Jack Rowan teases forbidden love story at heart of Noughts and Crosses

Peaky Blinders actor Jack Rowan tells us about the forbidden love affair at the heart of the BBC's dystopian drama

What would life be like in Britain if, rather than Europe colonising Africa, history had happened the other way around? That’s the premise of new drama Noughts and Crosses, based on the Malorie Blackman books for young adults.

The BBC1 series is set in a London where black culture is dominant, while whites – or ‘blanks’ – are the underclass.

Against this backdrop, a love story develops across the racial divide between Callum (Peaky Blinders actor Jack Rowan), and Sephy (newcomer Masali Baduza).

“Callum strives to do better and hasn’t a bad bone in his body,” says Jack of his character, whose mother Meggie (Helen Baxendale) works for Sephy’s wealthy family. “But he takes so many knocks that he’s eventually pushed over the edge.”

Helen Baxendale and Ian Hart play Callum’s parents Meggie and Ryan

While Callum’s father (Ian Hart) and brother are engaged in the battle against the authorities, Sephy’s father Kamal (Patterson Joseph) is a politician who advocates harsher treatment of blanks. Not surprisingly, the lovestruck young couple have to tread carefully.

“It’s about the desire to be together,” says Jack. “They’ll go to any lengths to do that, and have to seek out secluded spots.”

To reflect centuries of black colonisation, Noughts and Crosses, which features a guest appearance from grime artist Stormzy, has a distinctive look.

British musician Stormzy guest stars as newspaper editor Kolawale, a character created for the TV series

“Callum wears African prints, because that’s what would be in the shops,” explains Jack who, having had his Peaky Blinders haircut, gets a different style when Callum joins the military.

“I get dreadlocks!” he reveals. “In any military they cut your hair, and in this one it’s like: “We’re letting you in, but you have to look like us.” So they braided my hair, which was exciting!”

Noughts and Crosses starts on BBC1 on Thursday 5 March at 9pm and will be available from that date as a box set on BBC iPlayer.

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