Russell T Davies explains the single biggest challenge to casting gay actors in gay roles

Russell T Davies on biggest challenge to casting gay actors in gay roles

Russell T Davies has explained that equality laws posed a challenge when he set out to cast queer actors in queer roles in It’s a Sin.

The screenwriter made waves ahead of the premiere of his Channel 4 series when he revealed that he specifically set out to cast gay actors in gay roles.

But doing so wasn’t always easy because he wasn’t allowed to ask actors how they identified.

“We made a decision at the beginning of the production, a decision I’d been heading toward for a couple years, to cast gay as gay entirely, or as entirely as we possibly could, which turned out to be entirely,” Davies told IndieWire.

“That’s an interesting decision because, obviously, you’re not allowed to ask whether an actor is gay or not. That’s a very good employment law… that stops the head of a supermarket banning lesbians from being on the tills.

“But what it creates is a circumstance where we could just be open and say, ‘We’re gay. This is gay. Come join us.'”

Davies and his casting director Andy Pryor got around this roadblock by putting out a message that their door was open and prospective actors were welcome to share their experiences if they chose to.

That policy ended up working in their favour, and It’s a Sin ended up breaking new ground with its queer cast.

Russell T Davies struggled to get It’s a Sin off the ground

Elsewhere in the interview, Davies reflected on the challenge he faced in getting a network to commission It’s a Sin – but he insisted television executives’ trepidation wasn’t down to homophobia.

The acclaimed Queer as Folk writer noted that he had previously created Cucumber in 2015 and Years and Years in 2019, both of which followed gay men.

“I suspect there were people quite rightly at Channel 4 going, ‘Another gay male experience? Shouldn’t we be looking at lesbian stories? Transgender stories? Genderfluid, neutral, binary stories? That’s a very good impulse. That makes sense…

“We just had to be patient to wait for the right commissioner to fall into the right office at the right time. It didn’t make me angry.”

It’s a Sin quickly became a hit when it aired on Channel 4 in January. The series later debuted on HBO Max in the United States.