It's A Sin's Callum Scott Howells: Rising to fame, Welsh independence and his love of Cardiff City

  • Watch the full interview with Callum Scott Howells and Beth Fisher

'It's A Sin' star Callum Scott Howells has spoken of his surprise over landing a leading role due to what he describes as a lack of Welsh representation on-screen.

The Tonyrefail-born actor rose to fame during his appearance as Colin in the hit Channel 4 series, which was created by Swansea-born screenwriter Russell T Davies.

The show follows a group of young adults beginning new lives in London during the 1980s, only to find themselves directly impacted by HIV as it emerges in the UK.

Colin Morris-Jones, a hard-working but shy 18-year-old from the south Wales valleys with a dream of making it big in London, stole hearts with his innocence and purity.

Callum said he could relate to his character. Credit: Channel 4/RED Productions

But 21-year-old Callum's performance during a devastating twist to Colin's story earned him the attention of millions of viewers.

Callum sat down with ITV Wales' sports reporter Beth Fisher

In an interview with ITV Wales' sports reporter Beth Fisher, he explained why he still cannot believe he was cast for the part.

"I didn't ever think that I would act on television. I didn't think that it was accessible for someone like me," Callum said.

"As a Welsh actor, we don't see a lot of ourselves on the tele, particularly young actors, we don't see that.

"There are things that have come out, but compared to dramas with young people in England, they see young English actors all the time, whereas in Wales we're not blessed with that.

"I'm still sort of pinching myself."

When he arrives in London, Colin goes on a night out and ends up finding friends for life. Credit: Chanel 4/RED Productions
  • "We knew we were going to be part of something important"

"I think for all of us involved, we knew we were going to be part of something important when we read the scripts.

"Not only because of the subject matter, but because it was Russell T Davies, it was beautifully written, it was exciting, it was funny.

"For it to have had the reaction it's had - I still can't believe that the application for HIV tests have gone through the roof.

"I actually don't think there's any better accolade to have from this show, no matter whatever happens from here on, there's no better thing to happen than that for us.

"Because that's what the show's about, it's about a deadly virus and this virus hasn't gone. Yeah, it's better now, but it still exists.

"So we're so chuffed to be part of something that is making proper waves."

Colin lands his first London job at a tailors in Savile Row. Credit: Channel 4/RED Productions

He described his and his cast members' nerves when filming started.

"We all felt a lot of pressure on that first day because we knew we were creating something important, and also, it's really important to Russell.

"I think Russell has been waiting a long time to make this show.

"So that first day you could cut the atmosphere with a knife - but it wasn't long before somebody tripped over a mic stand and we were all just laughing.

"But being on set with Neil Patrick Harris is something I'm going to treasure for the rest of my life. The fact that he's now a friend is amazing."

The show also stars Years & Years' Olly Alexander. Credit: Channel 4/RED Productions

On filming sex scenes in the series, Callum said intimacy coordinators on set made the experience feel "liberating."

"Watching it back, I just felt proud. You don't look at it back and feel traumatised, we're all really excited.

"It's a story about sex. It's about a sexually transmitted disease so in that sense, I feel very proud of it. I do, I feel really proud."

Callum said it was a privilege to work with Hollywood star Neil Patrick Harris. Credit: Channel 4/RED Productions
  • Getting the part of Colin

Callum explained how he got the part, "I graduated in July and I was about to finish my second year of drama school when I got a call from my agent to say about the show.

"My agent said that I wouldn't go up for anything whilst I was at drama school unless it was a career-starter or a life-changer."

The day after auditioning, Callum received a call the next day while he was visiting his old school to say he had been successful.

"I was head boy. I would always go back and visit, so I went back and visited the next day randomly.

"Then I got the call from my agent there and then. It felt romantic that I was in my old school."

Callum also said his mother was "quite traumatised" watching some of the scenes in the show, particularly when he was ill.

"I think she walked out during episode 3 - it must be quite difficult seeing your son die. I think, bless her, she found it quite traumatic - I think she is OK now!"

Colin finds his true self after moving away from Wales and into the bright lights of London. Credit: Channel 4/RED Productions
  • "The further away we are from Westminster the better"

Support for Welsh independence group YesCymru surged during the pandemic as their membership grew from just over 2,000 in February to more than 14,000 in November 2020.

Callum has openly backed Welsh independence, and said his support for the idea has grown as a result of the UK government response to the Covid crisis.

Russell T Davies has similarly voiced his support for the movement.

"I think the further away we are from Westminster the better. That's what I think" Callum said.

"I'm so for it now [independence]. I just think, why shouldn't we be talking about Welsh independence?

"That's what we're hurtling towards, whether we like it or not, whether it's now or in 15 years time, it's going to happen.

"Whether it's a referendum, or whether we actually go on to vote 'yes'."

Since appearing on the show, Callum has gained a large following on social media and described how he has become more conscious of what he shares.

"I guess, scarily, I do have a voice," he said.

"But I don't think I have controversial opinions or views, I just think I'm trying to always look for the best in this country that we live in.

"We need to look out for each other, that's what I think. Be kind, be nice, be a good person, that's what I'm about."

Callum reiterated that he is an actor - not an activist or a campaigner - but said he is "privileged to be a part of something important".

He also described his pride in being Welsh: "I'm so proud of the language and where we come from.

"I feel like we've got to be because we're a small country, right? And when shows like this come out, which have a Welsh family and Welsh characters, I think we've got to shout about it.

"We can tell people and inform people not only about Welsh stories, but queer Welsh stories."

Callum said football has played a big part in his life. Credit: ITV Wales
  • Callum and Cardiff City

Callum said he and his father are Cardiff City season ticket holders and travel to the stadium for every home game.

"Even before I was acting I was playing football. So I think football for me has been a big love all my life, particularly Cardiff City.

"I was at Ninian Park, that was my first ever football match I saw, versus Nottingham Forest in 2009."

Callum was a guest pundit and stadium announcer during the Cardiff vs Derby game

He jokingly explained what made him move onto acting: "The reason I stopped playing football is because I was sort of dancing around the pitch.

"I realised football wasn't for me because I just loved acting so much."

Callum is a Cardiff City super fan. Credit: ITV Wales
  • "Sport is there to entertain, it's not political"

Callum described how "toxic masculinity is embedded in sport", and voiced the importance of eradicating discrimination.

"Hooliganism, all these really awful traits that sport has, it fuels really toxic attitudes, and that comes out in the form of homophobia, racism, things that are really negative and don't need to be there.

"We forget that sport is there to entertain, it's a positive thing, it's not political."

He added that recent campaigns have played a role in progression.

"With Black Lives Matter, the rainbow laces campaign - these really cool things that exist to really stamp it out. If that happens, how amazing would that be?"

  • What's next for Callum?

"Who knows? I just want to keep telling stories and keep acting and doing really exciting things," he said.

He joked: "But people have got to have me first, they've got to employ me, so I might never work again!"