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Thursday 1 April 2021

It’s a Sin actor explores extreme emotions and the need for authenticity with UCLan counselling and sexual health students

Omari Douglas provides unique insight into his character Roscoe and his own experiences as a gay actor

Counselling and sexual health students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have been exploring the power of emotions with It’s a Sin actor Omari Douglas.

The actor, who plays the extravagant Roscoe Babatunde in the hit 1980’s Channel Four series It’s A Sin, joined the first year students for an hour-long video chat about his experience on the show that is set in 1980s London during the AIDS crisis.

Omari and the students discussed the impact stigma and shame can have on a person’s life, what he’d learned from researching his character in the show and what it taught him about being human.

He said: “Authenticity and living in your truth is so important. So many of these characters hold onto secrets and it can stifle them and stop them from being able to live the way they want to live.”

Omari also touched on his own experiences as a gay actor.

"Authenticity and living in your truth is so important. So many of these characters hold onto secrets and it can stifle them and stop them from being able to live the way they want to live."

It's a Sin actor Omari Douglas

“I studied musical theatre and the queer community is very prevalent in the industry but there is a difference between being represented within the industry and being represented on stage” he said.

“The way we cast and represent people, we have such a duty to put authenticity on screen, not for clout, not for lip service, not to tick boxes but literally because there is the idea that the people who exist within those intersections are not able to produce the same calibre of art as everyone else.”

Counselling, coaching and psychotherapy student Hannah Beckford said: “Listening to Omari talk about his experiences as a gay actor and playing Roscoe really brought to life how people deal with the prejudices they face. People visit counsellors for many different reasons and the more we can relate and understand the better.”

"Listening to Omari talk about his experiences as a gay actor and playing Roscoe really brought to life how people deal with the prejudices they face. People visit counsellors for many different reasons and the more we can relate and understand the better."

Counselling, coaching and psychotherapy student Hannah Beckford

Sexual health student Molly commented: “I found I got a lot out of this conversation, particularly as a student with a theatre background and now a love for sexual health it was great to see these two loves collide.

“It was really exciting to get a chance to chat to Omari and see what the process was behind his character and the experience he had on set. I am really grateful to have had a chance to talk about such an important topic and such an important show.”

Hannah Mclachlan, who is also a counselling student, added: “It was interesting to talk about how keeping secrets for so long, like many of the characters in It’s a Sin did, can lead to unprocessed emotions and having to work through a trauma many years later. Shame can be a very powerful and negative feeling and it made me really consider what affect that could have on a person.”

The event was co-led by lecturer in psychological interventions Lowri Dowthwaite, who runs a module called human being in context to give students a foundation for understanding counselling, and sexual health studies lecturer Donna-Marie Welch.

"For many years, I have hoped that these issues would be represented positively on a mass media scale, and I feel that this has happened. I just hope that now with the increased awareness, the stigma and taboos attached to HIV and LGBTQ+ issues are reduced."

Sexual health studies lecturer Donna-Marie Welch

“We can read a lot of academic literature about human engagement but when it’s brought to life like this the students connect with it in a deeper way” Lowri said.

“We wanted to bridge the gap between academic learning and real-life experiences, and I could tell the students really found it to be a stimulating experience.”

Donna-Marie added: “It reminded me of why I began working in sexual health all those years ago and why I still enjoy the job I do.

“For many years, I have hoped that these issues would be represented positively on a mass media scale, and I feel that this has happened. I just hope that now with the increased awareness, the stigma and taboos attached to HIV and LGBTQ+ issues are reduced.”

1 April 2021

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