It’s A Sin might be the best new British drama to hit our screens. Filled with a cast of electric newcomers, writer and creator Russell T. Davies (of Doctor Who and Years and Years fame) has spoken out about the careful decisions that went into casting these actors. He emphasises the importance of casting queer actors in queer roles. Meet the cast who brought this heartbreakingly real story to life, capturing our hearts along the way.
Olly Alexander – Ritchie Tozer
Olly Alexander is a true jack of all trades. Most famously, he’s the lead singer of synth-pop group Years & Years (not to be confused with the aforementioned TV show by Russell T. Davies). Their first album Communion broke records for UK debuts and won the band a stack of awards.
Outside of the studio, Alexander has also acted in Skins and Penny Dreadful, as well as presenting the BBC documentary Growing Up Gay. Here, he explored the mental health issues that affect members of the LGBTQ+ community and has been a strong advocate in the community.
In It’s A Sin, he plays Ritchie, the lead character who moves to London as a student and aspiring actor. He’s the centre of the pink palace and the life of the party but hides his true self when he goes home to visit his parents.
Lydia West – Jill Baxter
Jill Baxter is inspired by a real-life friend of Davies, who actually appears in the series playing the role of Jill’s mother. She’s a fellow aspiring actress who quickly becomes best friends with Ritchie, supporting him through his new life in London. She’s brought to the screen by Lydia West, who first appeared in Davies’ Years and Years (not to be confused with Olly Alexander’s band).
She also emerged on our TV screens early last year in the final episode of BBC’s Dracula as the enigmatic and intoxicating Lucy Westenra. Stepping away from the classical depiction of Lucy from the original novel, West gave us a charming and eventually heart-breaking performance.
West is considered to be at the very heart of It’s A Sin and has been endlessly praised for her depiction of Jill. The matriarch of the Pink Palace, Jill will do anything to look after her friends even in the most difficult situations.
Omari Douglas – Roscoe Babatunde
Roscoe’s on-screen coming-out was done in the characters spectacular screen, and quickly established Omari Douglas as a powerhouse of the series. In the 5 episodes, he continues to impress as he switched between his life-and-soul personality to more vulnerable storylines.
It’s A Sin is actually Douglas’ first major TV role, and he has previously amazed audiences up and down the country in Wise Children at the Old Vic in London.
Callum Scott Howells – Colin Morris-Jones
Callum Scott Howells is another new actor who debuted in It’s A Sin. He plays the quiet, introverted Colin, whose life is forever changed when he moves into the Pink Palace. He shines particularly bright in the third episode of the series in his role, and there’s no doubt that he’s one of the standout performers in the whole series.
On stage, he has performed in She Loves Me and in Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies ballet. He actually left the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama when he got the offer to play Colin in the series. Since then, he has been an outspoken advocate for education about the AIDS crisis in schools.
Nathaniel Curtis – Ash Mukherjee
Another on screen debut comes from Nathaniel Curtis, who plays Ash – a dreamy drama student that everyone quickly falls in love with. In interviews, he has spoken about the similarities he has found between himself and Ash. He studied at the East 15 drama school in Essex and – like schoolteacher Ash – worked with primary school and special needs children before getting the role on It’s A Sin.
Keeley Hawes – Valerie Tozer
Keeley Hawes is no newcomer, but she certainly deserves some recognition as Ritchie’s mother Valerie, especially for her intense and occasionally terrifying performance in the series finale. You’ve seen her before in TV shows like Tipping the Velvet, Line of Duty and the showstopping Bodyguard. She also recently starred in Netflix’s 2020 adaptation of Rebecca.
Image courtesy of Joshua Stitt.