‘It’s A Sin’ actor Omari Douglas will open an intergenerational dialogue about the gay experience
The British TV drama mini-series “It’s a Sin” premiered in India and globally on February 4, 2022 after being successfully received in the UK last year. Written and created by Russell T Davies, the five-part series is set in London and follows the lives of five gay men who lived through the UK’s HIV/AIDS crisis between 1981 and 1991.
Actor Omari Douglas who plays Roscoe Babatunde in the series spoke to WION in an exclusive interview about the series which explores themes of freedom and expression in gay life in the 80s and 90s in the UK -United.
Read excerpts from the conversation here:
WION: Tell us a bit about your character, Roscoe, and how he fits into the band.
Omari Douglas: Early in the story, he’s reached that point in his life where he just wants to start living life the way he wants. This is at odds with his family and his worth, so he chooses to steal the nest – and in style! And that’s how he ends up with the group. Once he leaves his family, it means he can live freely and truly boldly. He has such a wild self-expression because of it. He thinks nothing can stand in his way, really. Finding the band means he’s found his own family unit as well, but interestingly he’s still walking away and doing his own thing. He’s a bit of a maverick, that’s what I really like about him. He’s just full of dreams and ambitions and he really wants to make something of himself.
WION: Can you see yourself in your character?
Omari Douglas: I think what I identified with initially was that I was also 18 when I moved to London, so I connected with this feeling of wanting some independence in your life, of wanting start exploring the world on your own, and just get out there and live your life. And I think that’s exactly what Roscoe does. I think if there’s one thing I felt like I understood immediately, it was independence and wanting to stand firmly on your own.
WION: How was it working with Russell T Davies?
Omari Douglas: Russell is obviously an icon. When I was in my last year of drama school, I remember when Cucumber came out, it was like an event in our apartment, we all huddled together and watched it. What was so amazing about this whole experience was that Russell made himself available to us, and you don’t always expect that on a project as important as this. He really nurtured us as a band, and I feel like he invested in us with his time. He is so generous and generous. It made it a really warm experience for me and everyone. I really, really, really appreciate it in that sense because it’s a pretty intimidating thing. I will be indebted to him forever and ever.
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WION: Did you already know the period and the events of the time? If not, did you do a lot of research or learn on the job?
Omari Douglas: I felt like I had a general knowledge of the decade and what was going on politically, but I read a lot and it was interesting to learn what Britain was like at the turn of the 80s, economically and politically. In the show, there is a domestic side, almost dull at first. What makes the show so amazing is seeing that and then seeing the life that permeates the show coming from our energy as a group of young people living their lives. Also, although the landscape was quite grim at the time, all these young people were finding their way, enjoying life and then, of course, leaning into the disease itself, I think, we’ve gotten so used to seeing an American account of how the epidemic unfolded, it was really fascinating to learn how it developed in the UK.
Watch the trailer here:
WION: Why do you think this is an important story to tell?
Omari Douglas: There was so much stigma, shame and prejudice attached to the disease. With the generations of people we’ve lost to AIDS, I think that stigma has set the precedent for how people have remembered it. I think it’s really important that we remember that these were just normal people who had so much to offer the world. What is so amazing about what Russell has done is that even though the epidemic is at the forefront of the story, it is at the same time a group of young people who live their lives, are ambitious , have dreams and express themselves. And I think that’s probably the best way to honor those people. Also, it will hopefully open up some sort of cross-generational conversation about the gay experience. For the younger generations, it will be very important for them to know how we got to where we are now.
WION: You share some scenes with Stephen Fry – how was it with him?
Omari Douglas: He is so generous, warm and kind. I met him the day before the start of filming and we had a very nice conversation. I learned so much from Stephen in terms of the period. He’s the most amazing storyteller. He also made it so fun. Without revealing anything, in one episode my character goes to an event with Stephen’s character. It’s also the first thing we shot together. My character goes up to Stephen’s house and is supposed to whisper something rude in his ear. And Peter [Hoar, the director] told me a few days before, “Just be on your A game and just make sure you have ammo”. And I think we’ve done it about eight or 10 times! I will never be able to repeat the things I said that day…!
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WION: There’s a real “gang” at the heart of the drama – have you become such a tight-knit gang with your off-camera co-stars as well?
Omari Douglas: The main thing is that we made friends for life. I can’t really put it any clearer than that. It was crazy that there were no chemistry readings when we were chosen, and yet we all got along so brilliantly from the start.
WION: How did you find immersing yourself in the 80s while filming? How did you get into the 80s vibe – music/movies etc.?
Omari Douglas: I immersed myself in music. I actually have a Spotify playlist that I’m still adding to this day. I also watched a lot of old episodes of Top of the Pops. I find it really fascinating how people in the 80s consumed this stuff. Today we have Spotify and YouTube, and we can just go and get stuff. Everything is super accessible to us now, but back then you expected what you liked and I love it. People lived for music that way. I watched a lot of TV and comedy clips of the time because, again, what’s interesting is to see what was accepted in the forms of comedy and laughter at the time, it really opened my eyes.
WION: Since doing your research, what is your favorite band and TV show from the 80s?
Omari Douglas: I have plenty of them, like The Pointer Sisters, Grace Jones, Janet Jackson, Prince, Imagination… but I think I’ll go with Grace Jones because of the music and also because she’s an icon of the era. I love the Nightclubbing album. Roscoe also has a huge poster of her on her bedroom wall!
As for television, when I read the scripts, there was a reference to Larry Grayson. I went and downloaded loads of his stuff from YouTube. He’s so funny and naughty! He is quite bright.
“It’s a Sin” stars Olly Alexander, Nathaniel Curtis, Shaun Dooley in the lead roles and is directed by Peter Hoar.
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