entertainment

It's a Sin star reacts to episode three's devastating twist

Exclusive: "I think people need to understand what these poor people went through."

2021-02-05

Words: Will Stroude

Warning: Major spoilers follow for episodes one, two and three of It's a Sin.

As a drama dealing with the reality of the Aids crisis for gay men living in 1980s London, It's a Sin was never going to be easy viewing - but that doesn't make the devastating events of episode three any easier to witness.

After episodes one and two of Russell T Davies' five-part drama established a pattern for concluding with the tragic death of a character from Aids-related illness (Neil Patrick Harris's Henry Coltrane and David Carlyle's Gregory 'Gloria' Finch respectively), episode three delivers the series' most gut-wrenching moment yet with the unexpected illness and eventual death of loveable, shy outsider of the group Colin Morris-Jones (Callum Scott Howells).

Callum Scott Howells as Colin Morris-Jones in It's a Sin (Image: Channel 4)

Early on, Colin was established as the unlucky-in-love, possibly virginal foil to his sexed-up friends like Ritchie (Olly Alexander) and Roscoe (Omari Douglas), with Davies carefully ensuring viewers' never saw the young apprentice tailor involved in any kind of romantic or sexual tryst on-screen.

His collapse with a seizure at work and subsequent diagnosis with Aids-related dementia - and the subsequent reveal that he'd briefly been involved with his landlady's son after first moving to London in episode one - is the kind of savage rug-pull moment writer Russell T Davies has delivered time and time again in shows like Queer as Folk, Cucumber and Years and Years.

Colin's death also served as an always-timely reminder that HIV and Aids didn't (and doesn't) discriminate or affect only those perceived to have taken 'risks'.

Speaking to Attitude before the series' broadcast, actor Callum Scott Howells admitted the circumstances around Colin's shock death still make him "so upset" a year on from filming, but that is was an "honour" to have been trusted with such an important story.

Photography: The Other Richard

"I really hope people are shocked, because I think through shock that’s how you begin to process the extremity of things," Callum says of Colin's illness and death in episode three.

"I hope people don’t get really, really upset by it, but I think people need to understand what these poor people went through.

"It’s just not fair. It’s just not fair. And even thinking about it off the cuff just makes me so upset."

21-year-old TV newcomer Callum goes on: "The whole thing with Colin is that you don’t expect anything from him really, he’s this really small-town boy. I know thousands of Colins; just boys who’ve got a lot of love to give and that’s the joy they get from life.

Callum Scott Howells as Colin Morris-Jones in It's a Sin (Image: Channel 4)

"You don’t expect anything from him, so when he’s the one to start getting these fits and dementia, I think Russell’s done something mad in the sense that he’s chosen the most innocent of characters to have the most extreme symptoms."

Colin's death may make episode three of It's a Sin an impossibly dark and moving 50 minutes of television, but the character's forced detention as an 'infectious' person under the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984 also serves to shine a light on the appalling treatment of those with the disease during the early days of the crisis.

"I’m honoured," says Callum of his role in shining a light on the injustices faced by those living and dying with Aids in the '80s. "I mean, I’m honoured to be part of Russell’s show anyway. Like, that is an honour in itself. But to be a part of something which hopefully will affect people, I’m really proud of [it]."

The Welsh rising star goes on: "I worked really hard and without being too dramatic I think I really did leave a big chunk of myself in Colin. The scene where he’s in bed and he’s basically told he’s going to die… I mean, f**k, we really had to go there.

Callum Scott Howells as Colin Morris-Jones in It's a Sin (Image: Channel 4)

"Peter [Hoar] our director was so supportive, he was amazing. That day of filming, he was checking up on me – we knew that scene was coming, and I just remember it happened and you’ve really got to welcome those feelings and really jump into it.

"It was upsetting, but I hope it was worth it, that’s what I hope for."

Read our full digital profile with Callum Scott Howells here.

It's a Sin is available to stream in full on All4 and continues next Friday 29 January on Channel 4 in the UK. The series will air on HBO Max in the US later in the year.