Olly Alexander reveals ‘self-loathing’ struggle and how he ‘broke down in hysterical tears’ filming sex scenes for It’s A Sin

Patrick Kelleher
·3-min read

Olly Alexander has opened up about his battle with bulimia and “self-loathing” – and revealed that he “broke down in hysterical tears” while filming “really hard” sex scenes in It’s a Sin.

The Years & Years frontman plays Ritchie Tozer in the Channel 4 and HBO Max series, which follows a group of three young gay men living through the early years of the AIDS epidemic in 1980s London.

Alexander opened up about filming the series in an interview with The Guardian, and also spoke candidly about his own mental health issues.

The actor and singer revealed that, as a teenager, he began to write in his diary instructions to avoid eating, and soon became bulimic. Alexander said his eating disorder stemmed from a desire to “punish” himself during his parents’ divorce.

He was also punishing himself, he said, because he “didn’t want to be gay.”

“It was self-loathing. I didn’t want to be gay. I was convinced I was the reason my parents were splitting up,” Alexander said.

Olly Alexander found it ‘really hard’ to film sex scenes in It’s a Sin

He went on to speak about his experience with self-harm, revealing that he stopped after a friend saw a plaster on his arm and asked if he had deliberately hurt himself.

“I was so embarrassed that I mostly stopped doing it. Bulimia carried on well into my 20s, but it became less and less frequent. It’s really hard to hold down any kind of job if you’re throwing up food all the time, and ultimately you have to choose,” he said.

Olly Alexander said he developed an irregular heartbeat as a result of his eating disorder and was terrified that he had done “something irreparable” to his body.

The actor and singer also opened up about filming sex scenes in It’s a Sin, revealing that it wasn’t quite as easy as it might look.

“All those hot guys. That aspect I loved!” he said.

“And going into it I thought, I’m going to have so much fun doing this, I’m a confident-isn guy, love having sex, it will be great.”

But he quickly became self-conscious on-set, he said. “I broke down into hysterical tears, like ‘don’t f**king touch me’. I found it really hard.”

He praised intimacy coordinator Its O’Brien for coaching himself and his co-stars through the process, saying it was a “life-changing experience”.

It’s a Sin will debut on Channel 4 on 22 January.

Readers affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans free on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org) or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.

Beat promotes awareness and understanding of eating disorders, also challenging inaccurate stereotypes and stigma. Find out more at Beat’s website or by calling 0345 634 1414.