It’s A Sin cast: meet the unknowns behind 2021’s first TV hit – NME.com

Posted: February 4, 2021 at 6:34 pm

Although Russell T Davies landmark masterpiece Its A Sin features an array of established top-drawer actors including Keeley Hawes, Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Fry and Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander (relishing the role of a lifetime), its largely unknown, talented and up-and-coming newcomers in that are at the centre of the action, in a flatshare dubbed The Pink Palace, and do a sterling job of making you feel like you want to be part of their gang. Heres what you need to know about the Its A Sin cast. Altogether now: La!

Roscoe, played by Omari Douglas. Credit: Channel 4

Plays: Roscoe Babatunde

Why hes so great: As Roscoe flees his staunchly religious household, and his parents who are hell-bent on driving the gayness out of him even if it means returning to their native Nigeria, Roscoe unapologetically dons his sisters mini-skirt and crop-top and delivers a defiant, quotable kiss off to his dumbfounded family (and one aunt whos living for the drama): Ill be going now, so thank you very much. And if you need to forward any mail, Ill be staying at 23 Piss Off Avenue, London W-Fuck, before cat-walking into a new life with an assured strut that makes Naomi Campbell look like a shuffling bag lady in mismatched flip-flops. Whether its delivering waspish one-liners or adding more than merely milk to Margaret Thatchers coffee (possibly the most political piss anyone will take in their life), Roscoe is an instant icon and Omari Douglas glorious portrayal shows us the full range of emotion behind the brittle peacocking faade. Its little wonder spirit animal Boy George gave his seal of approval, tweeting: OK, Roscoe is ruling my life!! Yes, yes, yes! Staggeringly, this is Douglas first on-screen role, after working in theatre although a special production of Rush, a gay love-triangle comedy, for BBCs Culture in Quarantine series, which sees him reprise his role from the plays earlier run, is available on iPlayer.

How much did Its A Sin teach you about the Aids crisis of the 80s?

Omari Douglas: From the minute I knew Id be doing this, I dove into it and it was overwhelming. One of the reasons Im glad were doing this is were so used to shows and films about Aids from the American narrative, and this is a British perspective and quite different, and how Thatchers Britain wasnt a particularly great time to be gay. Whats brilliant is being able to pass this story on to our generation.

Do you feel privileged to be part of Russell T Davies lineage of landmark gay dramas (that includes 1999s groundbreaking Queer As Folk, 2001s underrated Bob & Rose, and 2015s Cucumber)?

Yeah! Its such a canon of work. I was five when Queer As Folk came out, but I remember the adverts and going: Oooh, whats that? My real entry into his work was Cucumber. It came out when I was in my last year of drama school and it was an event in our flat wed all schedule it, squash up on the sofa and watch it together.

Callum Scott Howells plays Colin. Credit: Channel 4

Plays: Colin Morris-Jones

Why hes so great: Anybody whos binged Its A Sin need only hear the name Colin to be suddenly surrounded by a moat of their own tears. Nicknamed Gladys Pugh (the Welsh character from 80s sitcom Hi-de-Hi! played by Ruth Madoc) by the Pink Palace gang, loveably sweet-natured ingnue Colin arrives in London from Wales to take up a Savile Row tailors apprenticeship under the tutelage of a sleazy boss. In episode three, actor Callum Scott Howells expertly takes your heart, puts it in a NutriBullet, and hits pure as Its A Sin delivers its first true emotional stop-the-clocks moment. Surprisingly, this is Scott Howells first on-screen credit (although he appeared on stage in Matthew Bournes Lord Of The Flies and Cameron Mackintoshs Oliver!), and he filmed Its A Sin while studying at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

How much did you know about the Aids epidemic of the 80s before Its A Sin?

Callum Scott Howells: Whats really important is were telling this story now particularly for my generation in Wales. We dont talk about it enough. I was never taught about it in school, and I didnt know about it until I turned 18/19 and left home for drama school and spoke to people about it. Even then, I had to seek out the information. Hopefully, young people are going to watch the show and realise how this affected so many people. Doing this as well, weve been blessed with having amazing older actors like Stephen Fry in the cast that we can talk to about their experiences and the friends they lost.

Would you like to see it taught in schools then?

Definitely. People see the gay community as big, colourful and vibrant, but there needs to be more understanding of the struggles and what our community has been through. If I had been taught this at school, I would have been blown away to know what I would have gone through if I grew up in the 80s.

How does it feel to be part of Russell T Davies lineage of landmark gay dramas?

I wasnt born when Queer As Folk came out, but I grew up watching Doctor Who, which is a different strand of his work. So it feels amazing and brilliant.

The show honours the memory of those lost by highlighting the joy, humour, fun and energy they had. Did that feel important?

Completely. Because this community is so joyful. Weve filmed in Manchester and walking down Canal Street, its multi-coloured and theres drag queens, youth, energy and vibrancy. That goes for our boys [in the show] theyre so young and fresh and experiencing things for the first time.

Lydia West as Jill in Its A Sin. Credit: Channel 4.

Plays: Jill Baxter

Why shes so great: Based on a real-life friend of Russell T Davies (actor Jill Nalder, who plays her mum in the show), aspiring thespian Jill is the first in the Pink Palace to stand at the storm-front when the Aids crisis looms. The ultimate selfless ally, she acts as a maternal Wendy figure to the flat of Lost Boys. Lydia Wests scene with Keeley Hawes, as her best friend Ritchie Tozers (Olly Alexander) mum, in the final episode is a masterclass; like watching the acting equivalent of a heavyweight boxing match. West isnt a complete unknown, she played technology-obsessed transhuman Bethany Bisme-Lyons in Davies 2019s dystopia Years and Years, but her future is definitely starrier than her past. Shes set to appear alongside Uma Thurman in TV thriller Suspicion and Celine Dion in the romantic drama Text For You.

Your co-star Olly Alexander talked about watching Queer As Folk in secret at 14 and it helping shape him as a gay man. Is there a sense this could be a similarly important drama to young queer people?

Lydia West: Completely agree. Even though the Aids epidemic only happened relatively recently in the 80s, I didnt know as much as I know now after researching for the show. Its important that we remember those we did lose and raise awareness for the prejudice around the disease, which still stands. For 14-year-olds today, I think its going to be educational. But its important to note that its not a sad story. Its fun, youthful, energetic everything great in life which we connect to.

Theres never been a UK drama about Aids on this scale before, and Jill is based on a real person. Does that come with a responsibility to get it right?

Yeah. Its a period drama, so were recreating a period of time that actually happened so theres a humungous pressure in the sense that we want to be as truthful and as honest to the time and to the characters, because its a sensitive subject. Because were not just creating something entirely fictional, it feels like it has a huge weight of importance and as an actor, thats what you really want to do.

How does it feel to go from the dystopian future of Years And Years to the real past of Its A Sin...

Im a Time Lord! The roles are so different that I havent thought about the time-period, Im more focused on the character. But again, the writing is just phenomenal you connect with each character, and know their friendships, relationship and nuances straight away. Its a beautifully human drama.

It seems like the cast got on like a house on fire too

It was instant. The first time I met Olly was in a singing rehearsal and I was nervous because I didnt want to sing because I was singing with a singer! Because its such a sensitive subject, it helps that we all get on and trust each other so well. Theres no egos. We feel like a team and know that without one of us, the whole ship would sink.

Nathaniel Curtis plays Ash. Credit: Channel 4

Plays: Ash Mukherjee

Why hes so great: As Ritchies calm, sensible and faithful friend, and occasional lover, Ash not only gets to educate on the importance of douching (You need a good wash OK?) but also delivers one of Its A Sins most pointedly political moments an evisceration of Section 28, the reviled law that forbade promoting homosexuality. Hes portrayed with aplomb by screen newcomer Nathaniel Curtis, who was hot off playing Romeo in Shakespeare in the Gardens production of Romeo And Juliet before Its A Sin.

Theres never been a UK drama about Aids on this scale before. How important to you was it to get that right?

Nathaniel Curtis: With having such an incredible script, it takes the pressure off us a little bit. Were all trying our hardest to make sure were portraying the truth that our characters have to live through, which is horrific. Speaking to friends who were alive in the 80s, it was terrifying and our characters are so young, and theyre trying to find their way in the world, and this happens and its scary. But theres a confidence that comes from knowing everyone the writer, the producer, director, etc are handling it in the most beautiful respectful way.

Did you all end up best mates?

We have so much fun. Weve been told off for having too much fun! We went and danced in each others trailers every morning, and went out for dinner every night. The subject matter is so sad and devastating and obviously being able to support each other when things are difficult and being able to celebrate when things are difficult, has really helped.

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It's A Sin cast: meet the unknowns behind 2021's first TV hit - NME.com

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