Domino Day stars and creator tease BBC’s queer and witchy new series

babirye bukilwa plays sapphic witch Sammie in Domino Day.

Lauren Sequeira, Maimuna Memon and babirye bukilwa talk to PinkNews about meaningful representation, their life-long relationship with witchcraft and “embracing the sexiness” in new BBC drama Domino Day.

The supernatural six-part series follows a coven of modern-day witches in Manchester who face a deadly threat when they try to help a new face on the scene, Domino, played by Siena Kelly.

When Domino’s Tinder dates start taking a terrifying turn, local witches Sammie, Kat, Jules and Geri must work together to get to the bottom of her otherworldly condition and why the forces of witchcraft are stirring against her.

Created by BAFTA-nominated British-Caribbean screenwriter Sequeira, the series features Alisha Bailey as Kat, Molly Harris as Jules, and Poppy Lee Friar as Geri in a story where the human and supernatural world merge.

Siena Kelly stars as Domino in BBC series Domino Day
Siena Kelly stars as Domino in new BBC fantasy series Domino Day. (BBC/Dancing Ledge Productions/Sophie Mutevelian)

Dreaming Whilst Black star bukilwa stars as aura-guided witch and empath Sammie opposite Manic Street Creature singer Memon as her romantic interest, Vedita.

The cast puts women of colour at the forefront of the action, with the 45-minute episodes offering a fresh perspective on female power, male violence and the strength of community.

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“Don’t expect broomsticks, pointy hats and wands,” Sequeira said. “These are witches like you’ve never seen before: cool, provocative and full of grit. They are all spellbinding on screen.”

PinkNews: Tell us more about the inspiration behind the show.

Lauren: In the UK, we don’t do a lot of fantasy. So, I wanted to do a genre piece. In the first 10 minutes of the first episode, you worry for Domino on this date [with a man displaying predatory behaviour] but then… I flipped it. She’s not the victim.

I just built the world around that. I did lots of research into different [kinds of] witchcraft and took what I needed. I built my own rules and wanted to talk about dating and relationships as well. It’s a nice balance between witchy stuff and the real world.

Maimuna and babirye, what attracted you to your characters?

Maimuna: The first thing that really drew me to the character is that so often South Asian women [are] stereotyped. We have to talk about our religion, our cultural heritage. [It’s] very important to me, but the majority of writers in television at the moment are white and there is a lack of nuance with South Asian voices. 

Maimuna Memon in Domino Day
Maimuna Memon in Domino Day (BBC/Dancing Ledge Productions)

[Vedita] is embraced for being strong. She’s got her own business, she’s funny. Yes, her heritage is important to her, but it’s not on the nose. She’s just a woman who exists in the north, trying to get through life like everybody else.

babirye: Similarly, with regards to black women and how they’re perceived on screen, Sammy’s race wasn’t really a part of this. I’m really interested in projects where my intersections aren’t the plot.

It wasn’t a plot that like Sammy is Black, it wasn’t a plot that Sammy’s queer. She can see auras, and she’s got a big heart. I’m also an empath, would consider myself a witch and I see auras, too. It was attractive to play somebody who wears their heart on their sleeve. 

Witches have always had an affinity with the queer community throughout history and fiction. How much did you draw on that connection? 

Lauren: I’m a little bit witchy. I get my cards read every year. I believe in crystals and all of that, so it was just a bit innate in me. In the writers’ room, we would have professors come in, including one professor who was also a witch, Louise Fenton. She told us so many tales about her research, she [even] got into a voodoo ceremony at one point. 

I tried to soak [up] as much as possible. I do believe in witchcraft and I want witches to watch the show and feel seen as well.

Maimuna and babirye, how much has witchcraft been a part of your lives growing up, fictionally and in real life?

babirye: I grew up in Catholicism. We couldn’t watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch, we couldn’t watch Charmed. [After leaving] the church because I didn’t feel safe there, I had to lean on my own understanding of nature, on things I felt intrinsic inside.

babirye bukilwa in Domino Day
babirye bukilwa in Domino Day. (BB/Dancing Ledge Productions/Ben Gregory-Ring)

I was very much into finding out about indigenous practices that were present prior to colonisation, prior to the dehumanisation of Black people. For me, it was a very personal journey with regards to keeping myself open to magic.

I believe we’re born with these magical parts of us, and the world beats it out of us in order for us to remain in capitalistic labour. My religion is the divinity of nature. 

Maimuna: I’ve always loved the supernatural, especially as a teenager. I wouldn’t call my beliefs witchcraft, but I suppose I’m a very spiritual person. I grew up in a Muslim household which is a very spiritual, gentle practice and I feel culturally tied to that. Spirituality, in whatever form it takes, is really important, to believe in something bigger than ourselves.

How would you explain Domino Day to someone who is learning about it for the first time?

Lauren: Embrace the sexiness of this show. It’s deep and spiritual and about the connections that all the characters make with [one another]. Everyone needs a Sammie or a Vedita in their life.

Maimuna: A supernatural show about finding your place in the world.

babirye: To add to that, it fastens your seatbelt, takes you on a ride and doesn’t let go until the end.

Domino Day arrives on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer next Wednesday 31 January.