Interview with Josh Dylan 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


Josh Dylan plays Jude McGregor in Noughts + Crosses.

Were you familiar with Malorie Blackman’s books?
Noughts & Crosses was a big thing at school and a lot of my peers were and still are obsessed with it. It had a real impact on our generation and people look back on the books so fondly and remember how important it was reading them for the first time. Our adaptation has matured along with its fans - it has been made more accessible and grittier.

How did you feel about the character of Jude?
I read these books on a family holiday when I was younger and I distinctly remember the character of Jude. I was very drawn to him and I knew it would be a challenging role to undertake because Jude goes through an awful lot and although he is quite relatable, his situation is not. The extremes Jude has to deal with are intense, and the rage and the complexity of that rage on a broader political and racial scale is considerable.

As an actor it is an incredible role to take on - there is so much to get stuck into, and hopefully he can be a vehicle to help people look at issues surrounding race in a different way that they may not have done before. I wanted to present not just a young racist, because it is not just that - it is about injustice on a broader sense. Jude is a young man who is trying to find his value and place in a divided and unforgiving world.

Did you relate to Jude?
I have struggled with connecting to this role in a healthy sense, as an actor, because how on earth do you relate to terrorism, for example, and the consequences of that? How do you connect to that? I have had to be quite creative. With Jude, things happen to him so quickly that he rarely has time to think about it all for himself, and for me I tried to embrace that sense of momentum with the series of events.

From the very first scene there is a domino effect of remarkable things that happen to him and his family. So I worked on embracing that and the idea of this young man who is caught in a terrifying tornado.

The opening scene is crazy. It sets the show off in an electrifying way, setting up the tension and danger. We open on an illegal rave and Jude is front and centre, hanging out of the window of a spinning car. It is edgy and dangerous, but it is where the Noughts feel they can express themselves. Jude loves it because it is a context in which he is an emperor. You have five minutes of exhilarating fun and happiness and then it goes downhill rapidly and the avalanche begins.

Tell us about Jude's relationship with his younger brother Callum, and their on-screen family.
Fundamentally Jude and his younger brother, Callum, are very different. Jude has an overwhelming sense of love and protection for and towards his brother, that is also mixed in with a bit of jealousy. Callum is more reasonable and level headed and Jude envies that to a degree, but also loves him and wants him to do perhaps what Jude didn’t have the foresight to do himself. Throughout this series though, they get torn apart and there is a lot of anger between them.

Callum is the golden boy of the family, but with Jude and his father, Ryan there is a similarity through their involvement in the Liberation Militia, a radical Nought organisation that fights for Nought rights, of which Ryan was once a lionised figure.

Jude desperately wants his dad to guide him through that path, but Ryan knows it’s too dangerous and he wants to protect Jude from it. His son however, doesn’t see it like that - he instead sees it as cowardice and fear. There is a truly heartbreaking moment that is all Jude’s fault and it is crushing for him. He then has the choice to sit in a dark hole and cry about it or to accept what has happened, embrace it as part of a necessary political journey, and move on, to survive.

Tell us about the world Noughts + Crosses is set within.
This world is fascinating - I have not got my head completely around it and I hope audiences won’t be able to either straight away, because what we are asking people to do with this show is to imagine history reconfigured.

The whole infrastructure of this society is African, and in terms of fashion and language and everything else, it is something I haven’t seen on screen before. This show is reimagining how things would be had there not been a European colonisation. Kibwe [Tavares], our executive producer, created an entire coffee table book where he had re-written history to show us what has led up to modern day in this fictional world. It is incredible, the world we have created, and visually it is unlike anything I have seen before.

The Noughts are a suppressed people, which unfortunately is something we see all over the world. This drama is an unconventional exploration of race, which is why I believe it is vital television. It will be challenging and fresh. It is accessible for people who are fortunate enough to not have been on the end of racial discrimination, people like myself who have never been stopped from doing something because of the colour of their skin. This is a real, everyday issue for people, and so for it to be flipped will hopefully draw in people in a new way and make audiences think.

March 5, 2020 3:55am ET by BBC One  


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