Wunmi Mosaku Is Ready for Every Conversation We Own This City Will Start

If you have a question while watching the new HBO series We Own This City, chances are that Wunmi Mosaku‘s Nicole Steele will ask it too. In the multilayered series very much in the spirit of creator David Simon‘s previous series The Wire, Steele—a lawyer hired by the Department of Justice to assist with possible police reform—is the audience surrogate, interviewing the people of Baltimore to learn more about how police corruption has shaped the city. The show jumps forward and backwards in time and among several different groups, including many of those corrupt cops (lead by Jon Bernthal‘s Wayne Jenkins), an FBI group investigating them, and a handful of good cops still trying to make a difference.

Playing the audience surrogate is no easy feat—it’s a role that turns boring and didactic in the wrong hands, providing exposition but no real character. But in the hands of Wunmi Mosaku, who also had breakout supporting roles in recent series Loki and Lovecraft CountryNicole Steele is as vivid as character as any, a woman who believes she has the capacity to bring about real change despite all the evidence of the broken system around her.

Born in Nigeria before moving to London as a child, RADA graduate Mosaku has had a thriving career in British theater and television, including a 2017 BAFTA win for the TV movie Damilola, Our Loved Boy. But moving to the United States with her American husband a few years ago brought her to Hollywood and this wide range of roles, including Loki‘s Hunter B-15, another role that could feel familiar in less capable hands.

On this week’s little gold men podcast, Mosaku talks about getting a crash-course on the American justice system for her role in We Own This Citywhy she avoided watching The Wire until just a few weeks ago, and what it was like to grow up not seeing anyone who looked like her on television—and then change it.

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Listen above to the interview episode, which also includes Rebecca Ford‘s conversation with Elle Fanningand find partial transcript of the Wunmi Mosaku interview below.


We Own This City is this really complex show and you, in some ways, are the audience surrogate. You’re the person who comes in and asks questions to set things straight. And that’s a challenging role in a lot of ways. But the challenge that I kind of want to know about first is just diving into something that’s this complicated and this rich and where you start from to play one piece of a show that’s this thorough.

Wunmi Mosaku: Because she very much feels like the audience going through the story, finding out the story in real time. I felt like that when I was reading the script, I was reading it and thinking what, who, what happened when, where, who, who were these people? And I would go back and forth between Wikipedia and Google and newspaper clippings, and a lot of the questions Nicole was asking were a lot of the things I was feeling about this whole system. She felt to me like the audience in the piece, and that’s how I approached her. Really honest, normal questions someone might ask and think and feel when faced with this idea of, who holds power? What do they do with this power? Who is safe from these people with power and who’s not safe?

In the first episode it feels to me like something of a thesis for the character, where Nicole is greeting a new colleague and he’s like, “How does this not make you mad?” And you say, “It does, but I try not to make that part of it.” You’re saying that she’s very honest and says what she thinks, but she’s also kind of dividing herself in some ways and trying not to let it pull her down. Is that a tension that you keep in mind as you develop this character over the course of the show?

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