Q&A/PREVIEW: It’s A Sin featuring Russell T. Davies, Olly Alexander, Keeley Hawes & Omari Douglas

WHERE?: BFI at Home on YouTube

RUNTIME: 46 minutes

WHEN?: available to watch from 18/1/21

Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander remembers watching Russell T. Davies’ groundbreaking Channel 4 series Queer As Folk in secret when he was just 14 years old.

  • Read on for reasons including how Alexander wants to play a ‘sexy gay witch’

Davies went on to name his last futuristic BBC1 series after the band and it perhaps seemed destined that the 2 would work together not least because we’d seen Alexander make his West End debut opposite Ben Whishaw and Dame Judi Dench in Peter and Alice in 2013.

Whishaw won an Emmy for his portrayal of Jeremy Thorpe’s young lover Norman Scott in Davies’ A Very English Scandal and Alexander performed with Pet Shop Boys and so who else could star in his new show titled It’s A Sin with the 1st of 5 parts airing on Channel 4 on Friday with the rest available immediately afterwards on All4?

We joined cast and crew for a BFI At Home Q&A which you can watch below. The Years & Years frontman says: ‘I remember being 14 years old and watching Queer As Folk with my friend at her house in secret in her bedroom away from her parents.

‘I was so scandalised because I’d never seen men on TV touching each other or with their clothes off. It left a mark on me. It wasn’t until later when I revisited Queer As Folk that I felt like it had played such an important part in shaping me as a gay guy.’

‘I heard Russell was making a show and I just wanted to be involved. When I read the script and story I was so moved. It was one of the coolest things ever.’

Asked about his hopes for the series which reflects on a decade defined by HIV and AIDS, he says: ‘I think that a story has the power to change the way you feel about something. That’s how I’ve really come to understand this era through amazing works of fiction and stories. I hope it leads people a little more to understanding.’

Asked about future acting ambitions, Alexander says: ‘I think it’s going to be very hard to top this experience, everybody in front of the camera and behind were amazing. I do want to play someone with magic powers so I’m definitely open to playing a sexy gay witch.’

Davies explains that he, like Alexander’s central character Ritchie, was 18 in 1981. Much of It’s A Sin is autobiographical and, although Davies didn’t move to London as Ritchie does in the early 80s, his gay friends did live in Hampstead in a shared home nicknamed ‘the Pink Palace’.

‘A lot of it is based on myself and people I know and stories that built up over decades. When I was 18 I went to university while my friends moved to the Pink Palace and a lot of this dialogue has got their jokes and rhythms. Some of them are no longer with us and it’s nice to remember them like this.’

Ritchie’s mum is played by Keeley Hawes who becomes emotional when contemplating the writing. She says: ‘Valerie is a woman of her time, a product of her generation. She is easy to dislike and so the trick was bringing something likeable to her because we have to have empathy with her. I knew women like that and at her core she adores her children and her son.

‘I can’t talk about the show without crying. The characters, you carry them with you, they don’t leave you, it’s down to the performances and Russell’s writing.’

We shared a rehearsal room with Omari Douglas before Emma Rice‘s Wise Children at the Old Vic and he was definitely 1 of the best things about a rather uneven production.

Here he plays Roscoe and worked closely with Stephen Fry. ‘He is someone who manages to find his tribe and he finds a group of people who accept him and it’s a space for him to be able to express himself in the way that he does. What’s so amazing about all of the characters is that there’s such variety in the way they are discovering their sexuality.’

Callum Scott-Howells plays Colin and worked closely with Neil Patrick Harris. ‘He’s a magician, what he can do is just something I don’t think I’ll ever get over. He was so generous. He made it so easy then to play as I was constantly in awe of him.’

Lydia West also starred in Years & Years and plays ‘perfect friend’ Jill, based on a real person, who actually plays her mother in the show. ‘It was just amazing to have someone in the room who lived through that time.’

Nathaniel Curtis plays Ash and makes his TV debut. ‘When I first read the script the thing that got me was how relatable the characters and their relationships were. Their friendships are like those that I have with my chosen family.’

This show was originally called Boys and we think It’s A Sin works better because it grounds it more completely in the 80s – and it would be a sin to miss it.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Channel 4. Watch all episodes of It’s A Sin on All4 from 22/1/21
  • Have you seen any of these shows? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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