It's A Sin: Lydia West unites with real Jill to talk life during 80s AIDS crisis
It’s A Sin’s Lydia West has joined forces with her real-life counterpart Jill Nalder to talk about what life was really like amid the 1980s AIDS crisis.
In the new Channel 4 series, Lydia stars as Jill Baxter, a fierce ally to her gay friends, a confidante and a fundraiser to help those in struck down by the virus as HIV spread around London.
The character was created by Russell T Davies specifically from the friendship he had with Nalder during the time period, and the support network she provided for his own circle.
Nalder even appears as Baxter’s mum in the series, fiercely standing by her daughter’s side during a London protest to get aid for those in need and being there to support her when she needed it most.
Speaking together for Gay Times, both Lydia and Nalder said the show was a ‘celebration of friendship’ of that era, with Nalder explaining that she did actually live in ‘The Pink Palace’ – a West End London flat just like the five main characters.
‘I was very much involved in fundraising, trying to get things to happen, trying to get research, all that kind of thing we were saying community really came together,’ Nalder said. ‘Because one thing of course everybody can do is entertain. So there was a lot of late night performances.’
However, that also meant seeing her friends struggle as HIV and AIDS saw them in hospital with a number of symptoms, which in severe cases included developmental cancers, weight loss and memory loss.
‘There was endless hospital visits, you’re taking a place in a way of a family member, because you become that family together,’ Nalder explained.
‘Just be there in a loving way really. It’s not an exceptional thing to do, but it was hidden, because you feel like, “Okay, I’ve got to go to the hospital tonight but don’t tell anybody that I’m going.”
‘You’re living in London, which is all very exciting, and all of a sudden, days a disease that literally changes everything.’
‘I’m honoured to be playing you,’ Lydia said. ‘I actually found out the night before the read through. Russell sent me a text saying that, “I don’t mean to allow the video but the real life jail, I didn’t change her name, and she is playing her mother.”‘
It’s A Sin airs Fridays on Channel 4 and is available in full on 4OD.
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