You may recognise Wunmi Mosaku from her portrayal of Gloria Taylor, the mother of Damilola Taylor in the acclaimed BBC drama, Damilola Taylor: Our Beloved Boy, last year. The RADA-trained, Nigerian born actress has certainly been busy, appearing in recent blockbusters, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, to name a few. You will no doubt be seeing even more of the talented actress as she has landed some juicy roles over the coming months.
Born in Zaria, a big city in northern Nigeria, to university lecturers, Wunmi moved to Manchester at the age of one and a half when her mother was offered a PHD at Manchester UMIST.
At 18 years old, Wunmi diverted from her original career path to study drama at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
“It was a bit of a culture shock because I was meant to go to university to do Maths and Economics and ended up at drama school doing animal study and pretending to be a chameleon!”
At only 19, Wunmi met the late British Theatre director, Bill Gaskill who became her dear friend and role model, teaching her politics, theatre, history, and how to improve her acting.
Following his advice, her acting career has now won her many awards, such as the ROMA Fiction Best Actress Award and an MVSA Award for her role in Moses Jones, as well as the Screen Nation Award for her role in I Am Slave.
In 2016, Mosaku starred in the heart-breaking drama, Damilola Taylor: Our Beloved Boy, based on the true events of the tragic death of the young boy. Wunmi’s performance as the mother of Damilola, Gloria Taylor, was highly praised. Speaking of the experience she said: “It’s so hard when you’re dealing with a true story. It’s just heart-breaking – the death of a 10-year old boy with a potential that was never reached. For the Taylor family, it’s been tragedy from the moment they came to the UK. As an actor, you try to imagine being in their shoes completely and utterly, which of course you can’t, but I felt a responsibility to Gloria and to the family to bring as much to the role as I could.”
This year, Wunmi returns in Guerrilla, which was written and directed by Academy Award Winning writer John Ridley (12 Years A Slave). Starring Babou Ceesay, Frida Pinto, Idris Elba and Zawe Ashton, the six-episode miniseries follows the story of a young couple, played by Frida Pinto and Babou Ceesay, whose relationship gets tested when they liberate a political prisoner.
Striving to free themselves of social oppression, they create an underground cell and go up against Scotland Yard’s Black Power Desk, who were working to keep the black revolution at bay in the UK.
Set in the 1970s, Mosaku plays prostitute Kenya. Wunmi shares her experience on set, working with her co-stars, including long-time friend Zawe Ashton, saying: “the energy was always positive and jovial” as the cast tried to keep things uplifting off-camera.
“When we were on camera, all these nasty words were being thrown about, with all these unpleasant scenarios, which meant that when we were off camera, everyone was just really gentle with each other.”
Later this year, Mosaku will also star in ITV’s new legal thriller Fearless, written and produced by Homeland’s Patrick Harbinson. She plays ‘Olivia Greenwood’, a senior police officer with whom maverick barrister Emma Banville, played by Helen McCrory, comes into conflict as Banville seeks to overturn a miscarriage of justice.
As a proactive actress bringing black stories to life, Wunmi believes the situation is slowly improving, with young black men and women like Michaela Coel and John Ridley, writing stories and finally having them told.
“I also think in some ways, film makers are becoming less scared of ostracising some audiences and realising that the stories black people are telling are universal stories, the kind that we can all relate to, regardless of colour.”
With a blossoming career, Wunmi allows herself some downtime, cycling around London, attending yoga classes, crafting at home or hanging out with friends.
Wunmi continues to march to the beat of her own drum, encouraging up and coming actors to do the same.
“I feel like the best piece of advice I’ve been given is: compare and despair. It’s so hard to be positive if you’re constantly looking at what other people are doing.”
With so many celebrated performances under her arm, Wunmi shows great maturity and vulnerability in her acting and we can’t wait to see more from her!