Elvis was not very lucky. Justin Timberlake did not all that bad. Lady Gaga nailed it. Even Beyoncé made an attempt, which ended in failure. Artists trying to make the leap to acting face uncertain results, but Olly Alexander (Yorkshire, 1990), leader of the electropop group Years & Years, has been rained with rave reviews for his role as Richie in It’s a Sin, a series that HBO broadcasts in Spain.
On stage, he often dresses in extravagant kaleidoscopic iridescence clothing in support of the LGBTIQ + community, of which he is a member and activist. That is why on the morning of the interview, which he conducts via Zoom from his apartment in East London, his appearance is necessarily duller: he is wearing a black hoodie, a baseball cap, a silver earring, a wide smile that conquers you immediately and the curly hair falling down his forehead.
Between records and tours, Alexander has found time to build a solid acting resume. He has shared the stage with Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw and in 2014 he starred in The Riot Club. But It’s a Sin It has been a crucial decision in his career, since it has cemented his credentials as a leading actor and, if the rumors are true, it could be worth him to become the next Dr who.
The series follows Richie (played by Alexander) and his group of gay friends in London in the 1980s, when the HIV / AIDS epidemic broke out. Written by Russell T Davies, creator of the comedies Queer as Folk Y Cucumber and the premonitory Years and Years, the plot installs us on an emotional roller coaster of runaway sex scenes and loudly weeping sadness. “This is an important historical moment, for the community queer, but also for the rest of the people ”, says the actor. “Although it is a relatively recent time, there are many things that I did not know about the epidemic, partly because there was no talk about what was happening. Thousands of people died in silence. For example, I had no idea that when you applied for a mortgage they asked you if you were gay. It has taken us decades to get to where we are now ”.
In the series we see an overjoyed Olly Alexander, casting a wry look at the camera during one of the explicit sex scenes or dancing in a club soaked in sweat. But we also see him face harsh reality with a serene drama that some actors take decades to achieve. The conversations he has with his parents when he comes out of the closet are painfully moving. This is partly due to his personal experience. In the series, most of the main actors are homosexual. Russell T Davies generated headlines when he claimed that only gay actors could play gay roles. “What Russell wanted to say is that if you are going to tell a story queer, you have to hire actors queer”, Clarifies its protagonist. “All of us who are part of the main cast immediately connect with the story. I would love for there to be more characters queer All in all, it makes perfect sense to me. “
The differences between the eighties and the present are very evident, but it is very shocking that prejudices still persist. “There is still discrimination, but it is not the same at all,” says Alexander. “I have never felt discriminated against on a personal level, but I am not at all interested in playing the role of a straight person.”
It’s a Sin it has had an exceptional reception. “It has sparked a debate about AIDS on a national level,” he says of the show’s impact on the UK. “I would never have expected such a thing.” The Terrence Higgins Trust, a charity specializing in sexual health that helps people affected by AIDS, reported that it had received more requests to take the test in a single day, following the broadcast of the third episode of the series, than in the 40 years of organization history. “It’s something that surpasses me and I’m very excited,” says Alexander. “It is important that people are aware of how far we have come and that they know that they can lead a healthy and normal life even with the disease.”
In the series there are other parallels with the present, such as the irruption of an unknown virus that spreads throughout the world. “When I first read the news [sobre la covid-19] last March, I went into shock ”, he confesses. “They were all headlines about a mysterious virus, conspiracy theories, and bogus remedies like ingesting bleach. There was also a lot of fear. Six months earlier he had been talking about almost the exact same thing when playing a character from the eighties threatened by a completely different virus. Wanting to stigmatize the other is very widespread ”. For Olly, telling the story of the first generation of AIDS victims 40 years later is a beginning. “In the future I would love to see fictions about the role of women in the Stonewall riots. OR Game of Thrones or The Bridgertons with characters queer. But for now, all I want is for us to be able to touch each other again ”, he concludes with a smile.
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