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Stephen Fry on playing Conservative MP Arthur Garrison in 1980s drama 'It's A Sin'

Stephen Fry as MP Arthur Garrison in It's A Sin
Stephen Fry as MP Arthur Garrison in "It's A Sin," furtively meeting Roscoe (Omari Douglas). (Image credit: Channel 4)

Stephen Fry is celebrated for his upper class comedy roles like Jeeves or Lord Melchett in Blackadder, and now his brilliant appearance as repressed fictional Conservative MP Arthur Garrison will provide moments of much-needed comic lightness in C4’s vibrant yet hard-hitting drama It’s A Sin.

This five-part series, on Channel 4 and HBO Max, is written by Russell T. Davies and follows three gay teenagers — Colin (Callum Scott Howells), Roscoe (Omari Douglas) and Ritchie (Years and Years singer Olly Alexander), as they begin exciting new lives in London in 1981, setting up home in an apartment they dub the Pink Palace. But as the AIDS crisis unfolds through the 1980s, it ends up wreaking devastation on all their lives.

Here, Fry, 63, talks about his It’s A Sin character, working with the young cast and on which he based MP Arthur Garrison.

Who does Stephen Fry play in 'It's A Sin'?

Fry joins episode three of It’s A Sin as 60-year-old Arthur Garrison, MP for fictional Richfield South and one of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s loyal party servants, who ends up having a secret fling with flamboyant Pink Palace party boy Roscoe (Omari Douglas).

"Arthur Garrison is a particularly repressed figure because he doesn’t think he is gay,’ says Stephen. "The sad thing is, when he’s with Roscoe there’s a tenderness and genuine sort of affection, but he’s far too afraid!"

What does Arthur Garrison MP get up to in 'It's A Sin'? 

Arthur Garrison lives in a swanky apartment overlooking the River Thames and loves lavishing gifts and expensive dinners on his young lover, Roscoe. He’s also a huge Margaret Thatcher fan and it means more to him to engineer a meeting with the then Prime Minister than open his eyes to the AIDS epidemic that’s unfolding around him.

"He hopes to move up to a Cabinet position but I don’t think he’s got much chance," says Stephen. "The fact that Mrs Thatcher doesn’t even really know who he is seems telling and highly believable!"

What does the character of Arthur Garrison represent in 'It’s A Sin'?

Although It’s A Sin isn’t a political drama, it does intersect with Westminster through Roscoe’s affair with Arthur Garrison and touches on the then Conservative government’s broadly inadequate response to the AIDS crisis. "The joy of Russell’s writing is that it’s not just a glorification of heroic gay people who were victims of society, Big Business, Big Pharma, ignorance and so on, nor is it just having fun," says Stephen. "It’s a fantastic mixture."

Stephen Fry as Conservative MP and Margaret Thatcher fan Arthur Garrison

Stephen Fry as Conservative MP and big Margaret Thatcher fan Arthur Garrison. (Image credit: Channel 4)

Stephen Fry on the hypocrisy of politicians in the era of 'It's a Sin'

Although Arthur Garrison is sleeping with Roscoe, he also holds intolerant attitudes in terms of race, homophobia and AIDS, which ends up coming back to bite him. "What you can’t respect is the hypocrisy of a politician who behaves one way while preaching and voting another," says Stephen. "There was an idea that the government was letting gay people die in a way they wouldn’t have with others, that haemophiliacs who contracted AIDS were somehow innocent victims by comparison to gay people."

Stephen Fry reveals who his 'It’s A Sin' character Arthur Garrison is based on

"I had people I was thinking of vaguely!" hints Stephen. ‘It would be invidious to name names but we all know the sort of people … what John Le Carré called the 'Belgravia Cockney.' There was plenty in the script to get my teeth into. Russell doesn’t write formula, he writes real people."

Stephen Fry on working with newcomer Omari Douglas, who plays Roscoe in 'It’s A Sin'

Stephen Fry and Omari Douglas in It's A Sin.

Stephen Fry and Omari Douglas as secret lovers Arthur and Roscoe in "It's A Sin." (Image credit: Channel 4)

"Omari Douglas is a wonderful fellow and a terrific actor, so likeable and easy to work with," says Stephen. "The atmosphere on set was just fantastic. It’s really powerful television and the young actors are just astounding. I’m so proud to be a part of it."

When can we see Stephen Fry in 'It’s A Sin'?

The five 60-minute episodes will begin on Channel 4 on Friday 22 January at 9pm and all episodes will then be available on the On Demand service All4 after the first Channel 4 episode is shown. It’s A Sin will later air in the US on HBO Max. Stephen Fry joins as Arthur Garrison MP in episode three.