Russell T. Davies has earned a reputation as one of the great, living queer storytellers, having enjoyed huge success with his series Doctor Who, Years & Years, Cucumber, A Very English Scandal, and of course, Queer as Folk. 2021 saw him tackle the subject of the AIDS crisis with a singular goal: to remind the LGBTQ community of its history with grace and class, lest it never forgets one of its darkest chapters.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Davies opened up about the challenge of getting the show greenlit by a network, and resisting any sanitizing the AIDS crisis.
“I was told at one channel,” Davies explained, “’What if its start is on an AIDS ward in say, 1990 or 1992, with the machines and people dying, and then went 10 years earlier…’ I thought that was unbelievably crass and literally refused to do it.”
“In my experiences, all the bosses will leave their jobs every two or three years. So just sit still and the right person will enter the seat again. Heads of department changed and I got [It’s a Sin] commissioned five years later.”
In an interview with Queerty, Davies also spoke about the need to remind all people–queer or straight alike–that, contrary to recent belief, gay men have suffered greatly. For a younger generation that does not remember AIDS, Matthew Shepherd, or the fight for marriage equality, the revelation cuts deep.
“That’s certainly the reaction we’ve been getting from a younger audience,” Davies said. “You know, the reports say that the testimony we’re getting—texts, emails, DMs—of people watching with kids, and they’re astonished. It’s a very recognizable world; it’s not like they’re watching Bridgerton.”
“People say they’re outraged—which is so good to see. It’s amazing that anyone would say gay men have had it easy.”
It’s a Sin went on to be a huge success in the US and UK, breaking viewership records for Channel 4. For Davies, the series represents the latest achievement in a career full of telling popular stories about LGBTQ characters.
He began his career as a writer of children’s TV, working on the kiddie shows Why Don’t You? and ChuckleVision. In 1998, he landed success with an adult-themed show, creating the groundbreaking series Queer as Folk. The UK version of the show, and its subsequent US remake, cemented him as one of the most important queer writer/producers in television history.
Davies once told BBC Radio: “Any sense of queerness, any sense of otherness is still very new as a society. There are things that we said, things that we felt, emotions in our hearts that have not been put onscreen yet, or on the page, or into fiction.”
The man has since made a career rectifying that situation. We couldn’t be more proud.