What ‘Noughts + Crosses’ EP Wants White Audiences to Learn From Alternate History Series

U.K.-imported Peacock series asks what the world would look like “if the shoe was on the other foot”

The new Peacock Original series “Noughts + Crosses” presents a vision of what society would look like if Africa had colonized Europe instead of the other way around. Out Friday on Peacock, the BBC One-imported series is set in the dystopian fictional world from Malorie Blackman’s novel of the same name in which white “Noughts” are ruled over by Black “Crosses.”

Executive producer Kibwe Tavares says the series is meant to “hold a mirror” to society. He hopes it’ll encourage white audiences to take a hard look at themselves.

“Really, what we’re trying to do is have a reflection of what the world is and allow people to put themselves in the shoes of someone maybe on the receiving end of racism,” Tavares told TheWrap. “To say, look, this is how you’re acting. What would it look like if the shoe was on the other foot?”

Adapting the novel, which is so successful in the U.K. that it’s been put on school syllabuses, for television was a heavy undertaking, Tavares said. As someone with Caribbean ancestry, one of the most emotionally challenging parts for him was retracing history.

“We had to unpack a real history that’s very painful, and quite close to a lot of people’s hearts,” he said. “You have to really understand why you’re doing it and what you’re trying to say with it.”

“As a Black person, you’re used to having lots of conversations about race,” he continued. “Currently, we of course have much more candid conversations about race, which is kind of cool. We just had to be really open and honest and talk a lot about our own personal experience. We spent a lot of time talking about what might happen to ourselves and comparing stories.”

At the end of the day, as much as the show was meant to make white audiences think, Kibwe says, it was also meant to make Black audiences feel empowered.

“We had to find lots of nuances and lots of subtlety within the world and within the characters, so things like the hair become big things,” he said. “If our dominant culture is Black, then Afro hair is the norm, and then that would become the basis for what haircuts are had in the army, [and] what advertising you see on the streets.”

“As long as the characters were complex and we were getting the balance right, that’s what we really wanted,” he continued. “You want rich full characters, whether they’re Black or white.”

“Noughts + Crosses” premieres Friday, Sept. 4 on Peacock.