It’s A Sin creator Russell T Davies has revealed that legendary musician and HIV/AIDS campaigner Sir Elton John is among the acclaimed show’s many fans.
Multi-BAFTA Award-winning writer Russell’s semi-autobiographical drama, which follows a group of friends living through the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s and early ’90s, has won universal praise from viewers and critics since its January debut.
And during an appearance on BBC One’s Morning Live on Thursday, the Welsh scribe, 57, revealed that Elton, 73, personally called the cast to congratulate them.
Big fan: It’s A Sin creator Russell T Davies has revealed that legendary musician and HIV/AIDS campaigner Sir Elton John (pictured) is among the acclaimed show’s many fans
Admitting he was ‘absolutely astonished’ at the success of the miniseries, Russell said: ‘This is a drama about a really tough subject – it’s about AIDS in the 1980s. We always thought that was an uphill struggle.
‘We’ve just been delighted by the reaction. I’m really delighted for the cast as well… They are beautiful. They’re being stopped in the street now.
‘Elton John has phoned them all up! He phoned them up to congratulate them. That’s the man who’s raise half a billion pounds for AIDS research, so that was the ultimate [compliment], I think. That was the ultimate reward.’
While the show has been credited with boosting HIV awareness, with a sharp increase in numbers of the public taking tests, Russell was quick to praise those who have been working to combat HIV and AIDS over the past four decades.
Universal praise: Writer Russell’s semi-autobiographical drama, which follows a group of friends living through the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s and early ’90s, has won universal praise
He also compared the crisis to the current COVID-19 pandemic, insisting that the impact of HIV would have been significantly lessened had there been open conversation about it, as there there is with novel coronavirus.
Speaking to hosts Gethin Jones and Jacqui Joseph, he said of today’s COVID-19 discussions: ‘If only that had existed in the ’80s.
‘Because HIV is seen as a sexually transmitted disease, that and then it’s related to gay sex, it’s covered in embarrassment, which becomes shame… [It] became fear in the 1980s and 1990s.
‘So that results in silence, which results in ignorance and that literally contributes to the deaths. If we could have had conversations like this on television in the ’80s, the death toll would literally be lower.’
Congratulations: During an appearance on BBC One’s Morning Live on Thursday, Russell T Davies, 57, revealed that Elton, 73, personally called the cast to congratulate them
Interview: He chatted with Jacqui Joseph and Gethin Jones during his appearance on the show
He added: ‘You see the same false facts and fake theories being spread about COVID, but it was terrifying in the ’80s because no one was correcting that.’
Meanwhile, It’s A Sin star Olly Alexander recently struggled to hold back tears as he discussed the impact the show has had during a Zoom reunion with the cast.
Appearing on BBC Breakfast last week, the singer, 30, was left overwhelmed as he learned that the show had inspired a record number of people to get tested for HIV.
Olly – who plays Ritchie Tozer in the series – was reunited with Omari Douglas (Roscoe) Nathaniel Curtis (Ash) and David Carlyle (Gregory) as they spoke with HIV Activist Rupert Whitaker and LBGTQ ally Deborah Neil.
Emotional: It’s A Sin star Olly Alexander struggled to hold back tears as he discussed the impact the show has had during a Zoom reunion with the cast on Friday
Speaking about the response to the show, Olly gushed: ‘I’ve been blown away by how much it’s touched people. But we were so touched when we read it! I’m still processing it’.
As Omari added, ‘Just seeing the viewing figures is absolutely insane’, Nathaniel interjected, ‘It’s amazing. There are moments when I’m reading these things and like “oh my god”, wow.’
David added: ‘It comes on television and then woo – you’re just not prepared for it. Like a tidal wave!’
Revealing that he has been inundated with messages from viewers, Olly continued: ‘I’ve had really young gay people message me saying they had no idea this happened and they can’t believe it.
Reunited: (From top L-R) Nathaniel Curtis, journalist Jayne McCubbin, David Carlyle, Omari Douglas, Olly, HIV Activist Rupert Whitaker and LBGTQ ally Deborah Neil
‘This is a recognisable past, it’s not that long ago. It’s not hard for people to imagine what it was like – and they’re seeing this treatment of gay people and they’re just shocked. Of course you’d be shocked. How is this happening?!’
Rupert – who co-founded the Terrence Higgins Trust in honour of his late boyfriend – went on to reveal that the number of people getting tested for HIV had increased as a result of the programme.
The activist is one of Europe’s longest-surviving people with HIV, having contracted the disease in 1981, and has dedicated his life to raising awareness following the death of his partner, Terrence from AIDS in 1982.
After hearing about the increase in testing, Olly welled up as he announced: ‘I’m trying not to cry!
Impact: Omari said, ‘The fact that a piece of television has had such a cultural impact, but also the public heat impact is just crazy. It’s so rare that telly has that effect’
‘It’s incredible to see a real time response to the show from the audience. I’m just really moved by it.’
Omari added: ‘The fact that a piece of television has had such a cultural impact, but also the public heat impact is just crazy. It’s so rare that telly has that effect.’
Although Rupert has been delighted with the impact It’s A Sin has had, he confessed that he still isn’t ready to watch the show.
Explaining that the impact would be too great, he said: ‘I can’t see the whole thing yet. I live on my own and I need to have someone with me to do it’.
Great news: Rupert Whitaker – who co-founded the Terrence Higgins Trust – went on to reveal that the number of people getting tested for HIV had increased as a result of the programme
The cast then invited Rupert to a viewing party so they could all watch it as a group after lockdown is over.
Growing emotional, Nathaniel thanked Rupert and Deborah for their work and activism over the years, stating: ‘We are very proud of this show, but we just couldn’t have done it without you guys paving the way you have given us.’
Welling up, he continued: ‘Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.’
It’s A Sin has already had 6.5 million views on All 4, making it the streaming services’ biggest ever instant box set, third biggest series to date and most binged new series ever.
Heartwarming: Growing emotional, Nathaniel thanked Rupert and Deborah for their work and activism over the years that enabled them to make the show
Starring Years & Years frontman Olly alongside a cast of rising stars and celebrated favourites including Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris, It’s a Sin has been universally praised by fans.
Russell T Davies, the writer and producer behind Queer As Folk, the 2005 revival of Doctor Who and Cucumber, loosely based It’s A Sin on his own experiences in the eighties.
He also spent hours in conversation with his childhood friend Jill Nalder, an actor, ally and activist who lived in London during the decade and is played by Lydia West in the drama. The real-life Jill also appears, playing Lydia’s mother in episodes four and five.
The Terence Higgins Trust tweeted news of the huge impact it has had on viewers.
Cultural moment: The Terence Higgins Trust tweeted news of the huge impact it has had on viewers
They tweeted: The power of TV to change lives. #ItsASin is Channel 4’s most binged watched new series and honours the heroes of the past — stopping our history being forgotten.
‘It’s also led to more people than ever taking action and getting tested during #HIVTestWeek. ‘What a legacy. LA!’
The Terrence Higgins Trust told MailOnline last week: ‘There has been a surge in HIV test following the It’s A Sin effect.
‘This is the biggest ever National HIV Testing Week (1-7 Feb) with tests being ordered at a faster rate than we’ve ever seen before. On Monday we saw a x4 increase on a “usual day” or National HIV Testing Week to over 8,000.
Wow: It’s A Sin is already All 4’s biggest ever instant box set, third biggest series to date and most binged new series ever
As a result, the Public Health England has released 10,000 additional HIV self-sampling tests due to demand to make sure tests continue to be available.’
They continued: ‘We’re calling it the ‘It’s A Sin’ effect, with people re-engaged in important discussions around HIV.
‘Testing is crucial for seeing the end of new HIV cases by 2030 – which is the goal we’re working hard to achieve.’
Prior to 1996, HIV was a death sentence. Then, ART (anti-retroviral therapy) was made, suppressing the virus, and meaning a person can live as long a life as anyone else, despite having HIV.
Inspired: Russell T Davies spent hours in conversation with his childhood friend Jill Nalder, ally and activist who lived in London during the decade and is played by Lydia West in the drama
Drugs were also invented to lower an HIV-negative person’s risk of contracting the virus by 99 per cent.
In recent years, research has shown that ART can suppress HIV to such an extent that it makes the virus untransmittable to sexual partners.
That has spurred a movement to downgrade the crime of infecting a person with HIV.
t leaves the patient on life-long, costly medication, but it does not mean certain death.
Information about HIV, other sexually transmitted infections and how to maintain good sexual health can be found out at https://www.tht.org.uk/
Effect: The Terrence Higgins Trust told MailOnline on Friday, ‘There has been a surge in HIV test following the It’s A Sin effect’