Ben Bledsoe is best known for being a part of the band Natural as well as for his international success with his solo album, An Insomniac’s Guide To A Lonely Heart, but now he’s also making a name for himself where he originated–acting. With a slew of TV guest spots on hit shows like “Glee”, “The Mentalist” and “CSI”, and after filming “Riddle”, a movie with Val Kilmer, which will be released in 2011, Ben is proving he has more than just music to offer the entertainment world. StarShine spoke to our old friend Ben recently over the phone to discuss his growing career and possibly a Natural tour…
Sandy Lo (StarShine Magazine): We haven’t done an interview in a long, long time. I think the last time was when your solo album came out.
Ben Bledsoe: Jeez, yeah, it’s been a while.
SS: So what have you been up to since then?
Ben: Well, since it came out, I actually did quite a bit of touring. Probably about two years. Throughout the states—I did a bunch of stuff with Seventeen Magazine. They had this whole Rock Your Prom Tour I did and then a bunch of Radio Disney stuff. Then I did a European tour for a couple of months and did a bunch of TV, and magazines and photo shoot stuff—the whole nine yards. Then I sort of started realizing through the whole process that part of what I really loved about the music industry was the fact that I was in a band with my best friends. And so not having that anymore—like I still love writing the music and recording it—but touring is kind of weird on your own. Even though I had a road manager and I’d meet up with friends on the road, it was strange. So I sort of realized what I wanted to get back into since I had started the band—Natural—I did acting for years before that. I had to stop acting to pursue the band and so I said, you know what, I did the solo album—which did a lot better than I expected it to.
SS: It did great!
Ben: Yeah, I was pretty happy with the outcome. I just released it on my own and apparently people cared and supported it, so it was really great. But so…I told my manager at the time I was moving to L.A. and I’m going to pursue acting. I’m still going to do music, but I’m going to focus mainly on acting. I feel it was something I left behind that was going really well. Since then, I’ve just been acting. I got an awesome manager out here and a bunch of great agents. I’ve been doing a bunch of TV. I did an episode of “House” and I worked on “Glee” and “CSI”.
SS: I saw that by the way!
Ben: It was such a little thing. I initially tested for one of the leads on “Glee” and I went in eight times for this thing. And it was down to me and Cory Monteith. I met with Ryan Murphy, the creator, a couple of times. Basically what it came down to was they were going more theatrical. So I brought in a few theatrical songs and then Cory brought in some rock & roll like song. He walked out and I was like, ‘Dude, I’d pick you right now! That was so much more interesting than whatever the heck I did—some medley of some music.’ He obviously ended up getting that role, but they wanted to get me in on the pilot in hopes of building a character. So that was that. Let’s see, what else…I did The Mentalist and I just finished filming a movie called “Riddle” with Val Kilmer. We filmed it in Pittsburgh. I was there for about a month and a half. It’s like a psychological thriller. It’s a really interesting script, so I’m curious to see how it turns out. It’s not a horror film, but it definitely has the thriller side to it. It’s this story about this girl and her brother…I’m sort of responsible for her brother going missing because of a mistake I make. So I start out being this jerk in high school and I try to be a much better guy and help her find her brother. It’s a long, long story about her brother being sort of stolen and hidden in this town that has a bunch of secrets.
SS: It sounds like a cool story…
Ben: Yeah, there’s a lot of detail to it, so I can’t give it a full amount of justice. It was awesome to work on. It was a really fun movie.
SS: Do you know when it’s supposed to come out?
Ben: I don’t know. Now what’s going on is…they have theatrical distribution, but we don’t know when they’ll be doing the release. The soonest it would probably be would be next year. They’re going to get all of the edits done by the end of this year and it would probably be out by 2011. It just depends on whether they want to release it around Halloween time since it’s a thriller or if they want to make it like a summer release. We shall see. They don’t let us know a lot of those details, so… [laughs]
SS: Yeah, you’re always left in the dark. [laughs] What was it like working with Val Kilmer?
Ben: Crazy! He is definitely a consummate professional. I didn’t realize this until afterward. I got off the set and someone was talking to me about him. He was the youngest person to ever get accepted into Juliard. Or get a scholarship—something like that. And I kind of understand why after working with him. He’s just so far beyond what is needed. He’s sort of a genius. But he was kind of crazy, to be honest with you. Between every take, he was playing pranks on us. He definitely kept it a lively set, which was fun.
SS: Is there an actor you would love to work with that you looked up to?
Ben: There’s a handful. Some of them are just our generation of great actors. I’d love to work with Tom Cruise, Will Smith, and there’s a lot of female actresses that are that same caliber. I feel like since I grew up in the TV and movie industry, not many people who wow me as far as the celebrity factor. But a few have crept through…honestly a strange one for me was Dan Castellanata, the voice of Homer Simpson. I ran into him out here and I feel like no one would even know who he was. He’s sort of an under the radar actor. For me, I was a die-hard Simpsons fan and so when I got the chance to maybe do a show with him, I got pretty excited about that. And also, because I do a lot of voiceover work out here—like commercials and animation and stuff like that. That’s another reason why I look up to a bunch of people who are much bigger in the animated world. I don’t know—I have weird taste, I guess.
SS: No, you actually appreciate the art and other aspects of the craft. So I was looking at your Wikipedia page and it says that you were in “Hairspray” and “Crybaby” on Broadway. Is that true?
Ben: No, I wasn’t. [laughs] I don’t know who updates the Wikipedia page. There’s a big casting company in New York called Chelsea Casting. They do all the major musicals. They’re awesome. So they called me for a few different things: “Crybaby” and “Hairspray”. I started out in theatre when I was younger—when I was like eleven—and so for me, I did theatre for five years. When I started getting back into theatre and auditioning for Broadway, I can honestly say it’s the only time in my life that I’ve been detrimentally nervous. I went into the casting room for “Crybaby” and John Waters, who wrote “Crybaby” and “Hairspray” was in the room. It was him staring straight at me and an army of thirty people watching me audition. I was just a train wreck! It was the worst thing I’ve ever done. You know how you hold a piece of paper and it shakes comically? That’s what I was doing. It’s funny because I don’t get nervous during TV or film auditions. I don’t get nervous on stage and I’m not a nervous person. But God, those auditions…I think me being on the thirtieth floor of a New York building auditioning for a Broadway show, I think it just shook me funky. That’s why I’m much happier being in the film and TV world where I feel more comfortable.
SS: That’s funny. So I wanted to talk about Natural a little bit. I’m sure fans of Natural are still wondering if you guys keep in touch and ever talk about something together again.
Ben: Actually, Michael, the drummer from Natural is my best friend still. He lives out here in L.A. and we see each other pretty much every day. We’re working on a few different projects together. He’s in a new band called Capra, which is signed to Hollywood Records. Their lead singer is on a Disney show, so it’s kinda delayed their release, but now the label is doing a major release, so that should be really exciting. And we’re working on a few projects together—Michael’s involved in a few TV shows that are music related, so I’m helping him write a few songs for them. Patrick lives out here as well, but I actually don’t get to talk to him that much, but I see him once in a while. And we hang out and it’s a good time. Marc and I talk. We e-mailed just the other day. He’s doing really well. He’s out in Europe right now—he still lives in Germany. He has this haunted attraction called Terenzi Horror Nights. Since it’s in Europe, they can get a little crazier. It’s at this theme park called Europa Park. They just take over the whole park for September and October and they just go crazy with it. I haven’t been yet, but I think I might go this year. And J…I actually haven’t spoken to J in a while, but I’ve heard he’s doing really well. We’re all still really good. There have been talks—a promoter had asked us a while back, but we were all doing different things at the time. I think we’re all still up to it. We might do it as a comeback tour one day just for the fun of it, but we haven’t talked too much about it. Maybe you should get that started.
SS: [laughs] You want me to get it started?
Ben: Yeah, get it started!
SS: Alright, you want me to start a rally of Natural fans and see what they say?
SS: Okay, I’ll put it out there. I’ll start tweeting about it.
Ben: Alright! If you get enough tweets, maybe I can make something happen.
SS: Alright, I’ll put it out there and see what comes back. So now, what’s in your future as far as acting and general life? [laughs]
Ben: L.A.’s a funny town. There’s a lot of amazing places out here, but I’ve lived out here a couple of years now and it never felt like home. I just a few months ago found this house that’s super comfortable. It’s just perfect. It was built in 1923, which I love—it’s an old school kinda house. It’s right in the hills, so it’s really quiet and it has a nice view. I never thought I would care about any of that, but it’s just so relaxing. I finally escape to my house instead trying to get out and being bored inside. It’s been great for me creatively. I’ve been doing a lot more songwriting. We’ll see what happens; I don’t want to promise anything. I’ve got a studio set up in my house, so I may record an album. There’s also a couple of TV shows…There’s one show that would be filming in the UK. Right now, I’m the top choice for. It’s perfect for me. It’s half-animated and it’s half-live action and it’s about a singer. So the half that’s live action, I would film in the UK for about three months and then I would come out to L.A. to do all the voiceover and singing parts. It’s sort of the perfect gig because it’s all the worlds that I love involved in one project. I’m looking forward to that. I’d tell you the title, but they keep changing it. There’s a lot of things on the horizon. This year’s shaping up to be pretty great.
SS: I’m really excited for you. For my last question, would you like to say anything to your fans?
Ben: A couple of things…first, they’re the greatest. That’s such a standard thing, but it’s the truth. I don’t think the fans understand how much it means to anybody that they really take to heart the things we put our heart into. For me anyway, I go full-passion into anything I do creatively. Finding people who care is really an amazing feeling. So yeah, thank you all. Also, I want to sort of apologize for being M.I.A. for a while. I’ve just recently decided to become much more social online and be part of the new media out there. I have a Twitter account (www.twitter.com/benbledsoe). I’m going to be doing a new Facebook thing. I just feel it’s not so much me building anything. I just feel like there’s been so many things I would have loved to spread to the fans that have been there so long and let them know what I’ve been up to that I just haven’t done. If anybody’s still interested, I’m going to be updating you now on all the goods. I’m doing a new version of my website, too.
If you would like to see Natural do a reunion tour, make sure you Tweet us at: www.twitter.com/starshinemag!
Don’t have a Twitter account? No worries! Submit a comment to this article telling us how much you’d like to see Natural on tour again! If Ben gets enough fans asking about a tour, he will do his best to make it happen!