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It’s a Sin favourite Jill was inspired by a real-life friend of Russell T Davies’

Nick Duffy January 25, 2021
It's a Sin star Lydia West as Jill Baxter

It's a Sin star Lydia West as Jill Baxter. (Channel 4)

It’s a Sin star Lydia West has spoken about her poignant time working with Jill Nalder, the real-life woman who inspired her character.

West’s fan favourite character Jill Baxter is one of the first people in It’s a Sin to see the serious threat of AIDS looming, and dedicates much of her time to helping friends and strangers alike fighting the virus.

The fictional character was inspired by a number of women who tirelessly volunteered during the crisis, including Jill Nalder – a real-life friend of showrunner Russell T Davies.

The real-life Nalder plays a role in the series, with the West End actor making a number of appearances as Jill’s supportive mum Christine Baxter.

It’s a Sin star Lydia West says Russell T Davies surprised her with casting news.

Speaking on the Graham Norton Radio Show on Sunday, Lydia West explained: “[Davies] sent me a message saying, ‘This is very loosely based about my life and friends’ lives, and so much so that I have a character called Jill who was a close friend of mine, and she is in the show too and she’s playing your mother. But I don’t want you to do anything differently, or analyse her or try and mimic her in any way.’

“Then I met her at the read-through and she was just everything that I hoped she would be. She’s absolutely gorgeous and stunning. It was very emotional. I couldn’t look at her throughout the read, I was looking down.”

It's a Sin star Lydia West poses with Jill Nalder
It’s a Sin star Lydia West poses with Jill Nalder

Olly Alexander added: “It really was lovely, we were all so in awe of her, because we’d read the script already. We loved Jill so much, and to meet the person she was based on, and ask her what it was like in the ’80s. I remember saying to her, how did you have all the time?

“She cared so much, she was constantly caring for her friends, and really dedicated her life to doing that. But that was just natural for her, there was never any question she was going to do that for her friends. That was amazing to hear.”

It’s a Sin star and real-life Jill reflects on living through the AIDS crisis.

Speaking to Gay Times, Jill Nalder said she “loved” making an appearance on It’s a Sin. She said: “It’s loosely based on a lot of people’s lives, and Russell’s own interpretation of the era.

“I did live in the Pink Palace, me and a few other people who might be listening who lived in the Pink Palace, which was a fabulous flat to find in London to find in the ’80s. There was a lot going on, it was a massive freedom for people who came from small communities where there was no tolerance of their lifestyle.”

She added: “You’re living in London – which is all very exciting – and then all of a sudden, there’s a disease that literally changes everything.”

Nalder’s involvement in the crisis extended beyond what was depicted on screen, playing a key role in efforts to raise money. She added: “I was very much involved in fundraising, trying to get things to happen. Trying to get research, that kind of thing.

“The West End community really came together, because the one thing everybody can do is entertain. So there was a lot of late-night performances, late-night shows.”

Like her character in the show, Nalder explained she made “endless hospital visits” to men dying during the crisis.

She said: “You’re taking a place, in a way, of a family member because you become that family together and just be there in a loving way.

“It’s not an exceptional thing to do, but it was hidden, because you feel like, ‘I’ve got to go to the hospital tonight but don’t tell anybody that I’m going’.”

More: It's a Sin, Jill Nalder, Lydia West, TV

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