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During amfAR’s virtual conversation for It’s a Sin, HBO Max’s epic tale of the HIV crisis in England, host and Tony-nominated playwright Matthew Lopez (The Inheritance) asked creator Russell T. Davies to respond to criticism of the show from such well-known AIDS activists as Peter Staley.
Despite an overwhelmingly positive reception from critics and audiences alike, Staley, posting on his personal Facebook page, took issue with the series-ending monologue that connects shame and homophobia to promiscuity, particularly when it came to the lead character of Ritchie, played by Olly Alexander. Staley connected the dots and called “bullshit,” adding, “Have you considered the possibility that gay men were having lots of sex in the ’70s and early ’80s because we’re sexual beings — WE ARE HUMAN — and the sex was great?”
Davies welcomed the criticism, offering that he even anticipated the range of takes on his work. “It’s completely fine. What really gets on my nerves is when a queer community [is] all supposed to react the same way to everything. It’s a massive, complicated subject, and there’s an awful lot of fury and anger still about our mistreatment over the years. It’s going to be all sorts of different reactions. I knew that full well,” he said during the YouTube live stream March 25.
On the flip side, he ended the answer by turning attention toward his computer in order to read a private response he fielded, this one from a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. “Someone wrote to me and said, ‘We’re given the extremely rare and rather terrifying gift of judgment, a glimpse of judgment with compassion without moralism. With It’s a Sin, you seemed to have achieved the hardest thing, namely to tell the truth.’ And that’s from Tony Kushner. So, I’ll take that.”
Lopez quipped, “I have no follow-up.” But the conversation, seen in full below, did continue with appearances by cast members Alexander, Omari Douglas, Callum Scott Howells, Nathaniel Curtis, Keely Hawes and Lydia West.
This story first appeared in the March 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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