SA’s Masali Baduza Stars In BBC's Noughts + Crosses

An alternative to the traditional Romeo and Juliet story

By  | Jun 22, 2020, 01:49 PM  | Masali Baduza 

Noughts + Crosses is a controversial six-part BBC One series that has just started screening on Showmax and M-Net, with new episodes every Thursday night from 23:30.

The series is largely shot in Cape Town and tells the story of two star-crossed lovers in the tradition of Romeo and Juliet portrayed by South African Masali Baduza (Trackers) and BAFTA winner Jack Rowan (Born To Kill, Peaky Blinders). 

The series also stars Paterson Joseph (Peep Show, The Leftovers) and South African actress Bonnie Mbuli (Invictus, Wallander) as Sephy’s parents, Kamal and Jasmine, with BAFTA nominee Helen Baxendale (Cold Feet, Emily in Friends) and Tribeca winner Ian Hart (Professor Quirrell in Harry Potter) as Callum’s parents, as well as Josh Dylan (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, The End of the F***ing World) as his brother Jude.

The alternate reality love story is based on the multi-award-winning 2001 novel by former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, which was included in both BBC’s list of the 100 Novels That Shaped The World and in The Guardian’s 100 Best Books of the 21st Century.

Grime superstar Stormzy, who has a cameo in the series as newspaper editor Kolawale, calls the five-book series “my favourite books of all time.”

“What I wanted to do was have the black people in my story, not as victims, but celebrating their own culture,” says Blackman.

“Prior to reading Malorie’s books, I had never heard of a world that existed where Africans were the ruling class,” says Baduza.

“As a black African, I have never seen a television show that showcased our being or our ways, in a way that was given a place and was acceptable, until now,” says Mbuli.


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Visionary short film director Kibwe Tavares (Jonah, Robots of Brixton, Robot & Scarecrow) executive produced the series and steered the creation of its Afrocentric world, where everything has been rethought, from the language to the architecture, from beauty norms to the colour of plasters.

Noughts + Crosses
was the number-one show across all channels when it premiered on 5 March 2020 in Britain.

Of course, the glowing reviews weren’t universal: The Independent predicted: “this race reversal drama will induce hernias in right-wing commentators” - and they weren’t wrong. Trolls took to Twitter to denounce it as “deeply racist”, “anti-white tripe” and “race-baiting.”

Blackman was having none of it. “Btw, to those accusing me of being anti-white or stating I must hate white people to create such a story as Noughts and Crosses, I’m not even going to dignify your absurd nonsense with a response,” she tweeted. “Go take a seat waaaay over there in the cold, dark and bitter haters' corner.”

As Stormzy put it on Twitter, “This is 100% groundbreaking… I haven’t seen nothing like it on British telly ever.”

Main Image Credit: Instagram.com/noughtcrosstv