It’s A Sin star Olly Alexander speaks to Clara Amfo about his best London memories and what he misses the most.
If you’ve not yet binged It’s A Sin, what have you been doing in lockdown? The five-part series has already accumulated 6.5 million views on All 4, which makes it the streaming platform’s most-watched show ever.
Created by Russell T Davis, the drama follows a group of gay friends during the Aids crisis. It’s heartwarming, educational, very funny, devastating and stylish in equal measures. That’s why fans and critics alike are obsessed(and, as an added bonus, that retro soundtrack is just too good to resist).
Of course, it’s not just the incredible script that makes this show so brilliant: it’s the cast, too. In the most recent issue of Stylist, we chatted with rising star Lydia West, who plays Jill. And in a new podcast episode, fans just got to know Olly Alexander, who of course plays the lead role of Ritchie, a little bit better.
Alexander chatted to Clara Amfo on her podcast, This City. In this lovely series, Amfo asks her guests to talk her through the London they grew up in, made mistakes in and, ultimately, had loads of fun in. At a time when the London lifestyle we know and love seems like a distant memory, the podcast is a reminder of how great the city is.
Alexander moved to London when he was 18 years old to become an actor: “I moved to right by Brick Lane and I was in a flat for £500 a month with a room with no windows.
“I had an airbed, I didn’t even have a mattress. And I moved because, like Ritchie from It’s a Sin, that was all I wanted to do: just bright lights, big city. I was chasing a dream. I’d already got an acting job and an agent the year before, so I’d made a bit of money, so I was like, ‘OK, I can afford to rent, £500 a month on this and be a jobbing actor’.
“I wanted to immerse myself in east London, and I fell in love with [it] as soon as I got there.”
The actor also recalls the good times in Soho: “I would just like be either going to auditions, hanging out in Soho all day long, just because that was what I thought was the centre of the universe, because that’s where all the famous people were, that’s where my auditions were. So, I’d just be like, ‘Hanging out in Soho again today, with my script,’ like, trying to go to a casting or whatever.”
He adds: “I would go out in Soho, like to Gaz’s, and Moonlighting, Moonies, and… I don’t know if anyone will remember these clubs, but like they were just, you know.”
For any east Londoner who misses those big nights out, Alexander continued a trip down memory lane: “I was just a real gawky, awkward teenager, with my glasses on, and I would wear like button-downs and a cardigan, and smoke cigarettes. Like, I thought I was really cool.
“When I got to my early-20s, I lived in Hoxton, and I kind of lived in the centre of what was sort of, to me, the gay mecca. This was when I really got going and I was into my clubbing phase. Night outs would be like, we’d start off at the Macbeth, then we’d go to the George and Dragon, then the Joiners Arms, then we’d got to Vogue Fabrics, then Dalston Superstore, then finally, we’d go to East Bloc. Like, in a night!”
Echoing what a lot of us miss about dancing in London’s nightclubs, he adds: “I think it’s like a spiritual experience, you know? When you’re together with these people in a room, and you’re just moving your body, that’s spiritual to me, you know? You’re connected in a way that you’re never connected in other circumstances, other environments, like with complete strangers.”
While Alexander’s words might make us feel a bit sad about the city we miss, they also give us hope that the good times will return – and there is lots of dancing to be done.
Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…