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19 February 2021, 14:20
Is It's A Sin's Jill Baxter a real person? Meet Jill Nalder who makes a cameo in the series...
It’s A Sin has become one of the most popular dramas of the year, telling the story of a group of gay men living through the HIV epidemic of the 1980s.
And at the heart of the series is Jill Baxter - played by Lydia West - who loses three of her closest friends to AIDs in a matter of years.
But who is Jill Baxter and is she based on a real person? Here’s what we know…
Jill is actually based on a real life person called Jill Nalder, who is a childhood friend of the series writer Russell T Davies.
And the real Jill actually makes a cameo in the series as Christine Baxter, Jill Baxter’s mother in episodes four and five.
In the 1980s, Jill Nalder was studying in London when she started noticing young men were leaving and not coming back.
She told the BBC: “Boys would go home and sort of disappear. I lost three of my best friends in 18 months.”
Describing it as a ‘devastating time’, 60-year-old Jill continued: "Nobody really knew anything but we heard it was killing young, fit, healthy gay men.
"Then it started to creep into our lives. The first one I remember was someone I knew in college.
"After that we heard he'd died. We didn't even know he'd died of Aids, it was just rumours. That happened a lot in the beginning.”
Jill, who is originally from Neath in south Wales, is now an actress herself and performs in West End musicals, as well as being a gay rights campaigner and activist.
She knew writer Russell from when they were at the West Glamorgan Youth Theatre in the '70s, and even lived in a flat she called ‘The Pink Palace’.
After watching the reaction to the show, Jill recently opened up about what it was like to see the story play out on TV.
“The two things I relate to the most is frantically searching for information about the virus,” she said.
“I became like a dictionary of AIDS-related infections.
“And the hospital visits. Walking down the corridors and looking into the rooms and in each one seeing people around my age dying with AIDS. Seeing people with the kaposi sarcoma, the black marks on the skin, for the first time.
“Those images of the devastation that AIDS causes the body will always stay with me.”
As the series comes to an end on Channel 4, Jill is hoping It’s a Sin will open people’s eyes to what was happening in the 1980s.
Jill added to Good Housekeeping: “I really think it is making a difference.
“I think people are actually talking about AIDS and they’re talking about it with care.”
In It's A Sin, Lydia West plays a version of Jill and said she felt honoured when she met the woman her character is based on.
“I met Jill at the read-through and it just felt so, so emotional to see her there,” she said.
“I had some conversations with her, and I got from her the absolute joy of the time, and the friendship, and the love.
“She was just so positive about all these friends that she brought into her life, and the years they spent together in the Pink Palace and the times in London and the fun, and that just kind of helped me to understand the tone.
“She is just astonishing and lovely. The fact that I was chosen to play a character inspired by someone who’s so close to Russell is just a massive honour and I feel very proud to do that.”