Olly Alexander, Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris in Russell T Davies’ “Boys”

No, not The Boys, that’s something else entirely. Boys is the new drama written by Russell T Davies, of Queer As Folk, Casanova, Second Coming, Doctor Who, A Very English Scandal and Years And Years.

Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris to Star in Russell T Davies' Boys

That’s not where it stops getting confusing. Russell’s last big drama was Years And Years for the BBC. And Boys stars the lead singer/songwriter of the band Years & Years. Olly Alexander leads the cast of Russell T Davies’ five-part 1980s-set drama for Channel 4, which also includes Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry, Neil Patrick Harris, Tracy Ann Oberman, Shaun Dooley, Omari Douglas, Callum Scott Howells, Nathaniel Curtis and Lydia West, charting the joy and heartbreak of four friends during a decade in which everything changed.

Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris to Star in Russell T Davies' Boys

It’s 1981, the start of a new decade and Ritchie, Roscoe and Colin begin a new life in London. Strangers at first, these young gay lads, and their best friend Jill, find themselves thrown together, and soon share each other’s adventures. But a new virus is on the rise, and soon their lives will be tested in ways they never imagined. As the decade passes, and they grow up in the shadow of AIDS, they’re determined to live and love more fiercely than ever.

Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris to Star in Russell T Davies' Boys

Olly Alexander, from the band (not the TV show) Years & Years, plays 18-year-old Ritchie Tozer, the family’s golden boy, though he’s determined to keep his secrets from them.

Newcomer Omari Douglas plays London-born 17-year-old Roscoe Babatunde, a wild, brittle party boy, always on the run.

Newcomer Callum Scott Howells plays Colin Morris-Jones, a quiet, unassuming, boy from Wales, about to become an apprentice on Savile Row.

Lydia West (Years and Years – the TV show, not the band) plays Jill Baxter, Ritchie’s friend from college, straight-talking, funny, and the rock on which they rely.

Nathaniel Curtis plays Ash, a faithful friend through thick and thin.

Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris to Star in Russell T Davies' Boys

The cast also includes Keeley Hawes (Honour, Bodyguard, The Durrells, Line of Duty), who plays Valerie, Ritchie’s mum, Shaun Dooley (Gentleman Jack, Broadchurch, Woman in Black) who plays Clive, his dad, Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, Gone Girl, A Series of Unfortunate Events) as Henry Coltrane, Stephen Fry (Wilde, Gosford Park, Bones) as MP Arthur Garrison, and Tracy Ann Oberman (Friday Night Dinner, Toast of London, After Life) as Carol Carter.

Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris to Star in Russell T Davies' Boys

Olly Alexander says “I feel like the luckiest boy in the world to be a part of this project, I’ve been a fan of Russell T Davies ever since I watched Queer As Folk in secret at 14 years old. His work helped shape my identity as a gay person so I’m absolutely over the moon we’ll be working together. The script was amazing to read, I laughed and I cried a lot, it’s a privilege to be helping to tell this story and I’m so excited.”

Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris to Star in Russell T Davies' Boys

Neil Patrick Harris says “I’m so pleased, and incredibly proud, to be a part of Russell T Davies’ new series. This drama, Boys, is two things: it is an irresistible, funny, jubilant story of young people discovering their true identities and the unalloyed joy of living life to the fullest, it is also a deeply resonant exploration of a decade when so many of these lives were cut short by the devastating effects of the nascent AIDS pandemic. Russell’s scripts chart the highs and lows of this time so beautifully and deftly, it’s an honour to help tell this story.”

Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris to Star in Russell T Davies' Boys

Rehearsals have begun, filming begins next week and the series will air on Channel 4 in 2020. The series is overseen at Channel 4 by Lee Mason, Commissioning Editor and Caroline Hollick, Head of Drama, will be produced by RED Production Company (a STUDIOCANAL company) and executive produced by Nicola Shindler (Years and Years, Safe, Happy Valley, Queer As Folk, Cucumber) and Russell T Davies (Years and Years, Queer As Folk, A Very English Scandal, Doctor Who, Cucumber). Phil Collinson (Gentleman Jack, Good Omens, Doctor Who) is producer. The series is directed by Peter Hoar (Umbrella Academy, The Last Kingdom, Da Vinci’s Demons). Boys is the 10th collaboration between Russell T Davies and RED Production Company. The partnership is known for producing relevant, timely and emotionally charged dramas having previously created hit series including Queer As Folk, Casanova, Cucumber, Banana, Bob & Rose and The Second Coming. All3media International are global partner.

Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris to Star in Russell T Davies' Boys

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.