The It’s a Sin true story revealed - the reality behind the 1980s drama

Is the Russell T Davies drama series based on fact?

Characters from series, It's a Sin
(Image credit: Channel 4)

The drama series It’s a Sin has had viewers hooked by its ability to be simultaneously heartbreaking, inspiring, and at times hilarious. Created by Russell T Davies (Doctor Who, Queer as Folk), it tells the story of young gay men who each leave their homes and move to London. 

With a star-studded cast to bring this highly moving series to life, including Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander, as well as Keeley Hawes and Neil Patrick Harris, it’s no surprise that you might want to know how to watch It’s a Sin

The show explores the prejudices that gay men faced during this period when homophobic attitudes were entrenched in British society. 

For those who have already delved into the series, the question of what the It’s a Sin true story really is and if the series is based upon real-life won’t be far from your mind.

Is It’s a Sin a true story?

Whilst some viewers might imagine the dramatic events of the popular series to be true, writer Russell T Davies has reportedly said that It’s a Sin is not, in fact, a true story. 

Though the HIV/AIDS epidemic was prevalent in the United Kingdom at this time, the stories shown in It’s a Sin and which revolve around this small group of friends are fictional. 

Were the It's a Sin characters real people?

Though the plotline of It’s a Sin may be fictional, many of the characters in the show are understood to have been inspired by real-life people in creator Russell T Davies’ life. Speaking to the press ahead of the show's premiere, Russell discussed the real people and true events which inspired the series.

According to The Daily Express, he shared: "A lot of it is based on myself and people I know and stories of people I knew, stories that have built up for decades."

"It's just kind of bits from all over the place," Russell added. 

Davies also explained how the character of Colin, played brilliantly by Callum Scott Howells, is based on a man he once knew named John.

He disclosed: "Colin is actually based on someone I went out with in the nineties who trained to be a tailor and went to New York to fit Lords and Ladies who lived in New York with their suits and gowns. "

Russell also shared how he has commemorated people that he used to know in certain elements of the show.

“I was 18 in 1981and I went to University and a lot of my friends went to live in London and all my gay friends went to live there and they all moved into a big flat in Hampstead, I think it was and they called it the Pink Palace.”

"[A] lot of the dialogue has got their jokes, their rhythms and stuff like that. There will be a few friends I haven't seen in years who will be watching going 'This is slightly familiar'”. 

Russell went on to add that: “some of them are, of course, no longer with us”, before explaining that it was nice to “remember them”.

If you haven't already watched It's a Sin, what are you waiting for?

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with five years experience working in digital publishing, ranging from book publishing to magazines. She currently looks after all things Lifestyle for Woman&Home, GoodToKnow and My Imperfect Life.

Before she joined Future Publishing, Emma graduated from the University of Warwick with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Comparative Literary Studies. After leaving education, she started out her publishing career in the world of books, working as a Publisher for an independent digital publisher specializing in back-list and debut commercial fiction novels. With a huge book list and a passion for bringing the best stories to the broadest audience possible, Emma filled her spare time with reading the latest best-sellers and catching up on hit adaptations.

In 2017 she joined TI Media as a fiction writing coordinator on Woman’s Weekly and Woman’s Weekly Fiction as part of the features team. From here, she used her love of books, working to bring short stories to our dedicated readers and began writing for the books pages of Woman, Woman’s Own and Woman&Home, as well as online features ranging from genre round-ups to travel pieces for

After honing her skills, Emma branched out online in 2020 when Future gave her the opportunity to focus on digital-first. When she’s not writing about the next big lifestyle trend, she enjoys cooking, long walks and watching as many crime dramas as she can!