Noughts & Crosses: Five key differences between the BBC series and the books

Noughts & Crosses: Five key differences between the BBC series and the books


NOUGHTS And Crosses was first published in 2001, and now the BBC is bringing Malorie  Blackman's story to our screens.

While the novel was inspired by topical issues such as the death of Stephen Lawrence, a few changes have been made to help cover even more topical issues.

We take a look at the key differences between the beloved novel and the long-awaited adaptation.

Callum and Sephy are older

The books start when Sephy and Callum are young kids but the adaptation decides to kick off with our lead characters around the age of 18.

This means Jack Rowan (Callum) and Masali Baduza (Sephy) are able to play the characters throughout and helps to make their romance for less of a puppy love situation.

The show's executive producer Preethi Mavahalli explained at a Q&A: "It was a long discussion with Malorie early in the development process and we felt that if you age-up the characters, they are forced into proper young adult choices.

"So as young characters, it’s easy to dismiss their love as puppy love, whereas when they get older, they’re really having to choose where their loyalties lie and where they want their lives to lead.

She continued: "And they have to make choices between their family and their love. And it felt like the stakes were higher and it really, really was able to sort of push the premise further."

While the pair were childhood friends like in the books, they had lost touch until fate brings them back together again in the first episode.

Callum is trying to enter the military

In the books, Callum and Sephy are schoolkids when he tries to study at Heathcroft, a prestigious school for Crosses.

But in this version of the tale, Sephy is preparing to study politics at university while Callum is hoping to join the Army.

Like with Heathcroft, it's the first time Noughts are being the chance to join such a well-regarded institution.

And they are not welcomed with open arms by the clearly disapproving sergeants.

It's set in modern London

It's been over twenty years since Malorie Blackman first started writing the books and in that time we've seen huge leaps in technology.

Those changes are reflected in the series through the use of mobile phones, viral clips and right-wing groups.

Political propaganda in the media is made more evident in the show as well.

While the issue of police brutality, stop and search and the Black Lives Matter movement also play a role in subtle changes to the storyline.

There are new characters

The six-episode series allows for new stories and characters to be added to the familiar tale.

Due to the change in their age and relationship, Sephy now has a boyfriend named Lekan.

He is attending the military academy that Callum hopes to gain a place at, and he is the definition of a privileged preppy type who loves to belittle Noughts.

While we are teased with the addition of a mysterious new character who causes both Sephy's dad and Callum's mother to whisper his name in hushed tones during the first episode.

However, Callum’s sister Lynette does not appear to feature in the series.

Callum's friend is attacked by police at the start of the episode, and his parents are also new to the story.

And rapper Stormzy plays newspaper editor Kolawale, in a role created especially for the show.

It taps into the current political issues of Broken Britain

The script clearly takes a lot of inspiration from the issues and discourse that have been taking place in both the UK and the US in recent years.

From the division caused by Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, fake news and social movements such as Black Lives Matter, there is a far more political edge to some of the scenes.

Despite the change from the original text, Malorie Blackman approves of the end product.

She explained: "The adaptation is very true to the spirit and the soul of the book. It hits certain plot points in the book which are hit but not necessarily in the way they are presented in the book.

"I think the way they’ve done it has been really clever. I mean, in the end, there’s no way that if you’re doing an adaptation, that it can be exactly the same as the book.

She added: "If you’re doing a cover version of a song and you make it exactly the same as the original, why bother."

Noughts & Crosses premieres on BBC One today, Thursday March 5. All episodes will then drop on BBC iPlayer.

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