Interview with Paterson Joseph on Noughts + Crosses
Noughts + Crosses The much anticipated adaptation of book one of Malorie Blackman's award-winning young adult series
Paterson Joseph plays Kamal Hadley in Noughts + Crosses.
What were the challenges of taking on the role of Kamal Hadley?
That is somewhere I have never had to go with any character I have played before, so that fascinated me. Kamal is a slick politician with a very firm idea of what he wants the country to be and that country is black ruled. The white population, or as they are referred to in our story, the Noughts, have no say in how things are run.
People who read Malorie Blackman’s books are of an age where they are now the adults watching it at home and we wouldn’t want to disappoint them with something so different. But at the same time they are not children anymore, they are fully grown participants in society and they want to know about the politics, the food, the music and fashion, how people negotiate work and what the class system is like.
That is what we are attempting to do with this adaptation - to broaden it out for a more adult audience, so we can see that this is the way the world is structured. And that is why Sephy and Callum are going through what they are going through.
Can you describe the alternative world that this drama is set within, and how it was created?
It's politically quite hot. Filming in South Africa you are in an ex-apartheid country doing a show about apartheid in reverse. There are so many small moments that a lot of people wouldn’t think about, like the fact that flesh coloured plasters are not the flesh colour of anyone but white people. It is an insidious, tiny, incremental knock to you as a citizen of any country to be told what normal is in those casual ways.
There a lot of tiny things like that: the clothes you wear, the colour of them, the way you speak, things that are so important to us in Britain particularly when designating who is who, where they have come from, what their job likely is, where they live, their level of education and all the things we break down just from hearing someone speak or seeing them come into a room. Working on this drama has exercised all of our minds and made us super aware of everything.
Do you have a stand-out moment from the shoot?
What is your understanding of Kamal, and how do you make sense of his heinous behaviour?
Starting with his name, Hadley - this is such an English sounding name, I figured there must have been a white man who was part of his family line. Knowing that could, if you become radicalised about race, lead you to want to reject it, and that is part of his motivation. It was part of my justification as to why he has that blind side to the Noughts. He is denying a major part of his DNA in order to - he believes - fulfil his bigger destiny which is the establishment of a black superpower.
The other factor is his emotional past. That story is about something to do with his own heart and having to kill a part of himself in order to fulfil what he thinks is his destiny, which leads him to be a cold character towards most people except Sephy.
Tell us about the relationship between Kamal and Sephy.
That was heartbreaking because our relationship is very close and warm, unlike Kamal's relationship with Minerva (Kiké Brimah), Sephy’s older sister, and Jasmine (Bonnie Mbuli), his wife, which are casual and almost cold. Sephy brings out the joy of fatherhood in Kamal, she is smart and sensitive, and she is obedient up until this story kicks off. Her ambitions are likely political which Kamal is very pleased about, and then it all turns sour because of, in Kamal’s eyes, the McGregors - the bane of his life.
Are you prepared for audiences to dislike Kamal?
March 4, 2020 4:15am ET by BBC One