Both in his music project Years & Years and as an actor, Olly Alexander has been on a continued rise through the last decade – and it all culminated in his astonishing central performance in Russell T Davies’ groundbreaking drama It’s A Sin, charting the experiences of young gay people living through the AIDS crisis in 1980s London. Playing Ritchie Tozer across the series’ five episodes proved a formative experience for Alexander, after years of focusing more on his music.
“I was writing about this in my diary the other day. I literally wrote, ‘It’s A Sin has changed my life.’,” he tells Empire in the British New Wave issue. “It was hard to get a proper perspective while we were in the middle of it, but now a few months later it’s really sinking in. Meeting and working with Russell was a dream come true and I learned so much about myself, as well as the whole subject of AIDS and British queer people in the ‘80s. Filming it was such a great experience as well. I hadn’t done any acting for so long, so to suddenly switch to a completely different discipline [from music] was so exciting.”
While the third Years & Years album is next up for Alexander, he’s ready for more screen work – even if it means writing something himself. “I honestly haven’t read a script since It’s A Sin, so maybe I’ll make my own thing,” he says. “I’d quite like to make a horror TV series – like a paranormal, gay Twin Peaks. I want to play some kind of magical gay person with magical powers.” After It’s A Sin, it seems he can do whatever he sets his mind to.
This month’s issue of Empire is a massive celebration of The British New Wave, showcasing 26 incredible directors, writers and actors driving cinema into a new era. On the cover, you’ll find Bukky Bakray, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Emerald Fennell and Riz Ahmed – and the issue also features major new interviews and exclusive new photo shoots with stars such as Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, alongside Weruche Opia, Morfydd Clark, Jessica Yu Li Henwick, Henry Golding, Gemma Chan, and Olivia Cooke, and writers and directors including Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Prano Bailey-Bond, Remi Weekes, Kate Herron, Francis Lee, and Rob Savage.