[This interview contains spoilers for Loki episodes one and two.]
Wunmi Mosaku has been turning heads in the U.K. for over a decade, and America is finally catching up thanks to her main mole on Loki, as well as Lovecraft Country and Batman v Superman. On Disney+’s third MCU-set series, Mosaku plays the Time Variance Authority’s Hunter B-15, who helps protect the “sacred timeline” from disruptors such as Loki Laufeyson (Tom Hiddleston). Since Mosaku has known Hiddelston since she was 18-years-old, she’s relishing the opportunity to be the only character in the TVA who isn’t falling for Loki’s charsima.
“I absolutely love it. I get to play mean; I get to argue and fight with my friend [Tom Hiddleston],” Mosaku tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s fun playing someone like that because it’s so different from how you’re allowed to be in real life. She is completely herself and honest about how she feels. She doesn’t have any social etiquette running through her and her interactions. What she feels and what she thinks is what you see and what you get. So it was a lot of fun to play against Tom and even Mobius [Owen Wilson]. They’re not all in sync, and I loved it.”
Mosaku is also looking back at HBO’s critically acclaimed Lovecraft Country, which impacted her in ways she never expected.
“Ruby was the beginning of a growth in me that I wasn’t expecting,” Mosaku explains. “Who she is, the subject matter of the show, working under the genius and bravery of (creator) Misha Green, I learned so much about myself, speaking up, speaking truth, my boundaries and what I need my boundaries to be, hard work and bravery. I feel like I grew up in that world, not just because of the character, the show, or the actors I was working with; it was all of it. And at the press junket after, talking about racism, white supremacy and the patriarchy in public, in the middle of a pandemic, has led to evident growth. I’m more who I need to be by just being myself, being honest, and having the bravery to do it, which I just didn’t have before.”
She also credits Zack Snyder and Holly Hunter for making her feel like she belonged on the set of Batman v Superman.
“I learned a lot by just being by [Hunter’s] side,” Mosaku shares. “I was so scared of taking up space and time, and she and Zack were like, ‘Let’s work on this scene. Let’s take the time to figure it out.’ And I didn’t know that you could do that. Up until then, I thought you just had to say your lines and bugger off as quickly as possible. I felt like I was small, but they made me feel like no one is small. They made me feel like I was necessary, and that all the characters were necessary. And the time to get the scene right is absolutely necessary because you are necessary. So I really remember feeling that and learning that on that set.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Mosaku also discusses her two key moments from Loki‘s second episode, as well as how she shot B-15’s two altercations with Loki in the premiere. She then explains how streaming has benefited her career.
Between Loki and Black Mirror, you’re getting pretty good at torturing people with weird technology.
(Laughs.) I think you might be right. I don’t know what it is about me, but I seem to be quite good at torturing young men. (Laughs.)
So Hunter B-15 is introduced in the Gobi desert as she arrives through a portal of sorts. And what I love about portal entrances is that you can often tell a lot about a character by how they walk out of a portal. So when B-15 shows up, she’s walking with this incredible swagger, which tells you that this is the TVA Hunter of all TVA Hunters. Were you directed that way, or was it your choice?
It was definitely a character choice, but the costume also dictates how I move in it as well. I thought a lot about her physically because you don’t know much about her past. So her physicality and vocal energy were very important. With a character you don’t have that much information about, you try to find the balance of what her energy is. So it was definitely by choice. (Laughs.)
How did you shoot the opening slo-mo shot that B-15’s Time Stick caused?
If I remember correctly, we shot it in real time and at, like, 50 frames per second, which is slo-mo. I don’t remember hitting him slowly; I think I always did it in real time. But I think Tom moved as slowly as he possibly could, and he obviously has to hit the ground, so gravity will do its thing. He’s so good at all of that stuff. It didn’t need to be explained to him what he needed to do; he just did it. I was just like, “Just tell me where to be, what to do and how to do it.” And then we kind of laid it on top of each other. So we did it where I would hit him, and then he would do the thing. And then we did it where I would hit nothing, and he’d do his reaction without me hitting him. So I think we did it three different ways. And when I put the collar on him, I do remember him being there even though he was supposed to be moving in slow motion. I remember putting it on his neck, but I don’t know how they got it where my mouth was working at normal speed and he was working at slo-mo.
How would you describe the Tesseract prop?
It’s very light. To be honest, you actually have to have big hands to hold it quite comfortably — and I’ve got big hands. (Laughs.) So it was still a bit of a stretch to hold it. My friends were very excited about me holding the Tesseract.
Since B-15 is the one character in the TVA who’s not falling for Loki’s charm, they consistently butt heads. Do you like being the one character who treats him like a threat, which is the way he ought to be treated?
I absolutely love it. I get to play mean; I get to argue and fight with my friend [Tom Hiddleston]. It’s fun playing someone like that because it’s so different from how you’re allowed to be in real life. That’s something that I love about her. She is completely herself and honest about how she feels. She doesn’t have any social etiquette running through her and her interactions. What she feels and what she thinks is what you see and what you get. So it was a lot of fun to play against Tom and even Mobius [Owen Wilson]. They’re not all in sync, and I loved it.
So B-15 can use her time stick to hit someone into slow motion, but she can also use it to “reset” someone, which causes them to disappear into thin air. Since I’ve heard some confusion about this, does that erase them from existence, or does it send them back to their original timeline?
Yeah, a reset is to erase and delete [from existence].
So Gugu Mbatha-Raw told me that the two of you had a tough time keeping a straight face when Tom had to do Loki’s powerless chest thrusts in the courtroom scene. Did Gugu break first, causing you to lose it?
(Laughs.) I think it was Gugu. It was really hard. He puts everything into his clenches, and it was just really cute to watch from behind. It was like, “Aww, poor thing. Poor love.”
Loki was also a reunion for you and your RADA [Royal Academy of Dramatic Art] classmates, Tom and Gugu. Does the industry feel quite small to you, especially when these types of reunions happen?
Yeah, I do feel like it’s a small industry. RADA definitely feels like a small world. Even if you weren’t there at the same time as another person, you have this knowledge of RADA graduates. We had this buddy system at RADA; so when you’re in first year, you have a buddy in second and third year. When you’re in second year, you have a third-year buddy, and you’re a buddy to a first year. And in your third year, you’re a buddy to people in the school, but you actually have buddies who’ve graduated from RADA in the last 10 years and the last 50 years. So you’ve got this network outside of RADA where you get to know old RADA students and alumni. And you try to be a buddy as well when you graduate. So I know people who weren’t there at the same time as me, and I got to see their shows. But I definitely feel the industry as a whole is quite small, definitely in the U.K. In the U.S., it does feel a lot bigger and a little bit more intimidating. When I walked onto set on Lovecraft Country, I didn’t know anyone. I don’t feel like that happens on a job in the U.K.; I’ll usually know someone on the cast or crew because I’ve been working for 14 years. But in America, I still feel like it’s really, really new and really, really big. So I still feel like a newbie, but walking onto Loki felt refreshing because I’ve known Tom since I was 18. (Laughs.)
So B-15 and Loki come to blows again towards the end of the first episode, and Loki manages to get the Time Twister collar on B-15. How did you shoot that moment where she’s skipping back and forth in time and saying, “Stop it!”?
Well, we just did it over and over again. (Laughs.) Every time he resets her, it’s not like you’re emotionally going back in time; you’re just physically going back in time. So after each reset, her drive gets stronger and stronger so he’ll stop. So I basically did that about 25 times. (Laughs.)
In the first episode, Variant Loki watches significant and impactful moments from the original Loki’s life, which affects Variant Loki quite a bit. If you had to show Variant Wunmi a few highlights from your life and career, what would you want her to see?
For my life, I would say moving to England, the birth of my niece and nephew and meeting my husband. For my career, I would say the first screening of I Am Slave at BAFTA [British Academy of Film and Television Arts], and the BAFTAs 2017 [where Mosaku won Best Supporting Actress for Damilola, Our Loved Boy].
This is quite a convoluted story, but the night before I got offered the audition for Damilola, Our Loved Boy, I had the spookiest moment cycling past Peckham Library. At that time, I’d lived in London for over 10 years, and Damilola Taylor was a young boy who was killed in Peckham. So when I was cycling past the library, it had been 16 years since the last footage of him walking away from that library, and I just remembered Damilola in that moment. And the next day, I got offered an audition to play his mom; I didn’t even know they were doing a TV film about him. But it was the spookiest moment of my life because I had not thought of this boy in so long. He just came to me the day before, and then I got the job and won the BAFTA. So I have no idea why he came to me at that moment, but it all became clear the next day. So it felt very surreal and it was quite extraordinary, actually.
And just being in the read-through for episode seven of Lovecraft Country. Aunjanue Ellis transported the most basic, unemotive room, and seeing her alchemy was just extraordinary. It was a moment I’ll never forget because it was one of the most magical things I’ve ever seen.
What was your first reaction to your own MCU character poster?
That was a very pleasant surprise! I really wasn’t expecting to be on the poster, let alone have my own. It makes one feel official in the MCU. So I’m very excited for my niece and nephew to see it, although they’re a little young to watch the show.
In episode two, B-15 grabs a pair of knives away from Loki and quickly says, “Absolutely not!” And it leads to an immediate laugh because the timing of the swipe and line was impeccable. Did you have to perform that moment numerous times to get the timing just right?
I feel like that was one of the last things we shot. It was in the last week of shooting. Before we would go for a take, me, Tom and Owen were so pumped. Everything had to be perfect, and as we were getting closer and closer to the perfect timing, we could feel it. It was really electrical, actually. Everything had to be so well-timed, so it was one of the most buzzy moments on set. We were hyped.
Sophia Di Martino’s character — who may or may not be known as Lady Loki — possessed B-15’s body in the superstore, which allowed you to play Sophia’s character. So were you able to watch Sophia’s performance before you tried your take on her character?
I was actually basing my character on Tom’s Loki because of where we were in the story and what the audience knows and doesn’t know. They were expecting classic Loki, so I based it on Tom. That sequence was many days and many nights with a lot of running.
You’ve had some practice with this lately since you acted like Abbey Lee’s Lovecraft character when Christina took over Ruby’s form.
(Laughs.) Yeah, that was interesting. So much of it is in someone’s physique and how they hold their body, but you also have to find other things like the rhythm in how someone speaks or the twinkle in their eye. But there’s so much in someone’s physicality, and it’s actually quite tough to do.
To my ear, you seem to have excellent control over your voice.
I’m so glad. I wish I had more dexterity with my voice. I feel like I can do some things, but I’m always in awe of voiceover actors. I’m like, “How!? How!?”
At the risk of being too broad, what does Lovecraft Country and the character of Ruby mean to you some 8 months later?
Ruby was the beginning of a growth in me that I wasn’t expecting. Who she is, the subject matter of the show, working under the genius and bravery of Misha Green, I learned so much about myself, speaking up, speaking truth, my boundaries and what I need my boundaries to be, hard work and bravery. That show, honestly, means the world to me. I feel like I grew up in that world, not just because of the character, the show, or the actors I was working with; it was all of it. And at the press junket after, talking about racism, white supremacy and the patriarchy in public, in the middle of a pandemic, has led to evident growth. The stretch marks and the growing pains have been evident and necessary. So I had no idea that all of that was going to come with playing Ruby and being a part of that show, but I’m eternally grateful for it. I’m more who I need to be by just being myself, being honest, and having the bravery to do it, which I just didn’t have before.
So Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman has grown on me over the years, especially the director’s cut. And your subplot, in particular, greatly benefits from this extended cut. Are you glad that viewers were able to see your character’s subplot in its proper context?
Yes, absolutely. What I’m most grateful for is that Zack got to make his film. The whole thing. That’s the thing I’m most excited about.
I’m always impressed by actors who can make their presence felt in only a few scenes, and you certainly did that in your Capitol scene opposite Holly Hunter.
I learned a lot by just being by her side. I was so scared of taking up space and time, and she and Zack were like, “Let’s work on this scene. Let’s take the time to figure it out.” And I didn’t know that you could do that. (Laughs.) Up until then, I thought you just had to say your lines and bugger off as quickly as possible. I felt like I was small, but they made me feel like no one is small. They made me feel like I was necessary, and that all the characters were necessary. And the time to get the scene right is absolutely necessary because you are necessary. So I really remember feeling that and learning that on that set.
End of the F***ing World was a phenomenal show, and I loved your dynamic with Gemma Whelan in season one. How come neither of you returned for season two?
I think the story just went a different way. I really liked season two, and I like that it wasn’t such a linear jump to season two. I feel like it was a deliberate choice to do something else, and introduce new people in the same story. I was really open to whatever it was going to be, but I knew it didn’t need me to be true and honest to the story it needed to tell.
His House is an amazing film of yours, which Netflix picked up at Sundance in 2020. Are you grateful for streamers since they’re able to take more chances than the major studio system?
Absolutely. I don’t really know the ins and outs or the politics of how streaming affects cinema, cable TV and all that stuff. But from doing Kiri, The End of the F***ing World and His House, my stuff has been able to be seen in the U.S., whereas before, it was only seen in the U.K. So I know that a lot of these collaborations are doing good things for our careers, but I just don’t know how it works in regard to the whole industry. I don’t know if someone is saying, “Sacrilege!” or “Yes, bravo!” But I can’t complain, and I’m so grateful that my work has been able to be seen across the globe. Hopefully, it means I’ll get more work across the globe if more people have seen something that I’ve done.
To close on Loki, B-15 wields a sword or machete-type weapon in one of the trailers. So what can you tease about the rest of her season?
She has a journey that got me very excited to play the role. So you really just have to watch to see the journey. (Laughs.) The whole show was just really exciting.
Loki is now streaming every Wednesday on Disney+.