BAFTA/Ricky Darko

The cast of It’s a Sin reunited to discuss the “life-changing” HIV/AIDS drama and the impact it has had in the year since it first aired on Channel 4.

The show follows a group of friends in 1980s London who grow up in the shadow of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Upon release, it received praise for its powerful storytelling, incredible cast, and bringing LGBTQ+ history to a mainstream audience in a way that had never been done before.

The drama, which coincided with HIV Testing Week, proved to have a remarkable impact on viewers, with Terrence Higgins Trust announcing that 8,200 HIV tests were ordered in one day – smashing their previous daily record of 2,800.

It’s a Sin was created and written by Russell T Davies, the mastermind behind Doctor Who’s reboot in the 2000s.

It is leading the way at this year’s BAFTA television awards with a total of 11 nominations – five in the craft categories and six in the television awards categories.

In honour of the recognition, an array of the cast and production team reunited at BAFTA’s Television Sessions on 25 April in London to reflect on the series and celebrate its impact.

During the Q&A segment of the event, Olly Alexander (Ritchie Tozer), Lydia West (Jill Baxter), Omari Douglas (Roscoe Babatunde), David Carlyle (Gregory “Gloria” Finch) and Callum Scott Howells (Colin “Gladys Pugh” Morris-Jones) spoke to GAY TIMES about how It’s a Sin changed their perception of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and which moment from the show still sits with them to this day.

“I think, just personally, I had some awareness of this time in history, but it was very patchy,” said Olly, who is nominated in the leading actor category. “There was a lot I didn’t understand, there were a lot of dots I hadn’t connected, so being able to do a show like It’s a Sin and so, so intimately engage with this time of history, that connected so deeply to my identity as a gay man and how I’ve grown up in this country and, you know, what Section 28 meant and how that came into place.”

The actor, who is best known for the music he releases as Years & Years, added that the experience of It’s a Sin was “life-changing” and that Russell’s writing “shone a light” on something that had been widely overlooked by many.

BAFTA/Ricky Darko

Lydia played the best friend of Olly’s character in the series, with her acting receiving critical acclaim and getting her a nomination in the leading actress category.

She reflected on the scene she shared with David when he told her about his diagnosis and she asked if HIV could be caught from animals, before sharing that the show opened her eyes to the “misinformation” that characterised the epidemic when it first began.

Lydia further explained: “That was a medical question in a leaflet from the doctor’s surgery and it’s just, seeing that misinformation and saying it out loud, now we’re like, ‘What the hell, why would they even think that? Where does that even, who created that question?’

“But it opened my eyes so much to what was going on and the misinformation about the spread of it and the ignorance, really. It was really interesting.”

BAFTA/Ricky Darko

Omari echoed this and stated that being part of It’s a Sin “compelled” him to learn more about the time the show is based on.

“It’s interesting, because in terms of what we had to do in the show as characters, we didn’t need to know the ins and outs and the stats and that kind of thing, but I think just naturally you are compelled to just go away and read that stuff,” he explained. “It was one of those things where it was like, as soon as I started reading things and journals…I just kind of couldn’t stop looking at things because it was just so fascinating in the sense that it feels like something that has been hidden away from us in a way.”

Ritchie’s diagnosis is the moment from It’s a Sin that has been the “most impactful” for David, whose character also dies of the virus in an earlier episode.

“I think that’s one of the best bits of acting I’ve ever seen,” he shared. “Olly just goes like, translucent. He doesn’t do anything and I think that for me was the most impactful moment because I thought, I’m a gay guy and I’ve always had a bit of worry that, okay maybe I need to go and get tested for this, so I know what it feels like to be in that moment and I don’t know, I think you [Olly] spoke for a lot of people who just, the fear just seemed to be in that moment for me. I thought that was exceptional and that’s what I learned the most, well done Ol – you deserve a BAFTA.”

The AIDS diagnosis of Callum’s character, Colin, is widely seen as one of the show’s most powerful moments and has since been nominated for Virgin Media’s Must-See Moment Award.

It was Jill’s visit to a lonely hospital patient in the show’s final episode, though, that Callum believes “epitomises” the “beauty and brutality” of it all.

Callum said: “When I think back about It’s a Sin, I see that scene and that for me was like the nail in the coffin, I was under my sheet for hours just sobbing because that’s what it’s all about, that man who had no one but a woman who had never met him before, coming in to sit with him for however long. There’s brutality and beauty in Russell’s writing and that scene for me epitomises it.”

BAFTA/Ricky Darko

The Virgin Media BAFTA TV Awards will take place on Sunday 8 May at The Royal Festival Hall, hosted by Richard Ayoade and broadcast on BBC One.