Meet the real-life Jill who inspired It’s A Sin as show celebrates 11 TV Bafta nominations
It's A Sin broke new ground as a British show telling the story of a group of young gay men living their lives during the so-called AIDS/HIV crisis that swept the country in the 80s/90s.
Filling a much-needed space in LGBTQ+ media, its dramatic and emotional story captured the hearts of many viewers which was helped in most part by its stellar cast which included the likes of Years & Years singer Olly Alexander.
Its significance is evident by the sheer amount of award nominations it received for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards.
The show received 11 nominations which included Olly being nominated for leading actor thanks to his portrayal of Ritchie Tozer.
While It's A Sin is filled with plenty of emotional moments, many viewers may be surprised to learn that a lot of its characters are inspired by real-life people.
For example, Jill Baxter is based on someone called Jill Nalder who actually had a cameo in episodes four and five as the mum of her own fictional character.
The story behind the real Jill
A friend of series writer Russell T Davies, Jill Nalder was studying in London in the 1980s when she began to notice that young men were leaving and not returning.
She once noted that they would "sort of disappear" – the reality was that many of her friends were dying of AIDS, often without anyone else being aware.
At the time, rumours were spreading of a 'gay flu' spreading through the population and 'coming from the states'. She told the BBC: "Nobody really knew anything but we heard it was killing young, fit, healthy gay men."
The 60-year-old went on to describe how someone she knew in college went home and never came back – she later heard that he died.
Jlil and her friends were unaware that the friend died of AIDS and it became a regular occurrence that "boys would go home and sort of disappear". She tragically lost three of her best friends in a span of 18 months.
Recalling the moment her first friend informed her he contracted HIV, she said: "He wrote me a letter and told me. When he came back to London he said his parent could never find out because they didn't know he was gay.
"I had to keep it a secret."
Another friend kept his condition secret and only revealed it six weeks before his death.
Jill explained that while her friend knew he was HIV positive for four years he told nobody until he couldn't hide it anymore.
It wasn't until 1997 that effective treatment for HIV became available which meant, until that point, it was free to develop into AIDS – effectively becoming a death sentence for anyone who became positive with the illness.
The actress, originally from Neath in South Wales, described how tragic that period felt, especially when she visited one friend in hospital a week before he died.
She noted how the friend never got another visitor after her – she would also visit other friends with the virus in hospital without telling anyone else she knew.
On one occasion she was forced to call hospitals all across the area after her friend didn't turn up to go out.
Her search was made more difficult by the fact that many boys with HIV would not provide their real names to hospital after being admitted.
Three hours later, she managed to find him and discovered he had suffered a seizure.
Meanwhile, Jill explained that a lot of parents never actually found out that their sons had died from AIDS and simply "weren't aware".
"They thought it was something like cancer. They didn't understand that AIDS even existed and their sons were too afraid to tell them.
"The boys didn't want to worry their mums and dads. They just wanted their parent to be proud of them. They didn't want to let them down."
Jill's relation to her It's A Sin character
While her friends were dying from AIDS, Jill tried her best to understand and learn about the virus.
She would search for as much information as possible relating to the virus and proudly stated she was "like a dictionary of AIDS-related infections."
Jill also recalled walking down the corridors of the hospital and seeing people the same age as her dying with AIDS while others would have black marks on their asking – a symptom of Kaposi sarcoma.
Kaposi Sarcoma is a rare form of cancer often associated with HIV/AIDS. "Those images of the devastation that AIDS causes the body will always stay with me," Jill remarked.
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