“Our image was hijacked – Noughts and Crosses finally allows us to represent ourselves”

Supermodel Eunice Olumide talks about what it means to be part of the cast of the TV adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s iconic novel Noughts and Crosses, and why it’s so important that this story is finally being told on the screen. 

Nearly 20 years ago Noughts and Crosses became one of the most impactful young adult novels to permeate the market.

You might have been its target audience at the time, greedily reading its pages on the school bus home. Maybe you came to it a little later, borrowing it from an older sibling. But even if you haven’t read it, you’ll likely have heard of it, especially Malorie Blackman’s powerful plot which flips British societal race roles by depicting black people in power and white people as the oppressed.

Its transition to the screen has been a long time coming. Critically acclaimed and adored by fans the world over, Noughts and Crosses not only tells a story of love and hope in the face of adversity that will stir anyone who reads it, it’s an important statement on how racism destroys lives. 

Among the cast for the BBC One production which launches tonight (5 March) are names such as Helen Baxendale (Cold Feet, Friends), Paterson Joseph (Timeless, Peep Show) and Stormzy – as well as Scottish supermodel, podcast host and actor Eunice Olumide.

Olumide speaks to Stylist.co.uk about what it means to be part of this important story and the effect that being part of this production has had on her and the cast.

“I think that Malorie Blackman did such a good job of telling a story that is so relevant to many people’s lives and creating this reversal of how things are in our reality. It was really interesting to listen to actors like Jack Rowan (Peaky Blinders) who plays Callum McGregor, talking about how they had never played a character like that before.

“The main storyline is about two young people and how their respect, love and loyalty transcends all these serious issues, but I really enjoyed speaking with some of the actors about how much they learned from playing their roles. It was quite inspirational, so I hope that the film will do a lot to help people to understand some of the wider social, economic and political issues in society.”

Although we have a long way to go, Olumide says that she’s recently noticed a positive movement of “particularly people of colour who have been asserting themselves within film and television.” This is something that she thinks makes this production so important, because of the diversity of the cast and crew working on it.

“I think that the reason things have changed is because now we’re seeing much more people of colour involved in the production of film making process,” she continues.

Noughts and Crosses is partly directed by Koby Adom who is an amazing, young, new director who I find really inspirational. I believe this is his first big production and I think that it’s just brilliant because of how little black people have been able to represent themselves in TV and film and previously we were always seen through a very specific gaze which was very obviously white and represented in that way.”

It’s crucial that the entertainment industry continues to include people of colour in every step of the storytelling, something which Noughts and Crosses has made a priority.

“I think that’s why this story and series is so successful and so fantastic and so authentic because of the amount of diversity in the crew, in the production, in the writer and I think that’s what makes this really unique and a really quite special piece of art. Our image has been hijacked in the past, but productions like this mean that people of colour are able to represent themselves.”

Noughts and Crosses will begin on BBC One tonight at 9pm.

Eunice Olumide’s dress is from sustainable borrow and return fashion brand My Wardrobe HQ.

Images: Eunice Olumide / Ilze Kitshoff

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