Ben Miller recalls own experience with OCD for role in new ITV crime drama

Ben Miller has told how his own experience of living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) informed his upcoming performance in new crime drama Professor T.

The British actor will star in the lead role of as a genius and eccentric Cambridge University criminology professor Jasper Tempest, who suffers from OCD and has a tortured past.

The actor, 55, who is also a Cambridge alumnus, told Radio Times: “I did struggle a lot with OCD, particularly in my 20s, and I’m very lucky in that it’s all very manageable now.

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“But there were times where it was unmanageable, as it is for Professor T, so I know how that feels and I know how I dealt with it.

“I’ve found these sequences – where in the Professor’s imagination he doesn’t have OCD and he’s free of all those behaviours – are a great way to show what’s going on inside.

“Seeing somebody lining up items on a desk looks pretty innocuous but inside, that person can be a lot more complicated.”

He spoke of how his personal obsession with numbers and touching things was a tactic to control his anxieties and revealed he sought professional help after reaching crisis point.

He explained: “I was very OCD about doorways and doors. For me, it was a way of mitigating and controlling my anxieties.

“I thought if I touched an object a certain number of times, then bad things won’t happen. Of course it doesn’t work – I constantly had to amplify my behaviours to try and reduce my anxiety.

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“There comes a point where the OCD behaviours themselves make the anxiety worse and you enter into a positive feedback loop; it gets out of control. There were crisis points when I decided to seek professional help.”

The six-part ITV drama, which is based on the hit Belgian series of the same name, was filmed in Belgium and Cambridge.

Miller, who has also starred in Bridgerton and Johnny English, began his acting and comedic career at Cambridge’s theatrical group Footlights, at the same time as comedians Sue Perkins and Andy Parsons.

He also studied Natural Sciences at the university for his undergraduate and began, but later withdrew, from doing a PhD in solid state physics.

He said: “There was the strange sensation of feeling life had come full circle, my house in this show is where I wrote some of my first comedy sketches.”

Ben Miller will star as professor Jasper Tempest in new crime drama Professor T. (Radio Times)
Ben Miller will star as professor Jasper Tempest in new crime drama Professor T. (Radio Times)

Professor T also stars Frances de la Tour as Jasper’s colourful but overbearing mother, Adelaide; Emma Naomi as Detective Inspector Lisa Donckers and Barney White as her police sidekick Dan Winters.

OCD is a mental health condition where a person has “obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours” and it can cause “feelings of anxiety or unease”, according to the official NHS website.

The full interview is in this week’s edition of the Radio Times magazine.