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It’s a Sin: Lydia West describes ‘emotional’ experience working with the real-life Jill on show

Isobel Lewis
·2-min read
West (left) with the real life Jill (Channel 4)
West (left) with the real life Jill (Channel 4)

It’s a Sin star Lydia West has described working with Jill Nalder, the real-life woman her character Jill was based on.

The first episode of Russell T Davies’s drama aired on Channel 4 on Friday (22 January), with all five episodes available to stream on All 4.

The show follows a group of young gay men who have moved to London in the 1980s at the beginning of the Aids crisis. They live with Jill, who works as an actor and dedicates her life to helping those diagnosed with HIV.

Appearing on the Graham Norton Radio Show on Sunday (25 January), West revealed that the real-life Nalder had been there at the time of filming, as she also played her character Jill Baxter’s mother in a number of scenes.

“[Davies] sent me a message saying the show was very loosely based about his life and his friends’ lives, and that the real Jill was playing my mother,” West recalled. “He said, ‘I don’t want you to do anything differently, or analyse her or try and mimic it in any way.’

West (left) with the real-life JillChannel 4
West (left) with the real-life JillChannel 4

“Then I met her at the read-through and she was just everything that I hoped she would be. She’s absolutely gorgeous and stunning. It was very emotional. I couldn’t look at her throughout the read, I was looking down for it.”

Writing in The Guardian earlier this month, Davies explained that he’d met Nalder when they were both 14 and that she had moved to London to work as an actor while he’d gone to university.

“She moved into a flat which she called the Pink Palace, and it felt like an endless party, the rooms filled with gay men and drag queens and show tunes,” he wrote.

“Jill met the crisis head on. She stood at the heart of the storm. She went to the hospitals and the funerals and the marches. She held the hands of so many men. She lost them, and remembered them, and somehow kept going.”

Viewers have hailed It’s a Sin as a “poignant masterpiece” and praised the show for its unflinching portrayal of life amid the Aids pandememic.

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