who died on the property.
Willbond and his fellow co-creators play the ghosts, who come from different points in history.
In particular, Willbond’s character “The Captain” is a World War II era army officer, who is still dedicated to duty and service.
Since the beginning of Ghosts, the writing has implied the Captain being homosexual. This was later confirmed in the season 2 episode “Redding Weddy”, which revealed the Captain had unspoken feelings for his second-in-command Lt Havers, who later transferred to North Africa.
In fact, despite the decades since his death, the Captain has still not fully come to terms with his sexuality. It is not something he speaks openly about, but the other ghosts are shown to have an inkling.
To date, four series of Ghosts have aired on BBC One.
There have also been multiple Christmas specials and since 2021, an American adaptation of the format.
Ben Willbond discussed Ghosts‘ success, including its combination of heart and humour, in a 2021 interview with Radio Times.
“Audiences obviously respond to the characters and the more real and emotional you can make them the better the connection with the audience.
“You expect that from an out-and-out drama but I think it should be in comedy, too… It’s quite a hard balance to strike because of course you’re labelled as a sitcom so people come to it going, ‘Right, make me laugh then!’”Ben Willbond (Radio Times, 2021)
Away from Ghosts, Willbond has also made appearances in sitcom Alma’s Not Normal and children’s series A Kind of Spark during the show’s run.
Willbond and Laurence Rickard also co-wrote We Are Not Alone, 2022 science-fiction comedy television film.
Ghosts will air its fifth and final series beginning October 6, 2023.
Whether it will answer all the fans’ burning questions remains to be seen.
One thing for certain, however, is fans will get to see Willbond as the Captain for one last run.
Perhaps there will finally be answers to his death, one of the few remaining mysteries.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Follow writer Conor O’Brien on Twitter