Noughts And Crosses: From The Cast, To Differences From The Book – Here's What You Need To Know

Stormzy is among the stars appearing in the BBC's new TV series based on Malorie Blackman's novels.

Since news of a BBC adaptation of Noughts And Crosses was first announced back in 2018, it has become one of the most highly-anticipated dramas of recent times.

We’re happy to say that the wait is finally over, as this Thursday sees its debut on both BBC One and iPlayer, as Malorie Blackman’s series of novels of the same name is brought to life on screen for the first time ever.

After the first book was published way back in 2001, the young adult books has won countless awards and has been celebrated as one of the most influential ever.

Whether you’re a long-term fan who has been early awaiting the adaptation, or someone who is new to Malorie’s stories, here’s everything you need to know about the TV adaptation...

BBC/Mammoth/Douglas Hale/Ricky Darko

What’s it about?

Tackling the topics of race, prejudice and ignorance in an alternative society in which Europe has been colonised by Africa, Noughts And Crosses tells the story of Sephy Hadley and Callum McGregor, who are divided by race but united by love.

Sephy is a Cross, a member of the Black ruling class and daughter of a prominent politician, while Callum is a Nought, a white member of the underclass.

The two have been friends since early childhood, but their relationship grows ever more complicated as they come of age in a world that forbids their love for one another.

Noughts And Crosses tells the love story of Sephy Hadley and Callum McGregor
Noughts And Crosses tells the love story of Sephy Hadley and Callum McGregor
BBC/Mammoth Screen/Ilze Kitshoff

“Noughts And Crosses is my version of Romeo And Juliet,” Malorie says.

“That was the inspiration for it and, from the feedback I’ve had, the teens and adults who have read it absolutely get that. It will be interesting to see how a wider audience will perceive it.”

Does the TV show differ from the book?

Undoubtedly the first thing fans of the book will notice is that Sephy and Callum are older than they first appear in the original novel.

Malorie’s early work tells the story of the pair’s friendship as children when Callum’s mum Meggie worked as Sephy’s nanny, before things turned romantic between them as teenagers.

However, the TV series will see the characters aged up, with stories slightly adapted to fit their older selves.

Malorie was heavily involved in the adaptation and says she had “various meetings to talk about the direction and about the ageing-up of the characters”.

Author Malorie Blackman
Author Malorie Blackman
Jeff Spicer via Getty Images

“I feel the TV series is closer to how I would write the novel if I were writing it now,” she admits.

“I was sent the scripts and was able to make comments on them, and then I was sent the rough cuts, so I feel like I have been included in the process every step of the way.

“I know that is not the case with all writers who have had their work adapted so I feel incredibly lucky.”

Malorie also reveals “the whole aesthetic is going to be different”, which is something that she “loves”.

“That in itself poses some stimulating questions and I hope it causes some interesting discussions,” she says.

There are also set to be some changes to other characters, as Callum’s sister Lynette does not appear to feature in the series, while newspaper editor Kolawale has been created especially for the show.

Former Cold Feet star Helen Baxendale, who plays Callum’s mother Meggie, insisted it has not changed the story, although she admitted she fears some people may be unhappy with them.

Helen Baxendale plays Meggie McGregor
Helen Baxendale plays Meggie McGregor
BBC/Mammoth Screen/Ilze Kitshoff

She recently told the Daily Mail: “The main reason I took this role was my kids’ reaction. They loved the books and said I had to do it. My kids are 13, 18 and 21 but they’ve all read them. I was worried they’d hate any changes, but they’ll be fine.

“With social media there seems to be controversy at everything. There’ll probably be people from left and right who’ll fume about this. I hope it makes people think; that’s all you can hope. It’s only a TV show after all.”

Who’s in the cast?

Jack Rowan (Peaky Blinders, Born To Kill) and newcomer Masali Baduza take on the lead roles of Callum McGregor and Sephy Hadley.

Paterson Joseph (Timeless, Peep Show) plays Sephy’s father, Home Secretary Kamal Hadley. Bonnie Mbuli (Invictus, Wallander) plays her mother Jasmine, and her sister Minerva is played by Kike Brimah (Love Type D).

Kamal Hadley (PATERSON JOSEPH), Sephy Hadley (MASALI BADUZA) and Lekan Baako (JONATHAN AJAYI)
Kamal Hadley (PATERSON JOSEPH), Sephy Hadley (MASALI BADUZA) and Lekan Baako (JONATHAN AJAYI)
BBC/Mammoth Screen/Ilze Kitshoff

Helen Baxendale (Cold Feet, Friends) and Ian Hart (The Last Kingdom, The Secret Agent) play Callum’s parents Meggie and Ryan, and Josh Dylan (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, The Little Stranger) plays his older brother Jude.

Shaun Dingwall (Goodbye Christopher Robin, The Long Firm) is Liberation Militia leader Dorn. The cast also features Jonathan Ajayi and Rakie Ayola (Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, No Offence).

And last, but certainly not least, none other than actual Stormzy (!) is playing newspaper editor Kolawale.

Yes, actual Stormzy appears in the show
Yes, actual Stormzy appears in the show
BBC/Mammoth Screen/Ilze Kitshoff

What are people saying about it?

Full reviews of the series have yet to debut, but that hasn’t stopped some sharing their early thoughts.

In a short preview, the Guardian described Noughts And Crosses as “a story of ill-fated lovers” adding that its “canny amplification of prejudice feels increasingly prescient today”.

A review in Culture Whisperer gave the show four stars and noted: “The BBC’s high-budget series adaptation really digs into the heart of Blackman’s message. In reversing the prejudice, we’re better able to imagine, see, and comprehend the extent of racism in the real world. More than that, the series acts like a poetic, political deconstruction of what racial privilege means.”

After a BBC screening earlier this week, some people also published their thoughts on Twitter:

Thrilled to be at the @BBCOne premiere of Noughts + Crosses ...! Terrific first episode and live Q&A with @malorieblackman and cast members. Can’t wait to watch the full series from Thursday! A powerful story everyone must see!

— Sherah Beckley (@SherahBeckley) March 2, 2020

What a pleasure this evening was. Salute to the cast, producers and of course @malorieblackman, Malorie Thee Blackman for her imagination and skill with words. Do check out @noughtcrosstv @BBCOne 9pm this Thursday

— Clara Amfo & The Leggy Displays (@claraamfo) March 2, 2020

Malorie also says the responses she’s had from people who have seen it have been “overwhelmingly positive”.

“I am grateful for that,” she says. “There are some real hard-core fans out there of the books who are so engaged with Callum and Sephy and their dilemmas.”

What about more series?

While further series haven’t yet been announced – presumably because the BBC is waiting to see how the first pans out – there’s a high chance of more due to the fact there are currently five books in Malorie Blackman’s novel series.

Executive producer Preethi Mavahalli explains: “Series one sets up this world and the two warring families at the centre of the story, and covers much of the action of the first novel.

“With four more books published and one more to come, there is plenty of scope for this series to return again and again and explore this unique and distinctive alternate universe.”

Fingers crossed.

Is there a trailer I can watch?

When is it on?

Noughts And Crosses begins on Thursday 5 March at 9pm on BBC One, with the whole series then made available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

The following episodes will also continue airing traditionally each Thursday.


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