Wunmi Mosaku throws viewers for a loop as a white woman in ‘Lovecraft Country’
Nigerian-born British actress and singer, Wunmi Mosaku, is one of the leads in the fantasy horror drama, “Lovecraft Country”.
She shares the spotlight with the talented Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Jonathan Majors, Aunjanue Ellis, Courtney B Vance, Abbey Lee, Jada Harris and Michael K. Williams.
In many ways, this series reminds me of the “American Gods” franchise, where the viewer is wonderfully immersed in the worlds of the lead characters.
As the different scenarios play out, the lines between reality and fantasy blur.
In “Lovecraft Country”, Atticus Freeman, joined by friend Letitia and Uncle George, goes in search of his missing father.
Along the way, they deal with tragic loses and setbacks.
Set in the 1950s, travelling through the segregated US poses various challenges for the three of them.
Aside from unsettling encounters with white America, they find themselves in hair-raising situations with various monsters as imagined in a paperback written by HP Lovecraft.
Mosaku is cast as Ruby Baptiste. Now the 30-something actress has bagged a few plum roles on the big and small screen and this one has thrown viewers for a loop, particularly episode 5, where, thanks to a magical potion, she transforms into a white woman.
On the appeal of this series, she said: “When I read the script, I was like: ‘I love a good family drama.’ I was hooked in, even from the first book that Atticus reads on the bus.
“The family drama felt completely real, dramatic and familiar, and then HP Lovecraft just like bolts in.
“I had never seen anything like it. I realised it was a book after my audition and then I read the book and loved it.”
Although Mosaku has featured in a wide gamut of genres - some of her standout roles being in “Luther”, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, “Sweetness in the Belly” and “His House” - this one pulled her out of her comfort zone.
She added: “I didn't feel like I got that opportunity generally as a black actress to be in a period piece.
“I think I've only done one before, in the 1930s in London. I think that playing an African-American in this time period for me is completely new. And it was playing a singer and learning the guitar.
“We had some vocal coaches on board because I don't normally sing in that genre (blues) at all.
“I played the guitar every single day for like, the whole job, and I still can't play (she laughs). I still get very nervous when the camera rolls and then just forget everything.”
In the series, she plays Smollett-Bell’s sister. As siblings, they don’t exactly get along like a house on fire. She dipped into her personal experiences to channel the right emotions.
“I have two older sisters and we’ve had that kind of relationship before but now we are close.
“We’ve had that kind of bickering and fighting and I have that shorthand. Jurnee has a big sister as well.
“So we talked a lot about those dynamics and finding our way through those tumultuous years.
“Ruby and Leti just haven't gotten to that place where they are friends yet.
“I think Leti refuses to really grow up: she's still very selfish and self-involved. So they just haven't gotten to that place of ‘It's not just duty.’ It's like, ‘I do this because I should love you but not because I actually like you’.”
Another twist for Ruby is when she gets to experience life as a white woman. At first, she is freaked out by it. Then she revels in the perks it offers.
She explained: “I don't really know how to put it into words… There's this feeling of ‘I understand’ (why she would make that switch into a white woman), but it’s also the pain of understanding.
“It's really, really deep. I felt like on this show you're confronting things that you have overcome through growing older and loving the skin that you're in and appreciating all of you and your community.
“It feels rebellious sometimes because the world is telling you otherwise.”
Despite the series dating back several decades, the issues around racism, sexism and inequality hold much pertinence today.
The actress shared: “History repeats itself. It's a shame that it's not history yet, you know, it's still very much present.
“I feel like this show could have been told at any point between now and then — and it still would have the same relevance and meaning.
“My hope is that in five years’ time it would feel like a thing we're moving away from. But yeah, I think it's a shame that it feels so relevant.
“And that it's very much our reality.”
The series recently aired on 1Magic and is still available on DStv Catch Up as well as Showmax.