From Skins to It's a Sin, Here's Everything You Need to Know About Olly Alexander

Channel 4
Channel 4

Many of you may know Olly Alexander from the electro-pop band Years & Years, but did you know that aside from being an incredibly talented musician he's also an actor? Taking center stage on Channel 4's new show It's a Sin, which is set to premiere on HBO Max in February, Alexander plays Ritchie Tozer, an aspiring actor who meets an eclectic group of friends when he moves to London for university.

Alexander spoke to Channel 4 about his involvement, explaining that "Russell's such an iconic voice in British storytelling, and especially queer storytelling, and I would have done anything to work with him." On the topic of the show's premise, he added that "it's really helpful to understand some of the ways in which homophobia has persisted and the ways in which the AIDS crisis really, really impacted such a huge community."

While It's a Sin isn't his first foray into the acting world — thanks to his West End experience and a cameo on a popular British TV show — Alexander has mostly been known for his incredible vocals, evident in songs like "If You're Over Me" and "Desire," and collaborations with MNEK and Jess Glynne. So, what else should you know about the Years & Years frontman? Keep reading to find out.

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His Acting Career Actually Began in 2008

First appearing on our screens in the 2008 show Summerhill, Olly then went on to appear in Bright Star, which ended up being nominated for an Oscar. His next role was starring alongside Alex Pettyfer in Tormented in 2009, before appearing in Enter the Void that same year.

He then appeared in a number of theatre productions, with the first being a production of The Aliens in 2010.

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He's Worked On a Documentary With BBC Three

A passionate LGBTQ+ advocate, Olly worked on a documentary called Growing Up Gay in a Straight World: Olly Alexander with BBC Three back in 2019. The three-minute film explores the relationship between mental health and the LGBTQ+ community, following Olly's own experience with anxiety and depression.

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He's a Regular Member on Celebrity Gogglebox With His Mom

Celebrity Gogglebox has been a very welcome edition on our screens since 2019, and its cast list of hilarious celebs has only gotten longer. One pairing you may recognize is Olly Alexander and his mum, Vicki Thornton, who make regular appearances on the show, alongside names like Little Mix, Professor Green, and Rylan.

When they were first announced, Olly revealed in a tweet that "me and mum have watched a lot of TV together so it's not gonna be too much of a stretch. I hope you will enjoy watching with us! Mum says it's the craziest thing she's ever done."

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He's a Mental Health Advocate

Back in 2018, Olly was interviewed by Alastair Campbell — former British prime minister Tony Blair's spokesman – for GQ to discuss male mental health and his experience so far. The pair discussed the effects of antidepressants, therapy, and the stigma surrounding male suicide.

He explained the effects on mental health for musicians in particular, discussing the idea that "you divorce yourself from the character you have on stage" and adding that "the adoration you get from fans can sometimes feel like it's not directed at you."

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He Played Cassie's Stalker, Jakob, on Skins

Remember that two-part Skins episode called Pure that aired back in 2013? OK, good. Remember the character Jakob? Well, he was played by none other than Olly Alexander. Watching this back, we couldn't believe it either!

Turns out, he auditioned for a role in the show when he was 16, and didn't make it into the cast until he was well into his 20s. It just goes to show that perseverance pays off.

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He Played Peter Pan in a West End Production Alongside Judi Dench

In March 2013, Olly took part in a West End production of Peter and Alice, where he played Peter Pan. The show ran until June that year, and also starred Dame Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw. Can you imagine?