This interview features spoilers for Sunday’s episode of “Lovecraft Country”.
For the gore-adverse Wumi Mosaku, “Lovecraft Country” may be a curious choice. But she had already read most of the pilot script, when the demonic Shogoths started dropping the appendages, and by then, she was hooked.
Regarding the HBO supernatural thriller set in 1950’s Jim Crow America, Mosaku said, “I got so lost in the story, I felt like I was committed to the role.” “But I think it’s so clever about the script and the book, and so magical and mysterious and wild, that the horror is the horror reality.”
Mosaku plays the role of Ruby Baptist, the blue-belting sister of Letty (Jurty Smollett), who has unfulfilled dreams of working behind a counter in Marshall Field. In Sunday’s episode, until the fifth of the season. With the help of a potion, Ruby wakes up in the body of a white woman, played by Jamie Newman. Calling herself Hillary Davenport, Ruby spends the day enjoying the day and is bewildered by her newfound cultural posture before metamorphosing – graphically, painfully – back into blackness.
“It’s gross to see ribs and elbows coming out of someone else’s skin, but I was really more impressed by his artistry,” Mosaku said. “Like, how did they do that?”
The 34-year-old Nigerian-born actor speaks with a Sunny British accent with laughter; When she was one year old, she traveled to Manchester with her professor parents. Obsessed with “Annie” as a child, she finds out that Albank Finney, a fellow Mancunian, attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, so she also applied and was accepted.
A BAFTA winning stalwart on British TV (“Luther,” “Vera”), Mosaku is best known in the United States from films such as “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and “Philomena”. Listeners can also see him in the upcoming film “His House”, in which he and Soap Darisu play Sudanese war refugees, who discover some terrifying lizards in their new home in Britain. (It premieres on October 30 on Netflix.)
Now based in Los Angeles, Mosaku has spent the last few months trying to keep birds away from its quarantine garden of cucumbers and eggplants. In a recent phone interview, he discussed “Lovecraft Country”, its “disappointing” cultural relevance and why revenge is a dish served without stiletto heels. These are parts of the conversation.
In Sunday’s episode, Ruby says that most days she is happy to be both Black and a woman, “but the world keeps getting interrupted, and I’m sick of being interrupted.” Ruby, who’s unarmed?
I would call him very ambitious. He is very aware of the game he has to play. But she still has the idea that if you work hard enough – and you just need a break – then systemic racism will stop applying to her. We all know that he is very talented, quite intelligent. He has this deep hope, but in fact it is creating an even deeper and more fierce anger at the injustice done to him.
The story is set some 60 years ago, but is there anything in the Ruby situation to which you relate?
Oh yes. I look like Ruby in a world that still experiences racism, injustice, inequality, patriarchy, and colorism. I have experienced it and my family has experienced it, of course. The thing I find most difficult about the show is that it is still so relevant. I am Ruby in many ways. The car chased at 25 mph and the police officer was the most intense thing in the chase, as it is grounded in reality and resonates with me. It resonates with many people of color. So this is the thing that I find incredibly powerful about the piece, but at the same time very disappointing: it seems that not enough has changed, and sometimes it seems, have we moved on The
A year ago and now, after a summer of protests and a renewed national focus on racial injustice, has your perspective changed?
The difference is there is an epidemic, and there is no distraction for many people. Therefore it was echoed more as a movement. People are paying more attention to it rather than seeing it as a problem and realizing it more deeply, or a racist problem to fix, or a black person being the problem. We have realized that it is the duty of everyone, everyone who desires and wants justice and forgiveness. It is a community thing. If you want the world to be better, the world must do so collectively.
How was it shooting those horrific scenes where Ruby makes her way out of Hillary’s body?
The worst thing was shape-shifting. Jamie turns off a little light – all the physical stuff he has to do, and he is amazing. But is the real one coming out of the cocoon? That gore, blood, gun stuff? He is all over me. When I pulled my eye out of his throat, I was like, “Oh, is that so.”
In one blond scene, Ruby slips back in her white disguise, so that a stiletto can violate her racist boss with a heel, she will be returned for mistreating a black co-worker. How do you prepare to do something like this?
I didn’t even know [the script for Episode 5], And it was a real shock, because I didn’t see it going there. In any case of revenge, that type of violence is not good. Revenge is something I’ve never really seen and personally, my mom always likes to, “kill them with mercy.” Which usually just means smiling and letting it go, and shaming them for their actions.
Both of us, me and Jamie, really struggled with that scene. It was a very emotional day, to be honest, as you explored the depths of your anger and revenge. The pain just feels so real and so deep that it brings so much to your own life, your own anger and your own pain.
Ruby uses magic potions several times. Are you aware that she chose to remain as a white woman?
It eliminates a superpower that he now has access to – he no longer has freedom. There is magic where there really are no results. But I really disagree with Ruby. Sometimes I’m like, wow, that’s tough, because it feels like a betrayal, and it feels so wrong. It makes us feel so loving, which is obviously the kind of movement we are doing as a society: love ourselves. It is very difficult for me personally to understand this. Don’t understand – I understand it. I do not sympathize with it.
Black women listeners like Meesha GreenThe producers of “Lovecraft Country” are still relatively rare. Did it make it easier to address such issues?
Oh hell yeah. Talking about racism with whites can make white people very uncomfortable, black people can be very uncomfortable. You should have a level of trust and a safe place for how you relate to the character, how you are different from the character, the things you have learned. I have been a very kind person who is very quiet about his own experiences. I do not like to argue and I do not like confrontation, and I find it difficult to engage honestly about these kinds of things outside my home. Because it is being exposed, it is painful, it is ending to explain to someone who does not know what it is and that is contrary to your experience. So there is a reality that you can bring to the table because it looks like you. The world sees her in the same way she sees you.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a Black British-Nigerian in America, and without my accent, yes, we are treated the same way. When I speak, people treat me very differently. I am also aware of that privilege. But sometimes one does not get the opportunity to speak before judging or misbehaving with you. So it was necessary for me to be honest and open. I don’t think I would be able to perform easily without someone who shared a similar experience with me as a black woman.