The story behind the real-life characters of It’s a Sin
Russell T. Davies’ latest show It’s A Sin captures the environment and lives of those caught in the Aids crisis in the 1980s – but are any of the characters based on real people?
It’s a Sin tells the story of five young adults as they navigate the HIV and Aids epidemic that hit London between 1981 and 1991.
The show tackles an often ignored time in recent history, shining a light on the many LGBTQ+ people who suffered through a terrible moment in the community’s history.
While the subject matter of It’s A Sin is heartbreakingly real, some might wonder if the characters are based on real people who were affected?
Are the characters in It’s A Sin based on real people?
With one exception, not directly. However, Davies certainly took a lot of inspiration from his own experience and the stories of his friends who did live through the crisis.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, the show’s creator said: ‘A lot of it is based on myself and people I know and stories of people I knew, stories that have built up for decades.’
Davies revealed that the Pink Palace, a nickname the characters give their shared flat, did exist.
‘When I was 18, this series fits in my life literally. I was 18 in 1981 and I went to university and a lot of my friends went to live in London and all my gay friends went to live there and they all moved into a big flat in Hampstead I think it was and they called it the “Pink Palace”.’
‘This quite literally, a lot of the dialogue has got their jokes, their rhythms and stuff like that.’
In an interview with Channel 4, Davies also added: ‘Mainly it was an act of remembering because I was actually there and I saw those people and knew those people and loved those people.’
So, who is a real character?
Jill – for the most part. While the character and the real person don’t share a last name, they are very, very similar.
Jill is the friend to Olly Alexander’s character Ritchie Tozer. Played by Lydia West, she is an aspiring actress, which was true of the real Jill Nalder.
Nalder appears in the show as well, playing the mother of the fictional Jill.
Speaking about her in the show, Davies said in the Channel 4 interview: ‘It’s very specifically inspired by a friend of mine called Jill, who was such an inspiration that I couldn’t even change her name when it came to writing a fictional version.
‘My friend, Jill Nalder, plays the fictional Jill’s mother on screen, which was a real honour. Jill was much more active than me, she was a much more honourable person in that she spent more time on AIDS wards than I ever did, and held the hands of the dying more than I ever did.’
Jill, who penned her story for Metro.co.uk, said: ‘Being involved in sharing personal stories was already an honour but being called by him with the offer of a part was a real thrill. I’d be playing the mother of Jill Baxter and filming was such a joy.’
Jill was known for caring and looking after those affected by the disease, often keeping them company at the hospital in their final days.
She wrote: ‘The LGBTQ+ community ought to be remembered as trailblazers because not only were they fighting for their lives, they were medical guinea pigs – sometimes taking 30 pills a day just to survive’
‘The response has been overwhelming and I think we all feel It’s A Sin is so important because it is real history that needs to be told.’
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