It’s A Sin star Lydia West has credited the hit series with helping her to “find her voice” and the causes she wants to support in her career.
The Channel 4 series, written and created by Queer as Folk and Doctor Who screenwriter Russell T Davies, tracked a group of gay men and their friends as they navigated the UK’s HIV/Aids crisis throughout the 80s and early 90s.
The actress, 28, played Jill Baxter, who was inspired by a real-life person of the same name, in the show, which also starred Years and Years singer Olly Alexander.
She was speaking about the life-changing impact of the role on her career as she was named one of the 36 participants for the 2021 Bafta Breakthrough initiative.
The talent initiative, previously known as Breakthrough Brits, has been running in the UK since 2013 and helps support emerging stars in film, TV and video games.
More than 160 newcomers have participated in the Netflix-supported initiative, including Bukky Bakray, Letitia Wright, Florence Pugh and Josh O’Connor, and it has also expanded to the US and India.
Speaking about It’s A Sin, which aired in January, West told PA News Agency: “I think none of us expected it to do as well as it did. You make these things and you let them go, and you hope and pray that people watch and respond and resonate with the material.
“But you never expect it until it happens, and then when it happens I just feel so lucky and to be part of something that was both very, very entertaining, very fun, and very bright and colourful, but also so historical and grounded in education, and to change public health through our performances, and through the creation of this television programme, is something that you just only hope for.
“I know these jobs don’t come around very often, so I just feel extremely honoured. I would say that it is a real breakthrough part for me in terms of my personal growth, too, and finding my voice and finding what causes I want to support and believe in, and what I want to do, what stories I want to tell in the future and in my career.”
As part of the Bafta Breakthrough programme, recipients receive global networking opportunities, access to career coaching and skills development support, as well as 121 industry meetings and roundtable sessions.
West, whose other credits include Years and Years, praised Bafta Breakthrough, saying: “I think it’s so important and what Bafta do so well, and what I’m so grateful for is being a woman of colour to be able to have this platform and have this stage where my voice can be heard, and I can represent a lot of other women and black women out there through my work.”
The 36 participants, 24 in the UK and 12 in the US, were selected by a global jury which included names like broadcaster and former barrister Afua Hirsch, Irish actress Niamh Algar, comedian and Jerk star Tim Renkow, with Ade Rawcliffe as the breakthrough jury chair.
Other talent from the UK listed for the Bafta Breakthrough are David Proud, a director and writer, currently a core writer on ITV’s Coronation Street, Sex Education’s George Robinson, Welsh film director and writer Prano Bailey-Bond, whose film Censor premiered this year, and casting director Aisha Bywaters, whose credits include We Are Lady Parts.
Proud was born with spina bifida and also previously starred in EastEnders, playing Oxford student Adam Best in 2009, a role which marked the first time a regular disabled part was played by a disabled actor on the soap, the BBC said at the time.
Proud told the PA news agency being recognised by Bafta “means everything”, adding: “I also hope that it can encourage more disabled artists to get into working in the industry, whether that’s as an actor or a writer. I think any time a disabled artist is included on things like this, it’s a really big moment.”.