Russell T Davies was presented with the RTS Fellowship in front of a huge and appreciative audience in Cardiff at the end of October.
RTS Cymru Wales Chair Judith Winnan made the award at the end of a sold-out event at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama to mark the RTS Centre’s 60th anniversary.
The multi-award-winning writer and regenerator of Doctor Who had been discussing his career with Gethin Jones. The TV presenter met Davies when he was working on Blue Peter 15 years ago – and went on to appear in Doctor Who, albeit as a Dalek and Cyberman.
During the course of an entertaining chat with his fellow Welshman, Davies relived some of the stand-out moments from his career – as well as some of the stranger events.
Shooting ground-breaking 1999 Channel 4 drama Queer as Folk, which followed the lives of three gay men in Manchester, was one such experience. “It was hard filming a gay drama on certain streets of Manchester,” recalled Davies. One scene near a pub in a rough part of town was particularly hairy: “They very much objected to a drama called Queer as Folk filming near them, so they attacked the crew with machetes.”
“Queer as Folk was a blast of life for me – it was the first time I’d been taken out of children’s [drama] and soap opera.” Until then, Davies had been working on shows such as CITV’s Children’s Ward and Coronation Street.
The success of Queer as Folk spawned a hugely successful and eclectic career, which has seen the writer move seamlessly between family (Doctor Who), children’s (Sarah Jane’s Adventures) and adult (Cucumber) drama.
Davies’s much-garlanded drama for BBC One, A Very English Scandal, was the writer’s take on Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe’s affair with Norman Scott, whom he was accused of conspiring to murder.
“It’s a story that had never been told by a gay man. It is from a very brilliant book by John Preston. The tone, wit and style of [the drama] is from the book – he’s a brilliant writer. But he is a straight man writing the story,” said Davies.
“For 40 years it has been a mystery why these men behaved as they [did]. Frankly, it’s the story of a middle-aged gay man falling in love with a beautiful gay man who takes too much drink and drugs. I understand that.”
Earlier this year, BBC One’s Years and Years offered a nightmare vision of a near-future Great Britain. “It wasn’t a ratings success, but I’m genuinely immensely proud of it,” said Davies. “I think it’s one of my favourite things in my whole career.”
Davies’s next project is Boys, a drama about AIDS in the 1980s, which is set to air on Channel 4 next October. One of its stars, Welsh actor Callum Scott Howells, was in the hall.
Responding to a question from the audience on whether gay and transgender actors roles should be cast in similar roles, Davies replied: “Right now, especially.”
On Boys, Davies continued, there are “up to 40 or 45 gay characters, all played by gay actors… I’ve cast trans people; Bethany Black, in Cucumber.
“I think television is astonishingly… white and straight and straightforward, as well. It’s 2019 now and you’ve got to get with it.”
The RTS Cymru Wales event, “In conversation with Russell T Davies”, was held at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff on 28 October and produced by Edward Russell. A longer report will appear in the November issue of Television.