Noughts & Crosses: ‘Malorie Blackman sees us as Callum and Sephy’

Callum and Sephy. To fans of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses series of novels, they’re as identifiable as Romeo and Juliet.

The saga, a world where black people (known as Crosses) rule and white citizens (Noughts) are the underclass, has been adapted into a major new drama series for BBC One. For actors Masali Baduza and Jack Rowan, taking on the roles of Sephy and Callum means playing characters so many readers feel they already know intimately.

BBC Bitesize spoke to them about what it means to bring the characters from the printed page to the small screen.

Jack Rowan and Masali Baduza play Callum and Sephy

Masali felt she connected with Sephy from the start: “I was reading Noughts & Crosses whilst I was auditioning for the show,” she said. “I knew that I really wanted to play Sephy and I could just tell from this book that this is going to be an iconic character.”

Jack added: “They’re held in high regard, they’re so close to some people’s hearts, you know? They’ve been in their childhoods and maybe still in people’s childhoods now. So to have that opportunity to bring them to screen, it feels monumental, it feels unique and special.”

They both admitted it’s a satisfying endorsement on their hard work that Malorie Blackman said at the series premiere how she now thinks of Jack and Masali as Callum and Sephy. Jack responded: “It’s epic, considering it’s been her world for so long.”

Masali Badzua and Jack Rowan as Sephy and Callum in Noughts & Crosses

In that same world, Sephy comes from a wealthy background. Her father is the home secretary (played by Paterson Joseph) while working class Callum is someone from her childhood. They are reunited in the first episode, at a birthday party held for Sephy’s mother.

Masali said: “For me, Sephy is a very, I would say, hopeful and helpful optimistic person and she uses her privilege for the better. And I think, whatever privilege I have in my life, I like to think that I help those less privileged or going through a rougher life than me.”

Jack sees some similarities between him and his Character Callum

Jack believes his own background is reflected in Callum. “I’m a working class boy myself,” he said.

“There’s that element of you have no hate in your heart, you want to get to where you want to get to, you want to improve your life and I think that’s at the basis of Callum.

“Even though I live in a different world than Callum does, Callum still doesn’t have hate towards Crosses.”

Their story is just beginning. We won’t reveal how it ends. Not just yet.

Noughts & Crosses begins on BBC One on 5 March. Viewers can also see the entire series on BBC iPlayer immediately after the first episode.

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