Olly Alexander leads the cast of Russell T Davies’ 1980s-set drama It's A Sin

Category: News Release

Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry, Neil Patrick Harris, Tracy Ann Oberman, Shaun Dooley, Omari Douglas, Callum Scott Howells and Lydia West also star in the 5-part series charting the joy and heartbreak of four friends during a decade in which everything changed.

Casting has been announced on multi-BAFTA Award-winning writer Russell T Davies’ (Queer As Folk, A Very English Scandal, Years and Years, Doctor Who) brand new 5-part drama for Channel 4, It's A Sin which will be produced by RED Production Company (a STUDIOCANAL company).

It’s 1981, the start of a new decade and Ritchie, Roscoe and Colin begin a new life in London. Strangers at first, these young gay lads, and their best friend Jill, find themselves thrown together, and soon share each other’s adventures. But a new virus is on the rise, and soon their lives will be tested in ways they never imagined. As the decade passes, and they grow up in the shadow of AIDS, they’re determined to live and love more fiercely than ever.

Olly Alexander, from the band Years & Years, plays 18-year-old Ritchie Tozer, the family’s golden boy, though he’s determined to keep his secrets from them.

Newcomer Omari Douglas plays London-born 17-year-old Roscoe Babatunde, a wild, brittle party boy, always on the run.

Newcomer Callum Scott Howells plays Colin Morris-Jones, a quiet, unassuming, boy from Wales, about to become an apprentice on Savile Row.

Lydia West (Years and Years) plays Jill Baxter, Ritchie’s friend from college, straight-talking, funny, and the rock on which they rely.

Nathaniel Curtis plays Ash, a faithful friend through thick and thin.

The cast also includes Keeley Hawes (Honour, Bodyguard, The Durrells, Line of Duty), who plays Valerie, Ritchie’s mum, Shaun Dooley (Gentleman Jack, Broadchurch, Woman in Black) who plays Clive, his dad, Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, Gone Girl, A Series of Unfortunate Events) as Henry Coltrane, Stephen Fry (Wilde, Gosford Park, Bones) as MP Arthur Garrison, and Tracy Ann Oberman (Friday Night Dinner, Toast of London, After Life) as Carol Carter.

Olly Alexander says: “I feel like the luckiest boy in the world to be a part of this project, I’ve been a fan of Russell T Davies ever since I watched Queer As Folk in secret at 14 years old. His work helped shape my identity as a gay person so I’m absolutely over the moon we’ll be working together. The script was amazing to read, I laughed and I cried a lot, it’s a privilege to be helping to tell this story and I’m so excited.”

Neil Patrick Harris says: “I’m so pleased, and incredibly proud, to be a part of Russell T Davies’ new series. This drama, It's A Sin, is two things: it is an irresistible, funny, jubilant story of young people discovering their true identities and the unalloyed joy of living life to the fullest, it is also a deeply resonant exploration of a decade when so many of these lives were cut short by the devastating effects of the nascent AIDS pandemic. Russell’s scripts chart the highs and lows of this time so beautifully and deftly, it’s an honour to help tell this story.”

Filming begins next week and the series will air on Channel 4 in 2020. The series is overseen at Channel 4 by Lee Mason, Commissioning Editor and Caroline Hollick, Head of Drama. The series will be produced by RED Production Company (a STUDIOCANAL company) and executive produced by Nicola Shindler (Years and Years, Safe, Happy Valley, Queer As Folk, Cucumber) and Russell T Davies (Years and Years, Queer As Folk, A Very English Scandal, Doctor Who, Cucumber). Phil Collinson (Gentleman Jack, Good Omens, Doctor Who) is producer. The series is directed by Peter Hoar (Umbrella Academy, The Last Kingdom, Da Vinci’s Demons). Boys is the 10th collaboration between Russell T Davies and RED Production Company. The partnership is known for producing relevant, timely and emotionally charged dramas having previously created hit series including Queer As Folk, Casanova, Cucumber, Banana, Bob & Rose and The Second Coming. All3media International are global partner.


For further information please contact:

Ryan Davies

Group Publicity Manager – Scripted



Notes to editors:


Across their two widely-acclaimed albums to date, Years & Years have taken their place as one of the biggest and most-loved pop bands in the world. The group are led by fearless front-man Olly Alexander and - on debut record 'Communion', and its avant-garde follow-up 'Palo Santo' - become one of the UK's most unique crossover-stories: see 5 BRIT Award nominations, numerous sold-out global tours, festival-topping sets, and triumphant homecoming shows at London's O2 and Wembley Arena.

Along the way, Olly has simultaneously emerged as one of the most culturally-important new voices, and a once-in-a-generation frontman. His brave, unwavering and inspiring open-mindedness has helped a generation start important discussions around mental health and LGBTQ+ issues. This has been marked by number of stand-out moments, ranging from Alexander's defiant speech at Glastonbury in 2016 in the wake of events in Orlando to his BBC Documentary ‘Olly Alexander: Growing Up Gay’, and the dizzyingly creative world around 'Palo Santo' (a record that arrived with an ambitious short film starring Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw.)  Years & Years push boundaries by challenging notions of identity and sexuality in a way that is new to pop music, and totally their own.

Earlier this year the band played the legendary Pyramid stage and were hailed as ‘‘win[ing] Glastonbury.” The powerful set included a staged 'police invasion' to highlight countries where homosexuality communities are oppressed, screens displaying real life homophobic comments directed at Olly and was topped off with an empowering speech about LGBTQ+ history recognising the importance of queer history and the continued fight for equality: “The only reason I’m able to be up here, is because of all the people that have come before me, that have fought for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”


RED Production Company was set up by Nicola Shindler in 1998 to work with the best writers on modern, innovative and entertaining programming. The Manchester-based indie has since produced some of the UK’s most popular drama series working with critically acclaimed writers including Russell T Davies, Bill Gallagher, Sally Wainwright, Danny Brocklehurst, Dan Sefton and Sean Conway.

RED Production Company has produced some of the UK’s most successful and award-winning dramas, including Russell T Davies’ Cucumber and Queer As Folk, Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax, Danny Brocklehurst’s Come Home and Ordinary Lies, Lenny Henry’s Danny and the Human Zoo, Dan Sefton’s Trust Me, Tony Marchant’s Butterfly, Harlan Coben’s Safe written by Danny Brocklehurst and Russell T Davies’ Years and Years for BBC One.  Forthcoming series include Sarah Solemani’s Ridley Road for BBC One, Harlan Coben’s The Stranger for Netflix and Traces written by Amelia Bullmore for UKTV.

RED Production Company is part of STUDIOCANAL’s international production network, which includes TANDEM Productions in Germany, STUDIOCANAL Original in France and BAMBÚ PRODUCCIONES in Spain.


STUDIOCANAL, a 100% affiliate of CANAL+ Group held by Vivendi, is Europe’s leader in production, rights acquisition, distribution and international sales of feature films and TV series.

Operating directly in all three major European markets, France, the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as in Australia and New Zealand, STUDIOCANAL has fully-financed recent box office hits such as Paddington, Shaun the Sheep and Non-Stop.

STUDIOCANAL owns one of the most important film libraries in the world, boasting more than 6,500 original titles from 60 countries.

STUDIOCANAL is actively developing and distributing high-end TV series through its network of award-winning subsidiary production companies, which includes Germany’s TANDEM Productions (Take Two) and the UK’s RED Production Company (Safe).

STUDIOCANAL is also an associate of Danish-based SAM Productions founded by Søren Sveistrup, Adam Price, and Meta Louise Foldager (Ride Upon The Storm) as well as of UK-based GUILTY PARTY PICTURES;  Benedict Cumberbatch’s production company SUNNYMARCH TV (The Child in Time), URBAN MYTH FILMS (Crazyhead) and Madrid-based BAMBÚ PRODUCCIONES (Velvet collection).


Russell T Davies was awarded the 2006 Dennis Potter Award at BAFTA for his writing services to television and an OBE in the Queen’s 2008 Birthday Honours list for services to drama. He started writing whilst working in the Manchester department of Children’s BBC and has gone on to create several award-winning series including Bob & Rose, The Second Coming, the revival of the classic British science fiction series Doctor Who, and the trilogy Cucumber, Banana and Tofu for which he won the BAFTA for Best Drama Writer. In 2016 Russell was awarded the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Award for his Outstanding Contribution to Writing and the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Edinburgh TV Festival in 2017.

Russell T Davies credits include; Years and Years, A Very English Scandal, Cucumber, Banana, Tofu, Doctor Who, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Casanova, Mine All Mine, The Second Coming, Bob & Rose, Queer As Folk, The Grand, Century Falls, Dark Season.