Books

Noughts & Crosses: everything you need to know about the BBC’s adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s books

Posted by
Heloise Wood
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Noughts & Crosses: Picture shows Sephy Hadley (MASALI BADUZA), Callum McGregor (JACK ROWAN)

The trailer for the long-awaited TV adaptation of Noughts & Crosses has just dropped and we’re beyond excited to see Malorie Blackman’s celebrated novel get the BBC treatment. 

Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses, the first book in a series of the same name, was first published in 2001. So it’s fair to say that we’ve been very, very patient in waiting for a TV adaptation.

The waiting, almost 20 years of it, will finally be over this spring when the BBC airs the first series of Noughts & Crosses.

Created by Mammoth Screen, the production company behind Poldark and the Beeb’s sumptuous Agatha Christie adaptations, the show was filmed in South Africa and even features Stormzy in a specially written role.

We were first teased with plans for  the TV series back in 2016 and now the six-parter due to hit our screens shortly. Here’s everything we know so far…

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What is Noughts & Crosses about?

The story is set in a dystopian society and follows Sephy and Callum, who are in love but divided because of their ethnicities. Sephy is a ‘Cross’, a member of the black ruling class and the daughter of a politician. Callum is a ‘Nought’, a white member of the underclass. Friends since childhood, their relationship grows more complex as they get older. Noughts and Crosses are never allowed to fall in love and so the pair are led into danger as they navigate romance against a mounting rebellion.

Noughts & Crosses: the show focuses on the relationship between Callum McGregor (Jack Rowan) and Sephy Hadley (Masali Baduza).
Noughts & Crosses: the show focuses on the relationship between Callum McGregor (Jack Rowan) and Sephy Hadley (Masali Baduza).

What was Malorie Blackman’s inspiration for Noughts & Crosses?

The adaptation is based on the first book in Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses series for young adults, which won a number of prizes when it was published in 2001. The novel was also a response from Blackman to the awful handling by police of the brutal and racist murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was killed in 1993. 

The author told Stylist last year: “From the time I started writing, I’d always have people saying to me, ‘why aren’t you writing about racism overtly? It got on my nerves because, despite being a black author, I can write about other things.”

On announcing the adaptation back in 2016, Charlotte Moore, director of BBC Content, described it as “the definitive book for a young adult audience” featuring “superb, high octane compulsive storytelling set within an alternative history that explores really relevant themes about race, privilege and how we treat each other”.

Is there a trailer for Noughts & Crosses?

Yes, the 47-second teaser offers glimpses of some of our favourite actors in a lavishly-imagined alternative universe. 

Who is in Noughts & Crosses?

The show features newcomer Masali Baduza and Peaky Blinders actor Jack Rowan as star-crossed lovers Sephy and Callum. The extensive cast also includes Paterson Joseph (who appeared as Alan Johnson, Mark’s super-smooth boss in Peep Show) as Sephy’s father, the home secretary Kamal Hadley, while Bonnie Mbuli plays her mother Jasmine. Callum’s parents are played by Cold Feet actress Helen Baxendale and Ian Hart (who appeared in BBC historical drama The Last Kingdom).

Noughts & Crosses
Noughts & Crosses: Anele Matoti as a policeman with Jude McGregor (Josh Dylan).

What’s Stormzy got to do with all this?

Oh sorry, the Grime MC appears as a guest star in one episode in a specially written role for the show, as a newspaper editor called Kolawale. Stormzy was very open about his excitement over the role when his involvement in the project was revealed last March: “As a diehard fan of Malorie’s novels, being a part of this important show is a dream come true.” Blackman said at the time: “The first time I met Stormzy he informed me he was a huge fan of my Noughts & Crosses series of books.”

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When does Noughts & Crosses air?

It starts on BBC One on 5 March, so there’s not long to wait.

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Images: Ilze Kitshoff/Mammoth Screen

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