Interview with Shaun Dingwall who plays Jack Dorn in 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


What attracted you to the role of Jack Dorn?
What is so clever about Malorie Blackman’s novel is how it asks you to look at the way society is structured. It makes you see it in a new way that is thought provoking and fascinating. I hadn’t read anything like it before; I certainly have never seen anything like this before and the part of Jack Dorn… I have never played a part like this before so, naturally it was a no-brainer.

He is a provocateur, a political stirrer, a troublemaker and above all else, ultimately he is a terrorist and will stop at nothing to further the cause. In some ways he is a perfect reflection of the character Kamal Hadley, as they are both political animals interested in chaos and disruption to achieve their ultimate goals. Their goals are different but the means they would use to get there are not dissimilar.

Dorn is the leader of an organisation called the Liberation Militia (LM). He calls the shots, gives the orders and often carries out acts himself. The objective of the LM is the liberation of Albion and what they are after is to make the country great again, and in their eyes the only way to do that is by liberating the Noughts, the inferior race. It is a familiar story, one we see on the news every day. Dorn is an extremist and nothing will get in his way. Whether it be corruption, murder, blackmail or kidnapping, he will abrogate anything if it will further his cause.

Tell us about the alternate world the drama is set in.
You are dropped into a world that shows you what it might be like to be part of an underclass who are not properly looked after by the government. In the world that this is set in the Noughts are the underclass, they get paid less, they’re less likely to go into higher education, they don’t get employed in high-ranking jobs, they’re more likely to live in poverty and more likely to be in prison.

It opens your eyes to what it might be like to be born with skin that is out of favour with the ruling class, which is not something I have ever had to think about before. It makes you seriously think about those things and that is what we are striving for with this show.

Was it challenging to play Dorn?
There's a moment in the final episode that was especially dark to film. You hear so many actors say that acting is just pretending, and that's true to a certain extent, but if you pretend to do something properly then you have to give it a lot of thought and you have to go there and questions the what, how, where and why, and that takes you down a train of thought that is dark and opens you up to a darker side of human nature.

I can’t say things like that are a walk in the park. It has to be real because the audience need to believe it and if they don’t, it’s because I didn’t.

I also had a few fight scenes in this drama, and you always walk away feeling like you have actually been in a fight, even though there are stunt co-ordinators on this and you are very looked after. The emotions that it brings up are that of somebody having a fight so when you finish there is a sense of catharsis and also of relief that that hasn’t actually happened, that you’re not really hurt but in your mind you had to imagine it was real and that can be challenging and also quite dark.

When you are playing a part like this you have to learn to shake it off afterwards. It is hard to not take your work home with you but you have to or you’d go mad, I definitely would - I do not want to take Jack Dorn home with me.

You got to sport a brand new hairstyle for this role...
The makeup and hair on this show was fantastic and really helped create this alternate world. My hair is down to my shoulders at the moment and it has never been this long in my life, so they added extensions and made up dreadlocks, which were then sewed into my own hair. When it is all down it went down to my lower back, it was fantastic but it did make me realise how heavy hair can be.

Dorn is also covered in tattoos -  I had to have them put on in the exact same spots each day so I spent about an hour and a half in the morning and then again at the end of the day in the make-up chair.

Noughts + Crosses is bringing issues such as race and inequality to the small screen - do you think that's a necessity in today’s social and political climate?
It is about prejudice, that is the kernel of it all. People have a strong sense of injustice, when we feel like there is injustice towards us, that something is unjustified or unfair we really feel it - and whether it is a promotion or someone pushing in front of us in a queue, it gets our backs up in a way that is powerful.

If you extrapolate that, and take it to something like racial injustice and someone not getting a job due to the colour of their skin, then there is something wrong there and it needs to be addressed - and that is what these books and this drama are talking about. It is about injustice, and whether it is political, racial or sexual, injustice needs to have a spotlight shot on it and needs to be put under the microscope.

Maybe I am a pessimist but I think we have a long way to go yet. It's a difficult and politically weird climate in this country at the moment and it is a very prescient time for this story to come out. It's a bold story to be telling and brave and brilliant for the BBC to be making it - I hope people enjoy it. 

March 5, 2020 5:25am ET by BBC One  


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