Russell T Davies speaks out on the importance of casting gay actors as gay characters in It’s A Sin

"You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair."

It's A Sin

It’s A Sin creator Russell T Davies has stressed the importance of casting gay actors in the roles of the gay male characters.

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The Channel 4 series, starring the likes of Olly Alexander, Neil Patrick Harris, and Stephen Fry, is set during the 1980s AIDS epidemic and follows a group of young gay men who move to London.

Speaking exclusively to Radio Times, Davies said he thinks “authenticity” is a critical component when it comes to casting a TV show like It’s A Sin.

“I’m not being woke about this… but I feel strongly that if I cast someone in a story, I am casting them to act as a lover, or an enemy, or someone on drugs or a criminal or a saint… they are not there to ‘act gay’ because ‘acting gay’ is a bunch of codes for a performance. It’s about authenticity, the taste of 2020.

“You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t black someone up. Authenticity is leading us to joyous places,” he said.

The series is loosely inspired by Davies’ own real-life experiences – just like the three central characters in It’s A Sin, Davies was an 18-year-old gay man in 1981, at the start of the AIDS crisis.

“I was 18 in 1981, just like Ritchie [played by Olly Alexander], so the bones of this story were always in me, but it took a long time to get there,” he said. “Maybe I had to reach this age first.”

It's A Sin Russell T Davies
It’s A Sin cast members and Russell T Davies (centre-left)

He continued: “I must have known hundreds of lads like them [the characters in It’s A Sin], but though we all had those mad nights on the town, I was lucky, I escaped HIV. I was rather more well behaved than my characters, that’s why I write them doing what they do. But in the 1980s I kept my head down and worked a lot, I didn’t start going out properly on the gay scene until I was in my 30s, in the 90s.”

Davies lost friends to the AIDS epidemic, a period of time that he says he discussed at length with series star Fry off-camera.

“We had amazing chats off-stage. We’d sit and have a coffee and talk about the friends we lost, all of the funerals we’d been to, all of the lies that were told, and all of the people who survived,” he said.

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Read the full interview in this week’s Radio Times, out tomorrow. It’s A Sin will air on Channel 4 on 22nd January 2021. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide.