Here are all the It’s A Sin characters who are based on real life people

The real Jill is actually in the series!


Whilst It’s A Sin isn’t a documentary, its events are, obviously, based on real life. The series follows a group of five friends throughout the 1980s, coming of age in the midst of the AIDS crisis. The characters Ritchie, Ash, Roscoe, Colin and Jill in It’s A Sin are fictional, but the show’s creator Russell T Davies has said some of the characters are loosely based on people he actually knows in real life.

Russell turned 18 in 1981, the same age as Ritchie and his friends. “A lot of it is based on myself and people I know and stories of the decade”, he’s said about the real life people behind the It’s A Sin characters. In interviews he has also said how many people he’s known in the past may watch the series and feel aspects of it are familiar to things they did.

Here are all the real people who characters in It’s A Sin are based on:

Jill is real life Jill Nalder, who plays Jill’s mum

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Jill is one of the It’s A Sin characters based on real life people – she’s named after Jill Nalder

Played by Lydia West in It’s A Sin, Jill is the best friend and true ally we all need. She’s based on real-life Jill Nalder, Russell T Davies’ friend.

During the 1980s AIDS crisis, Jill Nalder was living with her friends in London and has spoken about her experience of the time. She was involved in fundraising for research around AIDS, and visited victims of the disease in “endless hospital visits” so she could offer them support, care and company, “taking the place of a family member”.

While Jill in It’s A Sin isn’t directly Jill Nalder, if you’ve seen the series you’ll know Jill does many of these same things – she’s vocal about researching AIDS, spreading awareness and helping those who are in hospital.

The real Jill Nalder is also in It’s A Sin

it's a sin real people

Real life Jill and with her on-screen daughter, Jill

The real Jill Nalder is now an actress, and plays Jill in It’s A Sin’s mum. She appears with Jill’s dad in the later episodes of the series.

Lydia West, who plays Jill, has said it was intimidating to play Jill alongside real-life Jill. In an IGTV with Jill, Lydia said she was “honoured to be playing” her and said she only found out who the real-life Jill was right before work on It’s A Sin started.

She said: “Russell sent me a text saying that ‘I don’t mean to alarm you Lydia but the real-life Jill, I didn’t change her name and she is playing your mother’. And I was like ah! No pressure.”

Jill said It’s A Sin is “loosely based on a lot of people’s lives, and Russell’s own interpretation of the era.”

Colin is based on Russell T Davies’ ex-boyfriend

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Colin in It’s A Sin

We’ve all fallen in love with sweet, beautiful Colin, and apparently he’s loosely based on an ex-boyfriend of the creator of It’s A Sin, Russell T Davies.

Russell said: “He was someone I went out with in the 90s who trained to be a tailor and went to New York to fit lords and ladies with their suits and gowns – beautiful man.” If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know Colin moves to London from Wales with dreams of becoming a Savile Row tailor. He also ends up going to New York for a few days as an assistant to one of the tailors.

It’s obviously not based on actual people, but the Pink Palace in It’s A Sin was real, too

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Outside the Pink Palace

Real-life Jill Nalder actually lived in a flat in Hampstead in London with some friends, and they christened it the Pink Palace – just like in the series, where Ritchie and his friends live.

She said it was “a fabulous flat to find in London in the 80s. There was a lot going on, it was massive freedom for people who came from small communities where there was no tolerance and acceptance of their lifestyle.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• It’s A Sin taught me more about LGBTQ+ history and sex education than school ever did

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• It’s A Sin true story: Who was Jill Nalder and how accurate was her character?