Boyd Hilton in conversation with It's A Sin cast and crew: Lydia West, David Carlyle, Callum Scott Howells, Omari Douglas, Olly Alexander, Andy Pryor, Nicola Shindler, Phil Collinson, Sarah Brewerton and Lin Davie, Laura Flynn
Boyd Hilton: I'm Boyd Hilton. Welcome to this very special BAFTA Television Sessions: It's A Sin. Today is part of a series of events that celebrate some of the nominees and nominated program teams from this year's Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards and the British Academy Craft Awards. The Television Sessions are part of BAFTA’s Learning, Inclusion and Talent program, helping to creatively inspire and engage the industry, budding talent and fans alike.
Some housekeeping before we start, Join the conversation on social media by tagging BAFTA and using the hashtag #VirginMediaBAFTAs. This session will be in two sections we have because we have so many nominees for this show and we'll have time for audience questions at the end of each session. If you're a member of the press, please can you state your name and publication before asking your question if I come to you. And the session will be British Sign language interpreted.
And now please welcome our first panelists, executive producer Nicola Shindler, producer Phil Collinson, editor Sarah Brewerton and the makeup and hair design team, Lin Davie and Laura Flynn.
Thank you so as if you didn't know It's A Sin has eleven BAFTA nominations across TV and TV Craft as well as being nominated in Virgin Media’s publicly voted Must See Moment award this year and it already won two BAFTAs yesterday for director Peter Hoar, who can't be with us, sadly, and for Sarah, who did win, who is here. This show, of course was written, created, exec, produced by Russell T Davies, who sadly cannot be with us today but it's arguably his most personal work to date, following the lives and loves of five friends sharing a central London flat in ‘80s Britain, and their struggles to understand and live through a mysterious and fatal virus spreading through the city's thriving gay community. Co-produced by Channel 4 and HBO, Red production company’s, five-part drama was universally acclaimed for its heartwarming and often heartbreaking take on the AIDS crisis and for shining a light on a crucial piece of modern history. As if you needed it, let's remind ourselves of the brilliance of the show.
Nicola, let me start with you. I remember interviewing Russell before the show was going out like I think was going out three or four weeks’ time and he was kind of terrified about how with the reception it would get, whether anyone watch it, whether it be a bit too dark. Did you have any of those qualms? Did you have the same kind of thing or you were you pretty sure that it would be a success?
Nicola Shindler: Oh no, you're never sure that anything will be a success and you worry about everything going out and it you know it tackled, it does tackle difficult issues, and it was set in an era that people didn't know a lot about, so we had a lot of, you know, who would the audience be? But I think because of the way Russell had approached it, and because I knew who was in it and I knew how he'd made it, I was confident it was very good. But it’s whether people come to it or not, you just don't know it at all.
BH: And I remember also that Russell said that he originally wanted to be like eight parts for example and Channel 4 were like now, how about four? And you ended up with five. Did that mean that the process, that the storytelling changed a lot and the pace of the show changed a lot in that in that development process?
NS: We missed out elements of their lives in the 80s, so it was both a combination of losing material from the 80s and also he had an idea that he was going to bring it up to the present day. So you were going to cut to, the final episode was going to be Jill and Roscoe in the present day and they were campaigning and they were doing some brilliant things and one day hopefully that will be made, you know you never know but…
So it you know it was, it was an idea to that it was a much bigger show than it was, but actually, you know, as ever when these things happen I think making it so intimate and making it smaller and making it very, very focused on the specific story beats that it ended up being focused on probably were to the advantage in the end.
BH: And Phil, you’ve work with Russell many, many times before. You're a team, but this was a unique and it was a period drama really wasn't in a way? I mean, it feels like yesterday to me the 80s, but you know it was a long time ago.
Phil Collinson: Yeah, absolutely.
BH: And it's usually quite expensive to do that kind of stuff. How did you deal with all the all the challenges of the period?
PC: It was, it was one of the most difficult things I've ever produced. It was very difficult. I mean, you just look at that sequence and the number of different locations you're cutting between, filmed across many many, many different days. A nightmare for you guys to yeah you know. I mean he's he is a really difficult writer to produce.
NS: Not because of him!
PC: No, no no sorry God I love him. Not cause of him. I love him with all my heart. No, I just mean, I just mean that you know physically realizing the scripts that he writes is really difficult. But you know this was a labour of love for all of us, and such a work of beauty that that that we all just dived in.
BH: And when you're reading the scripts and developing it, and you know it's a very sex positive, shall we saw from that clip it deals with bodily fluids and sex all of that?
Lin Davie: There was a there was a day on the call sheet that said flying spunk as a scene.
BH: Right, but what did you use?
LD: I don't know actually, did you mix that up?
Laura Flynn: It was props!
LD: Oh it was props!
LF: We did that on Queer as Folk, as well.
LD: Wallpaper paste.
BH: Oh you did that on Queer as Folk, of course, yes.
LF: Very used to flying spunk in Russell’s programmes.
BH: There’s a history of flying spunk in Russell’s shows. But what I was going to ask was, whether do you have lots of discussions about the tone because you know it is funny and sexy, as well as being tragic and heartbreaking.
PC: Yeah, but I think the way Russell writes sex is, it's about, you know it isn't in any way, he's not ashamed of it, and it's a massive part of what he writes, and so you can't deal with it separately, really. It just becomes part of the story you're telling
NS: And also that story was about sex. Because we talked about that a lot, and you know how much we needed to show, whether we needed to see them have sex or just imply it. And and you didn't see anything too graphic. But you needed to know that they were having sex because they were having fun and there was nothing wrong with the sex they were having and they were having, they were young people having sex and enjoying each other at a time in their life when that's what young people do.
BH: Absolutely. Laura and Lin, for you with the challenge of just loads and loads of looks from this period, how do you go about it, do you research it? Did you have freedom that you wouldn't necessarily stick to the absolute letter of exactly what people wearing back then? How did you go about it and how they looked with their hair and makeup?
LD: We did stick to the latter of how it looked in the 80s because I was in my twenties in the 80s, so I remember it really vividly and I was quite keen to use the same techniques on the hair styling so we would use the old styling wands that that we used to use and not the modern ones. Uh, we got loads and loads of research trying to get mostly stuff from our folks, people we knew, because we wanted to keep it real. We didn't, we weren't particularly trying to show punk or New Romantics. We were just showing normal people, but we always put a nod in to what the fashions were makeup wise, we always had a Siouxsie Sioux in the back of shot or somebody like that. Yeah, so we would try and do that all the time.
BH: Thank you.
LF: Yeah, and then we went, obviously we went across 10 years, so that was quite a--and the ten years changed quite dramatically for us, so it was about telling the story from, like so I looked after Olly so it was Richie’s story from being on the Isle of Wight then moving to London, lived this free loose lifestyle, so then his hair, it was like trying to reflect it in little, you know, little ways. So it was like we then you know, added wefts to his hair to make it bit and like more curly and free and loose for all the dance scenes. Like the Isle of Wight was like a blow dried like his mum, the classic fizzy 80s. Yeah, yeah, so it was like we made a journey then so then we knew how to make him because we obviously knew the end result. But we really begged it off at the beginning and then by the time we got to the end we literally, you know, like broke him down to the point of his sickness then.
BH: Did you have to resist the temptation to go really over the top with the big hair?
LF: We did really, we did it as much as we could and then yeah.
LD: Yeah, we just wanted to keep it real. We didn't want to do a caricature of Richie, yeah. So yeah, we we raised it in a bit.
LF: We had fun in like the like, the cabaret scenes and you know they and then we started to add little bits of colour like so we had a bit of blonde coming through. So we added as much fun but still kept it real.
BH: Yeah yeah, fair enough. Sarah, congratulations on your BAFTA first of all.
When you read Russell’s script and I mean it feels, the whole show felt incredibly--all his shows feel pacey and fast moving, but this one, perhaps more than ever. I mean, it's just I watched the first episode again the other day and it is just Helter Skelter. For you as the editor, do you--is it crucial your role in that and are you thinking as soon as you're reading the script, how do I keep this pace going? How do I keep it kind of going at that full pelt?
Sarah Brewerton: I sensed it when reading it, but it really hit home when we had the read through. In Manchester and Russell raced through it and I thought right--
PC: Russell reads the stage directions and the read through and he sets the pace.
SB: Yeah, and he was yeah, absolutely. So I knew it was, it was brilliant to be witness to that. So absolutely I had that in mind whilst I was assembling. Uhm, that sequence obviously we kept as tight as possible with the dialogue to keep it moving. The sequence in ep one, the sex montage, that was about six minutes long in my first assembly because the track is that long.
BH: That's Hooked on Classics?
SB: Yeah, yeah.
BH: So how did you cut it down from six minutes to the how long was it?
SB: Just had to edit the music for each kind of transition and each change in the music and just made it tighter and tighter and tighter. Sort of half each time till it felt right.
BH: So you had six minutes of Olly having sex basically in the original?
SB: Pretty much! The track's really long.
BH: Yeah, and do you have discussions with Peter, the director, and Russell? Are you constantly discussing how you're tightening up, and how you're keeping it?
SB: Yeah, well, I had a long assembly period and people were watching assemblies as we went. But it's not until the fine cut that you really kind of hone down a lot of what you've done, and that's a combination of Peter and then Phil and Nicola and Russell.
BH: And when it gets there, there's some incredibly poignant moments as well, obviously, and is that even more of a challenge, in a way, kind of how to how to deal with the tone and pace of those when it gets really, really melancholic and sad?
SB: I think things come kind of instinctively while you're doing it. And you kind of you just lead by what you're given a lot of the time. And it felt natural. It wasn't like I was conscious of making anything slow or not, but it just, it just feels like automatic kind of moments where things will naturally just be slower paced.
PC: Yeah, yeah, I think you've been a bit modest because I don't know, for me, it was one of the, uh, it was an amazing editing process because I was for me, one of the--it was just amazing to go in and find these episodes so beautifully edited right from the beginning, really. I mean we, you know we all as producers have an impact and you go in and you watch things a million times but right from the first time we watched this show it worked and was beautifully edited and so it was a it was a joy to go in and just be able to come, you know, just make it better. You were starting from such a strong base.
NS: And I think as well with Russell's writing, what Sarah did brilliantly is she edited to the writing so you know the moment you're talking about, the difference between when it's very funny and when it suddenly becomes very tragic, that's what he does brilliantly on the page and it's almost like he does write with the rhythm, doesn't he? His writing sometimes feels like a musical down to the way he manipulates when you turn a page so that, you know, so that you see something the way you're going to cut to a scene and see something. So I think what Sarah did was put his vision on screen, really with Peter realizing it brilliantly.
PC: Yeah, and you and Peter really got that I think, and really knew when to take your time and really knew, and to breathlessly take us through some sections, so yeah.
BH: And Phil the show’s had an incredible kind of social impact in the real world, so I said, like the people testing for HIV, the numbers figures went up massively. People were learning and I think for younger people learning for the first time about this whole period. Did you ever expect that?
PC: No I mean, it was one of the greatest, you know, honours of my working life to kind of be told that you know, Terrence Higgins Trust by how many people were suddenly testing and you know we live to make drama that matters to people and impacts their lives and that affects people and I think you know, for many, many different reasons, but this felt this was incredible, the experience after this show went out in the days and weeks afterwards. I was absolutely breath taken by it and I'll be proud for the rest of my life of that.
BH: Nicky, you worked with Russell on Queer as Folk as you said. It feels like there's a through line from that show to this and like it’s almost like his work has created this history of particularly like gay men I think in this country. Did it feel when you were reading the script, did feel that way too, like this was a part of a whole career really for Russell?
NS: Yeah, so much so that we debated whether it you know it should really be a sequel, a prequel to Queer as Folk, and whether we should think about calling it that. We knew that was wrong as soon as we started talking, but yeah, it feels like this and Cucumber that he wrote and Queer as Folk are all absolutely linked and those stories that he wanted to tell of gay men at a certain point in their lives when history is either impacting them. So Queer as Folk very purposely didn't mention HIV or AIDS and we didn't have shots of condoms and you know that was absolutely something that Russell was passionate about, but almost to make the point, because everything at that point, right then, I mean, all television had been was Michael Cashman and EastEnders really. So anytime a gay character had been onscreen, it had been about HIV and AIDS and he just didn't want that. But he was saying by not having it there, he was making the point that it's there. It's just not the thing they're talking about. So yeah, I do think there's a through line between definitely those three shows.
BH: Yeah 100%. Phil what was the main challenge for you as the producer of this show?
PC: Living up to those scripts, really, I think you know constantly feeling the pressure of those brilliant scripts. And Russell makes you reach further, you know wider than any other writer I've ever worked with.
BH: And Lin, Laura what was the biggest challenge for you guys?
LF: Probably shooting it out of sequence, and obviously because there were so many locks across the ten years it could be--and obviously, the amount that you're shooting in a filming day, it could be like the blow dried look to a sick look to like the curly party look and we could, you could go across like three or five changes in a day on a tight schedule.
LD: And then we did a Les Mis scene, which was thrown in amongst everything.
LF: So, so you've got an 80s crowd with the period look on stage. There was just so much going on.
BH: And there's a Doctor Who scene!
LD: And a Doctor Who scene yeah. In that Doctor Who scene, Richie by then, has got the start of AIDS, right? So it was kind of we see the lighting director checking him out. Yes, and it was finding a way that there was something wrong, but you couldn't quite tell what.
BH: Yeah that was really subtly done that they had to have that look, yeah, yeah, 100% thank you. I'm going to throw it open to the audience. We've got time, a few minutes for questions before the second half. Anyone got a question? I think we've got roving mics as well, if you have. Yes, we've got a guy right in the middle, about four or five rows in the back. Just wait for the mic too. Obviously I pick someone who's sitting right in the middle row just to be annoying.
Q: So yeah, so I mean obviously it's such a wonderful show and but I can't help but feel that there's a little bit of an elephant in the room in the sense of what's going on with Channel 4 at the moment, this sort of prospective privatization obviously. I know Russell’s spoken about how difficult it was to get this show made in the first place, so I was just interested to hear your opinion. If Channel 4 didn't exist in the form it does now, do you think this show would get made and what do you think, you know the impact would be if the network does get privatised?
NS: I kind of know it wouldn't be here because I went around with Russell trying to sell it to different broadcasters and for different reasons, absolutely their choice, but it wouldn't have worked for those broadcasters, so it only worked for Channel 4. And I think if we lose Channel 4, as you know, as a publicly funded--well, not publicly funded--but as not a privately funded organisation, then I think we will lose the potential to have dramas like this definitely. Because no one knew it was going to be watched by loads of people and the pitch is lots of young people die. You know it's not a sexy pitch for Netflix or Amazon. It's, you know, it's hard for the BBC in many ways because it was pushing boundaries that they couldn't necessarily do on BBC One, so there was no other home for it except Channel 4. And if there isn't Channel 4, then I don't think there would be more shows like It's A Sin. Well, there's so many, it's not just us, there's so many shows, yeah.
PC: It's such a distinctive, uh, uh, commissioning voice for all genres, actually, and I think it'd be a massive loss if it loses that independence.
BH: Anyone else? Yep, gentlemen, just behind.
Q: Yeah, you mentioned about a potential sequel. I just want to know if you could elaborate a bit more on how that would work?
NS: I don't think it will be a sequel, sorry, but it was--
Q: Well, that's what you said!
NS: It was an idea. There was a time when there was a lot of stories in the press about young boys being manipulated online to masturbate basically and they were being filmed and then they were being blackmailed essentially and it was young teenage boys and it was something that Russell was really concerned about. Sounds like it's not related at all, except that he thought what if you cut to the present day and what if Jill and Roscoe are campaigning to--not campaigning but actually going out there and trying to stop the people who are doing this. So they're just, it's about looking after the boys, really. Because originally it was called The Boys and so he just wanted to pick up on that idea that one problem might have gone away but there are still so many vulnerable people out there who need looking after or who need some kind of attention shining on them. It was, you know, he never wrote any of it, it was a small idea. I don't know if he'll be cross I've told people what the idea is. Don’t tell anyone, press! But it was just, he just wanted to pick it up in the present day and say look there are still so many people out there who need some kind of protection. That was the point of it.
BH: I guess he's quite busy at the moment as well isn't he?
NS: Little bit.
BH: He’s got things going on, Phil, I know that. Uhm, I think that about wraps it up for this section. This is where we unceremoniously and slightly rudely say goodbye to Nicola, Phil, Sarah, Lin and Laura. Thank you very much.
Thank you. And now we welcome to the stage casting director Andy Pryor, Leading Actress nominee Lydia West, yes Lydia! Supporting Actor nominees David Carlyle, Callum Scott Howells, Omari Douglas, and Leading Actor nominee Olly Alexander!
BH: Well done well done for getting to the stage and making it here.
David Carlyle: Not quite in the right order.
BH: That's fine, any orders good! Andy, what an astonishing job first of all, casting this show. Every single character seems perfect and you can't imagine anyone else doing those roles. Did you have a strategy? What was your strategy for casting the show?
Andy Pryor: I'd like to think that there was a straight answer to that, but there isn't one really. I think you're always completely led by the writing and what Russell does so brilliantly is, you know, of course there are all of these fantastic big leading roles, but he makes each and every tiny role believable and gives the actors something to do with it rather than, you know, coming on, giving a bit of information and disappearing again. You know everyone is there for a reason and I think that good actors can sense that in reading, in writing, and so they're drawn to Russell’s work and will often play smaller parts than they might normally play because they're so well written. So it makes my job easier in a way.
BH: Did you cast Olly first? Was that key, getting that role first and then everything else fell into place after?
AP: Yeah, we met really early on, with Nicola and Russell. Very early on, before we had a director.
BH: Olly’s done some acting, I know, but he's obviously most famous of being a pop star and musician and artist in all kinds of ways. Where did the impetus come from to speak to him?
AP: Olly did do a fair bit of acting, didn't you, before the music started?
Olly Alexander: Yes I think we met before?
AP: Yeah, we had met, yeah. Yeah, you were probably only about 17 or 18 when we met before, yeah. I was about 21.
OA: Never forget me, Andy. Thank you.
AP: And so you know, I remembered Olly’s work from stuff he'd done before, and thought of him as an idea, but thought “well, no way cause he's off being a pop star. But I called all his agents and she said, well, funny enough we've just been chatting and Oly said he might do a bit of acting if the right thing came up so it was timing really, wasn't it?
OA: Yeah definitely yeah.
BH: Excellent, and Lydia, I was lucky enough to visit the set and it was clear to me that after working on it for a few weeks that you'd formed a bond. There seems to be a bond between all of you. You were making jokes about each other. You were having a laugh? Did that happen immediately or did you all kind of work at that?
Lydia West: Yeah, I think it was almost immediately. I met Olly first in a music room and we instantly bonded because we had to sing together. And that was the day before the read through and then we were all at the read through. We were all as scared as each other. And we just instantly bonded over it. And then we read the five episodes and after that it was as if I knew you guys already, before we even started working together. And then we'd go for dinner every night and be together. When you're on a job you do get really close to people, but I think because it was telling such a sensitive tale, and we all had to be so open and vulnerable, and in our rehearsal period we all sat around and kind of just talked about ourselves, it was almost like therapy!
Just being in that space and having that trust just opened us all up and and no one really held back and we all just kind of accepted it.
BH: And of course, your character is based on one of Russell’s best friends. Did you want to meet her? Were you nervous about that in any way, paying a real person?
LW: Yeah I was. Russell told me the day before the read through and then he told me that she was playing my mother and her name was Jill. So I was really nervous to meet her and I just looked across from her at the end of the read through and we were all in tears and she just smiled and winked at me. And then I took her to the side afterwards and we just had a little chat and every time she was on set we all just had so many questions for her and the stories and about the time and the Pink Palace and everything that they went through. She's just inspirational and she has a book now. So that's a shameless plug. But yeah, she's brilliant.
It was very, very big shoes to fill, but Russell gave me complete creative freedom. He didn't want me to mimic her in any way which just as an actor is a dream. Just be who you think the character is, so that was great.
BH: Olly, did you have any qualms about returning to acting? I know you're a fan of Russell's work. Was that what kind of made you feel you needed to do it?
OA: I didn’t have a plan to return to acting, but as soon as I heard Russell was making this TV show I had to. And I had also just watched Years and Years, his TV show, and I loved it and I've always loved Russell’s stuff. So I got sent this email: Russell's making this new TV show, it was called Boys at the time, but this is what it's about and I couldn't imagine a more perfect project to be involved with. So of course I met Russell and it all just kind of went from there. But I definitely was quite scared because I felt at times ‘how do you expect me to do this Russell?”
But it was so amazing. I met Russell before he'd finished writing the whole thing so he had me in mind in those final episodes, and I was just like, wow! I might never get a role like this in my entire. You could wait your whole career to have a role that good. So I really wanted to do a good job.
And that was all before I even met the rest of the guys. And then you meet everyone and you just go “oh wow, this feels really special”. But yeah, it was definitely daunting.
BH: Ritchie is such a complicated characters, we see his flaws as well as what makes him really great.
OA: He is, but that's what I loved about him so much. That's such a gift. I'd never read a role where I felt this is a real queer character, fully realised on a page with so many conflicting things going on, and that was so exciting to read and play. I just loved it.
BH: And the six minutes of sex scenes?
OA: I know! No, but actually I shot two full days of sex scenes. And when you watch the show, there's not that much of me. I was expecting more.
BH: It's all on the cutting room floor.
OA: That just wasn't deemed good enough.
I have to say the intimacy coordinators on the show were just amazing. Amari and Callum worked with them as well. They were so phenomenal. They were amazing.
BH: Callum, congratulations. Your scene is the Virgin Media ‘Must See Moment’ nomination.
But those scenes - we'll see a clip of it in a minute - those are unbelievably powerful scenes. How do you go about approaching a scene like that when you're about to do it?
Callum Scott Howells: I remember quite vividly having a conversation with Russell. Russell’s presence, whether it was over the phone or whether he would come to set, it was always felt massively, and I remember one day he came to set and I wasn't filming, but these guys were. And I said “oh Russell”, and he was quite busy as he was watching these guys act but I was like “oh, we're filming that scene next week”, and it was the the AIDS diagnosis scene, and I was "what do you think? 'cause it’s been playing on my mind a lot...” and Russell was like “just go for it!”. And in a way that says so much about what he's like and how generous he is. I was a first-time actor with everything to prove. There was no note that he gave that was directly profound, but he was so brilliant at supporting us. He just knew what to say when to say it. And as working with someone for the first time, someone like Russell, who is obviously a bloody genius. He was so amazing and very supportive.
BH: Well, let's have a look then at this clip. This is officially nominated for voters ‘Must See Moment’, the only voted for by members of public. Still time to vote. Let's have a look.
BH: There's so much going on in that scene. There's the dementia that's oncoming. You're thinking about what happened for you to get the disease. And your relationship with your mum and your friends. It’s all packed into that scene. How does it feel like watching it back and thinking about when you filmed it?
CSH: Yeah, I was scared of it to be honest. I was so scared of the scene. I verse read it when I was at drama school, 'cause that's when I auditioned, and I think I was so scared of that scene but Peter was so great at breaking things down with me.
It's worth saying that the dementia scenes, Peter would always give me notes and breaking it down and breaking Russell’s lines down one by one.
Peter is an amazing director and he won a BAFTA yesterday which is so amazing and and he deserves it. Because he was so brilliant at that stuff.
And also Lydia was a great scene partner. She made me laugh too many times.
BH: When it is that heavy, when the scene cuts, do you have to kind of chill out and relax and have fun to relieve the tension?
CSH: Yeah, I’ll tell you now Boyd. There were some scenes we should not have been laughing. All I’ll say is the wanking scene in the hospital, we couldn't get through it!
BH: If we've learned one valuable thing today, it is that the wanking scene was hard to get through.
David, your role is fascinating as well. He has brilliant one-liners all the way through, and then we see him when the full reality of what's happening to him is revealed. He has really, really emotionally difficult scenes. How did you navigate those, the different extremes of the character?
DC: There was a thing back in rehearsals, the one week that we did right at the top. I think I was quite nervous so I just sat quietly for a bit. Then I was doing that scene in the Pink Palace and Russell was sitting next to me and just lent over and said, “He’s really fun.” I said “OK, got it!”
So then I went OK, I'm just gonna have fun with this. I've been given the green light by the boss. So I just threw myself in. I think I used the words ‘absurdly confident’, is what I said to Peter and then he went “OK, cool” and then we went with that. And it seemed to come through, which was good.
It was my biggest job on telly as well, so I had no real idea of “if I do this, is that going to read”, so I just hoped for the best!
BH: My favorite part is when you talk about the woman looking like Shirley Williams on the bus.
DC: Oh yeah, “keep your hair on Shirley Williams!”
BH: People of a certain era won’t know Shirley Williams
DC: But I remember.
Yeah, yeah, it's a GIF!
BH: And I remember the scene where Lydia comes in and you ask her to do your shopping for you. Where you're trying to deal with the reality of the situation. How do you go about approaching that?
DC: Oh yeah, that was quite late on in filming as well. It was like 4 months in. It was a really uncomfortable couple of days. I just had to sort of get myself there and stay there. It was filmed over 2 days. I listened to some music at times. Lydia and I both really like each other like so it was like OK, go. Let's push this. Push, push, push. Peter was really supportive of everything and it's, I don't know, when the writing is that good like you just think about what's happening and get out of the way, I guess, and let it come through you if you can. It was tough though, I mean, but yeah, but we we had fun as well. We actually did an Instagram dance like halfway through those days with Gary Lewis. Weird! Yeah it was like OK we’ve got 10 minutes and then OK, I'll just get upset again. But I really remember Lin, like there was a lot happening and it would be like ten minutes or something it was like close up of that when I'm on the couch and I remember her coming over and just didn't say a word to me but you sort of got in the way of everybody else, so it blocked them off. I don't know how conscious you were of it, but you really just let me just focus for ten minutes. Like those are the moments that really matter when you go OK, now someone is giving me that chance to just gather myself. I think yeah, those are amazing.
BH: And Omari, did you feel, I mean like you know you're acting with these guys also with some legends as well. How did, how did you approach the whole thing?
Omari Douglas: Uhm, I was really nervous. When Lydia was speaking about the read through then I have a vivid memory of getting on the train from Wolverhampton that day and getting into that office and just feeling so overwhelmed by just the magnitude of the situation and I had, you know, I was always aware of Russell's work and it was just, you know, it was so bizarre to me that we were all in the room together and reading and I remember I was so nervous I had to sit on my hands, my hands like shaking when--before we started that read through. But I think the thing that I was kind of the thing that was so nervous, but also thrilling for me was that you know, reading that character, reading Roscoe, and sort of there is such an inherent kind of rebellion and sort of like audaciousness in him, I was nervous to lean into that, but sort of I think in those moments you can only really rely on your instincts. And of course, when you're doing something for the first time, it's really, really easy to kind of overthink things, but I feel like because we had everyone else around us it just felt really supportive and so uhm, yeah, you just have to lean into instincts and I had so much fun, so yeah.
BH: Roscoe is an incredibly fun character in some ways, isn’t he? Is that there within you anyway like that kind of larger than life quality? Or is that something you had to kind of find?
OD: Yeah, I think so. I think I found it but I think there was an element of being able to build that up as well because uhm, I think that element of him as a person is also part of the rejection from his family. I think you know he has to find a new route through life and he manages to find that. But you know, being able to build those elements up of him came from things like his, you know what he wore. And I'll never forget my first fitting that I did with Ian Fulcher and Laura, it was amazing. It was completely amazing. Roscoe represents, you know, uh, a generation of people who were using all of those things like aesthetics, it was sort of political as well what they were doing and they were saying things about themselves and they had something to say to the rest of the world and society because you know they they felt rejected so they wanted to put themselves on a pedestal and be seen and he is someone who wanted to be seen and he wanted to protect himself. So there were so many elements and you know we, Lin and Laura we spoke so much about the make-up creating that that part of him.
BH: And how was it acting with Stephen Fry, which I think are some of the most fantastic scenes?
OD: It was really fun, particularly that day in Westminster. It was, it was crazy because we were just sort of that whole entire sequence, that long shot where we're just sort of like running down the corridor and like going into the side room, the doors just kind of opening and shutting. It was kind of like a farce but it was really wonderful and of course Stephen is, Stephen is a wonderful person and he like Jill had so much to share about that time because of course Stephen openly talks about his experience of the time, which is quite different to what a lot of people had gone through as well, and he really shared that stuff.
And I think you know what Andy was saying about people wanting to come in and step in and you know, even though the roles were smaller, Stephen was so open about the fact that he wanted to come and do the show because he felt like the story we were telling was so important and yeah, he was just so wonderful and generous and yeah, wonderful.
BH: Lydia, I have to ask the scene at the end where you confront Richie’s mother, that is an unbelievably powerful scene. Did you, how did you feel about that when you read that in the script? And how did you feel about approaching that whole sequence?
LW: Yeah, I well, I didn't… It was quite early on in filming and when I first read it I was just taken away, taken aback by it. I remember Russell saying to me that it doesn't need to be overindulged, a it's such a symbolic moment in kind of telling people that Richie's biological family who he grew up with and who he came out with, he didn't owe anything to his biological family. And suddenly at the end she wanted to know everything about his life and Russell just said to me, she doesn't deserve it. She doesn't deserve to know Richie’s story, basically, because she didn't love him for who he actually was. So the way I approached it, I kind of just thought like Richie is--Jill is kind of like his mother and she doesn't owe anything to Valerie, and she's in a stronger position where she hasn't been throughout the years and she's been very much kicked to the curb a lot of the times in these interactions with these more powerful people like the doctor and other people of influence. So yeah, I didn't, I didn't really approach it with anything in mind. I didn't really know what Keely would bring and we just met, it was week three and we just gave it a read on the on the sea front and it was so cold, so we didn't really have to pretend. It was freezing. And yeah, I just I just tried to bring as much truth into it as possible and just try to kind of just express the love that they have for Richie and the disappointment and put the shame back onto Valerie, but leave her with that and then walk away and you walk away with your head held high and you never look back. Jill never looks back, she goes forward and that's what she keeps doing. Then she goes to the hospital and for many years, that's how she survived.
BH: And Olly, the scene I wanted to ask you about was when you go back to the Isle of Wight and you and you meet that guy who you’d known at school and you end up going out of the car and doing that dance. And it's such an incredible sequence, how did you feel when you read that in the script?
OA: Oh, there was this, there's like a stage direction where Richie is on-- I think he's at the beach at this point with the guy. And there’s a stage direction that says like in just like one quick moment, like Richie's horror, it appears on his face and he breaks down and then he like runs to the car and I just remember thinking like Oh my God, I'm never gonna be able to do that. I was just like it was one of those scenes you're really scared of it coming up in the schedule, but it's so cool it's like a two hander, it's like a mini play that episode where I mean it's so cool to just shoot that kind of thing. Johnny Green was so good and you know, just getting to perform, like you just kind of take it from there.
BH: Yeah and Andy for you like having cast all these guys, when you watch it back, when you watch the whole show back for the first time and you see it all edited and all their performances... How did you feel? I mean, you know, did it, did it meet your expectations of how they realised these roles?
AP: Well, pretty, pretty overwhelmed. I mean, you know, I knew we had a great cast and I'd seen rushes as the filming went along and you know you see moments of what it could be. But yeah, I was pretty overwhelmed when I saw the final product. It's a bit of a kind of a once in a lifetime kind of experience I think.
BH: Absolutely. Callum, has it changed your life this show? And if so, in what ways?
CSH: Yeah, yes in in so many ways. Like the things I've done since is because of It's A Sin because Andy was so lovely and would see me. I'm sure that I can, we're all kind of similar and we like, we owe so much to this show and I'll be grateful for the rest of my life and I know my parents are as well.
BH: What did your parents think when they watched it?
CSH: They would, they would just--I feel like for my family we don't go, like we don't go, we're not ready to go through this really like my mother and father they just go like ‘flipping heck!’ they just can't believe it. Like you know my father, you know he works for Ginsters and like he delivers to garages and shops and they'd be like ‘oh saw your boy on the telly!’
BH: Right, let's give time enough time for the audience questions. So again, if you put your hand up we’ll get a mic to you. Guy just there kind of four or five rows from the back, yeah.
Q: Thank you so much. Hi everyone, I'm Connor Clark, I'm from GAY TIMES. Thank you so much for making this show, it's hugely impactful and I think everyone here can agree with that. As a cast, how did being part of It's A Sin change your perception of the HIV and AIDS crisis, and is there a specific scene or moment from it that still sticks with you over a year after it aired?
DC: I've always wanted to say this. There's for me, it's the moment where Richie learns that he has HIV. I think that's like one of the best bits of acting I've ever seen. Like Olly just goes like translucent and he doesn't do anything and I think that for me was the most impactful moment because I thought-- I'm gay, I'm a gay guy and I've always had a bit of worry that, OK, you know, maybe I need to go and get tested for this, and so I know what it feels like to be in that moment. But like I don't know, I think you spoke for a lot of people who just that.. 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!
OA: I think like just personally, I had some awareness of this time in history, you know. I mean, but it was very patchy like there was a lot I didn't understand, or really kind of there a lot of dots I hadn’t connected, so being able to do a show like It's A Sin so, so intimately engaged with this time of history that I 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 and what those things meant. I hadn't really spent the time to actually go to look at I and then getting to do that for the show just to sort of figure out just how to play Richie and then that made me think about myself, you know, and that was so.. I'm just, yeah it was just so life changing and I think when people watch the show they get they get a bit of that too, you know, because that's what Russell kind of let out into the world, I think, kind of shone a light in that way, so yeah. But I'm still learning, still learning and still remembering stuff from the show and the stuff that we filmed and just feeling like Oh my God wow like that still has such an impact for me.
LW: Yeah, I kind of just second that the scene with us, David, when you were telling me your diagnosis and I asked, well Jill asked, ‘can you catch it from animals?’ It's like tuberculosis, can you catch it from animals? And it's just that learning about that misinformation and--
AP: That was a medical question.
LW: It was a medical question, that's the thing, yeah, yeah. That was a medical question in a leaflet from a doctor's surgery, and it's just seeing that misinformation and saying it out loud. It's like now we're like what the hell like why would they, why would you even think that? Like where does that even that who created that question? But the fact it opened my eyes so much to what was going on, and the misinformation and just the spread of it and how it just, the ignorance really. Yeah, it's really, really interesting.
OD: I was just going to say following on from what Ali was saying about just sort of that it felt sketchy but what we knew especially about it being here, it's interesting 'cause in terms of what we had to do in the show as characters, we didn't sort of like need to know the sort of like the ins and outs and the stats and that kind of thing. But I think just naturally you are compelled to just like go away and read that stuff. And it was one of those things is where I was like as soon as I started reading things and journals and things like that I just sort of was 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's been hidden away from us in a way, yeah.
CSH: I do think that scene that scene right at the end, in ep five like right at the end of the show where Jill goes into the lonely Joe and she sits by his bed and you know he’s like ‘I don’t know you,’ and she says ‘that doesn’t matter. I'm just going to sit here if that's OK.’ I think that scene needs to be like etched in like some sort of like, it's just for me like that’s what I take from the show. When I think back about It's A Sin, that scene for me was like the nail in the coffin. I was like under my sheet for like 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. I think that there's brutality and beauty in Russell's writing, and that scene for me, like epitomises it.
BH: Brilliant thank you. Gosh just in the second from the back.
Q: Thank you, first and foremost to say congratulations, congratulations on such a brilliant show. So my question is, apart from Olly’s six minutes sex scene, was there anything that didn't make the final cut where you felt it really should have been there? I don't want to get anyone in trouble, by the way!
LW: Jill might have had a romantic encounter. She may have, but I don't think it really--I was kind of glad that it wasn't included. Is that bad to say? Am I allowed to say that?
CSH: It's sad for the boyfriend!
LW: No, he was brilliant, but yeah, I just didn't feel like, I don't know it took it, took a bit of attention away from the topic of from the story, and I don't think it really… Well without it now, I don't think it needed it and yeah, so that left, that was cut.
OA: I felt, I could be wrong, but I feel like they really shot, like, Russell wrote really long episodes with the intention that stuff was going to get cut right? Am I making that up? No? To the minute? You guys, thank you Nicola, sorry.
NS: Just to say it wasn’t really a six minute sex scene! It was an assembly of a lot of sex…
CSH: That’s the full Christmas special!
BH: I take the blame for claiming it was a six minute sex scene. Nicola made it quite clear it was assembly.
AP: On the subject to sex, actually, there is a better back story that I've been looking at this scene for something to come out later, but Richie and Roscoe have sex.
OA: No, that's in the show as well. But we had sex in a different place originally, yeah.
AP: Yeah, but in that that scene where you, it's quite pronounced, quite tender as well I mean where you guys are like discussing music and like stroking each other and stuff.
OA: That's true.
OD: There was a scene, yeah, we didn't shoot it. We didn't shoot that, but it was in the script. Can we say there was a scene where I myself--
AP: Nicola’s having a panic attack. She's like literally...
OD: Yeah, we were living in a squat and there was a huge sequence where we were gonna like jump out the window and got chased by skinheads. And I mean, we didn't get to do that, we didn't actually film that.
AP: That would have taken days though just to do that one little moment.
NS: They couldn't afford the squat!
BH: What a shame, but great question. Thank you and then just go just in front, yeah? Oh sorry. There we go.
Q: My name is Richard. I work for The Terrence Higgins Trust and I just want to say thank you for all that you've done for not only in the show but outside the show for HIV education and raising so much money for people living with HIV today and to continue that work. Not only if you raise all that money, we wouldn't have got twenty million for HIV testing across most hospitals and the change to ending the ban on people living with HIV joining the military without this show. It just put HIV on the map to decision makers in a way that nothing else has done, so thank you for that.
My question was slightly different though. What do you--What scene do you imagine your character had that didn't go into the show? Is there something that you know back-story or in the future, outside the show that you kind of envisage your character going through that didn't get into the show?
BH: Who wants to go first, that's a good question? Lydia, you've got the mic.
LW: Well, I think Jill—
OA: More of Jill and Richie singing, doing their show.
LW: Oh now! Yeah, yeah, I think Jill, because at first it was kind of implied that Jill had a thing for Richie… maybe that was in my character research!
Maybe yeah, Jill and Ritchie's wedding!
OA: Ha ha, it would have happened.
CSH: No, it's a good question I think maybe for me I would have just liked to have seen a longer version of when Colin goes to Henry and Juan Pablo's place not because--I think the way Russell wrote it was perfect and it I didn't want it to be longer in the show, but I guess in my head I wanted to just be there all night. Because when we filmed that I just--it just felt so real, it felt like I was just chilling with two men that I loved and there was kind of no acting in that, it was just Neil Patrick Harris and beautiful Tatsu [Carvalho] who is just so cool yeah.
BH: Right Omari any thoughts?
OD: I would have been really interested to know, uhm, how Roscoe and Gloria’s friendship came to be, actually. I think there was a a sort of implication that I think kind of the group you know we'd sort of been on the scene for the longest and yeah, I’m just kind of interested to know how they sort of came to be pals.
AP: We had that kind of chat for like it was literally maybe 10 minutes one day wait, wait a minute like what's this about? And then we just had to move on from it, I know. We’ll write it. Russell’s given his it’s it’s fine.
OA: I would have just, it's not really I would just love to have seen--there aren't that many scenes of everyone together. Well there are, but when they're all in the Pink Palace and Colin’s moved in and there's a reason you don't see much of that, I suppose like Russell always keeps the action going, but I would have loved to seen just more, just to selfishly have been able to do more scenes with all of us just like in the good times, you know at the Pink Palace.
BH: Thank you, great question. Yes just there. Yeah, there you go.
Q: Hi I'm Tom from Metro. I was just wondering did you keep slash steal any mementos from set? And was there ever any discussion that you might all get LA! or LA! tattoos to mark your experience?
OA: On our bums!
OD: I managed to go home with two pairs of Doc Martins actually, but they were given to me. I didn't take them like yeah they were given to me.
AP: Lin wants them back now.
OA: I took home some, well lovely Flynny, Laura Flynn, did my--made me look eighteen in episode one so you better believe I took home all of those products that she used. And I think a weft of curl I think I've got as well and Richie’s earring. I've got Richie’s earring and like a pair of shorts that he wore.
LW: It's mainly products. There was this amazing thing like in the 80s, the hair what's it called this--no, not the scrunchy. There's like this thing that it's a clip and it clips the hair up, but in a way that's like… It's not important, but anyway I think that and it's great and they don't exist anymore.
OD: I also remember our in the Pink Palace set there was a huge poster of Grace Jones’ Nightclubbing album that amazing bit of artwork that they did for that and I wanted to take it but I remember asking someone and they were like ‘oh Lydia’s asked for it already’.
LW: And I'm still fuming that I didn't get it, so I don't know where it is.
BH: Who got that poster, Nicola?
BH: David, anything you--
DC: I didn't, I'm quite, I'm scared of like doing stuff so I didn't. I literally was like oh maybe I should just steal that. But yeah, it's ingrained in me. My mum. So you’re all thieves! Yeah but what I really wanted and Nicola’s here so I wonder if it still exists. I really want the pink mug, you know that he drinks, I mean smashed to smithereens. But I'm sure you have a few, right? Yeah, I wonder if you've got that anywhere. If you just, if ever it turns up you know where to find me. That's what I'd like, yeah.
BH: David needs a mug that's what we’ve established.
DC: Yeah, the pink one though.
BH: And Callum anything you need.
CSH: I think I just in my house I just have a piece of carpet from Print Deluxe.
BH: Perfect. And why not, yeah. There's a lady at the back there in red, yes.
Q: Hello, this is a question for lovely Andy. Hi Andy about the casting process. So was it, I just wanted to know what it was, was it in the room? Was it zoom? Did you have any chemistry reeds? Were there recalls like how generally, how was it set up?
AP: No, it was still in what feels like the olden days where we actually met people in person for first auditions, so I think we all met and then second auditions with Peter, is that right for everyone?
Q: And did you work off a long list and did you already have quite a lot of the characters cast in your mind?
AP: I tend not to do massively long lists, you know, you do big lists for you know the kind of parts that are going to get a show greenlit, and you know the more to put it crudely, the more famous people. But when you're making an ensemble, which is the favorite thing a casting director can do, you just try and meet enough of a range of people to give you some choice, but not go too crazy with it and I think we came to our choices pretty quickly, didn't we Nicola?
And we didn't do chemistry reads, which is frankly bizarre considering how it all ended up between these guys. But I kind of think chemistry reads are a bit of a kind of false thing you know, because I don't think you can really tell what it's going to be like until you're on the floor and rehearsing and working with people properly. I think you just have to, you know we worked on the principle that we just wanted to cast nice people that you know people would want to be around. And hopefully we did… Most of you.
BH: Thank you that makes sense. And one more question is just to the gentleman in the T shirt. Sorry we got time for one more. Here we go, no pressure.
Q: Hi Alistair at Attitude. We've just heard about the impact this show has had and continues to have. What does it feel like to have been a part of that and have there been any messages from viewers that have got in touch with you about how much the show was meant to them that have really stuck with you?
DC: I had one, because I never get—it’s something I've always wanted mentioned to someone. It was a guy who messaged me on Twitter who's a health care worker, didn't specify what kind of health care, but health care worker and had got off a night shift and he was Scottish Glaswegian and well couldn't sleep after his night shift. I think it was a particularly rough one so decided to watch the second episode of It’s A Sin and then heard a conversation, well Gloria and Jill's conversation in the in the flat, and he said to me that it was the, almost word for word, he felt anyway that it was almost word for word what he said to his best friend when he came out as having HIV. And he was so scared of never being able to keep or not being able to keep his job and being able to witness that for him just felt enlightening, which that was like… I don't think you get any better than that, like if you're going to act, like that's the sort of thing you want to have. So yeah, when he messaged that, if I don't, if ever he watches this, I just have to say like it sits with me everyday really, that he said that.
BH: Omari, any?
OD: One of the, one of the things that I found really moving was-- I've done quite a bit of musical theater right? I trained in musical theater and all of my tutors from my drama school all lived through that time and you know, like the scene in episode three, with the musical, you know all those tutors kind of came back to me and just sort of hearing how the industry at the time was decimated. I remember actually Stephen Fry said to me that-- because he reworked the book for Me and My Girl and it transferred to Broadway and he said that, a few months later he went out to go and visit the cast and Steven said: Where's this person and this person and this person from the ensemble? And they’d all passed. So coming from that world and sort of hearing how it was so affected during that time it's just yeah, really, really moving and yeah.
BH: Olly, any?
OA: I get so many messages still from people who are seeing it for the first time or rewatching it or it brought up a memory for them. Lots of people would say to me I or they would say I'm so sorry like I, I didn't know that was happening. I didn't know at the time. You know, people that had lived through the time and maybe felt like guilty that they hadn't done more. And there was such a breadth of reactions from people who were teenagers who didn't, who had no idea that this had happened in the past. And they're seeing a world they recognise on screen. It's not that long ago and they're going ‘wait, did this really happen?’ Like ‘people really treated queer people like this?’ And you know, for people saying to me, you know, and the thing about the testing, like just how many people went and got a test was just so amazing. And like people that were testing for the first time, and you know, and making that choice to look after their health and there's just so many, yeah, just blown away constantly by how the show has kind of just opened up those things for some people you know it's really mind blowing.
BH: Lydia, anything to add?
LW: Yeah, I think it is not often as an actor that you're part of something that it's so educational and you almost become a spokesperson for that thing. And it's such a privilege and it's shoes that I didn't really know how to fill before it came out. And then it came out, and suddenly you were we were all spokespeople. And it is such an honor, and it's so amazing to bring that and have that side of you that you don't really know, like really exists. So it helped me find my voice and I think it's just amazing that BAFTA have recognised this project and we have twelve nominations and it's still being spoken about two years later from making it, and I hope it continues to be spoken about for twenty years or fifty years and for our lifetime.
And yeah, it just feels, it's overwhelming, but in the best possible way because it needed to happen. These conversations needed to happen and I get lots of messages and the message that stood out for me at the start was someone going home and telling their family about their positive status and based on seeing a show being able to then go home and feel that courage to do that, it's just so special and it's just those--if you can affect one person’s life through your work, it's just bloody amazing, so amazing.
BH: Thank you and Callum, anything to add?.
CSH: No, but same as Lydia and all the guys like it's so lovely to hear so many stories and I just feel so proud to have been part of the show and to have told a story with all these amazing people and yeah it's been an amazing journey and yeah, long may it continue.
BH: Brilliant, but we have run out of time I'm afraid. Thank you so much to both panels and to the audience for your questions as well. Congratulations on all the nominations. Good luck at the BAFTAs, 8th of May, BBC One, we’ll get to see it. Just to say the next event in this series is the Television Sessions: Emerging Talent taking place here on Thursday at 7:30. Tickets are still available for this at events.bafta.org. And you can catch up on this session and more on the BAFTA YouTube channel and BAFTA Social Channels. And thank you very much for coming. Thank you, thank you.