Peaky Blinders star Jack Rowan and newcomer Masali Baduza are to lead the lineup of the BBC’s dystopian drama Noughts + Crosses.

The six-part series, which is produced by Victoria producer Mammoth Screen for BBC One, will also star Timeless’ Paterson Joseph, Wallander’s Bonnie Mbuli, Love Type D’s Kike Brimah, Cold Feet’s Helen Baxendale, The Last Kingdom’s Ian Hart, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’s Josh Dylan, Goodbye Christopher Robin’s Shaun Dingwall, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’s Rakie Ayola and Jonathan Ajayi.

The adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s young adult book, the series tells the story of first love in a dangerous, alternate world where racism divides society. It is written by Toby Whithouse (Being Human), Lydia Adetunji (Riviera), Nathaniel Price (Tin Star) and Rachel De-Lahay (Kiri) and filming has begun in South Africa.

Noughts + Crosses follows two young people Sephy and Callum, played by Baduza and Rowan respectively, who are divided by their colour but united by love. Sephy is a ‘Cross’, a member of the black ruling class and daughter of a prominent politician. Callum is a ‘Nought’, a white member of the underclass. The two have been friends since early childhood but their relationship grows ever more complicated as they come of age. It’s the story of two families separated by power and prejudice but forever entwined by fate.

Joseph plays Sephy’s father, the Home Secretary Kamal Hadley, Mbuli plays her mother Jasmine and her sister Minerva is played by Brimah. Baxendale and Hart play Callum’s parents Meggie and Ryan and Dylan will play his older brother Jude. Dingwall plays Liberation Militia leader Dorn.

Noughts + Crosses is directed by Julian Holmes (Daredevil) and Koby Adom and produced by Johann Knobel (Shameless). Executive Producers are Whithouse, Kibwe Tavares, Patrick Reardon for Roc Nation; Participant Media’s Jeff Skoll and Miura Kite; Preethi Mavahalli and Damien Timmer for Mammoth Screen and Ben Irving for BBC One. It will be distributed internationally by ITV Studios Global Entertainment.

Malorie Blackman said, “I’m thrilled that the TV dramatisation of Noughts + Crosses has such an amazing cast to bring the story to the screen. It will be so exciting to see how the writers and actors open up the world I created, adding new breadth and detail.”

Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, said, “Noughts + Crosses is a novel that leaves an indelible impression on anyone who reads it. It’s fantastic that we have such an electric cast and crew bringing this powerful story to the screen for the first time on BBC One.”

Mavahalli added, “It is an absolute honour to be adapting this treasured novel for television. We are delighted to have such a phenomenal cast bringing this iconic love story to the screen for both existing fans and a whole new audience.”