Interview with Helen Baxendale on Noughts + Crosses
Noughts + Crosses The much anticipated adaptation of book one of Malorie Blackman's award-winning young adult series
Noughts + Crosses starts Thursday 5 March on BBC One
Helen Baxendale plays Meggie McGregor in Noughts + Crosses.
What drew you to the role of Meggie McGregor?
Meggie wants what is best for her family and so she tries to work within the system to do the best for all of their lives, but she doesn’t see change coming any time soon. She sees the destructive elements within violent resistance and so she has made a pact with her husband, Ryan (Ian Hart), that they won't involve themselves in that anymore, for their kids.
Now her youngest son, Callum (Jack Rowan) has a chance to do something different at Mercy Point, by becoming one of the first ever Nought cadets allowed in the academy, and she is very supportive because she sees it as a new start, a chance to do something different.
Tell us about the role race plays in this world and this story.
I would go through a door in London and I wouldn’t think twice about simply saying thank you, however, if you are an oppressed minority and someone opens the door then that interchange is different. It is moments like that, which are quite hard to grasp. There is still vast inequality everywhere you look in the world, and this drama is about race but it is also about the subjugation of anybody and about inequality.
There are eye-opening moments filming this show, like when I was apologising to the costume department as I only had a black bra to wear under my costume but they told me that it was perfect as in this world there would only be black bras because they are made for the Crosses.
How does your character bridge the Nought/Cross divide?
Two generations ago my family were working class and some of them were working as staff at big houses, so moments in this drama are relatable for me.
The McGregors are poverty stricken but they have a hell of a lot of pride - you keep your house immaculate and you dress well, so I wanted Meggie to be proper. We are poor but it is really important that we are not broken.
Meggie is very aware of the constraints of society and she knows that they won't be broken for a long time, but within that you can lead a decent life with hope and joy. She sees that her home is warmer and more functional than the Hadley’s house, and that actually money and status do not matter. In fact, she understands that a lot of those things don’t matter, but she does also want chances for her sons, which is why Mercy Point is so important to her.
For Meggie, the ceremony at Mercy Point, where Callum is sworn in, is a moment of pride and joy. We filmed this outside in an amazing location in South Africa and the sun was beaming. We, the Noughts, got to dress up and go on equal terms - almost - with the Hadley’s and the rest of the Crosses, because we are parents of a cadet. It was an amazing moment to film and we had some incredible African dancers performing.
Tell us about Meggie's friendship with Jasmine Hadley.
Meggie does bind the two families and maybe, when Sephy and Callum were young, she might have thought of what it would be like if they were together, but casts it from her mind as absurd and dangerous. But she knows both of them and loves both of them and realises it isn't an absurd notion - but it is dangerous.
How did you switch off and step away from Meggie at the end of a day's shoot?
Luckily there are a lot of characters in this story, so the weight is shared among us all. At the heart of this tale is a beautiful love story and a sense of hope. Meggie clings on to this notion of hope, believing that something good can come out of the tragedy. She thinks she has been part of the problem and she feels like she can do something to redress the balance. So she does.
March 3, 2020 7:15am ET by BBC One