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Zoom Date: Wunmi Mosaku on Lovecraft Country and Finding Solitude

Welcome to Zoom Date, our feature series where we get up close and personal via Zoom screen with our favorite celebs. They'll be giving us an honest peek into what their "new normal" looks likefrom new rituals they've adopted since quarantine, to work projects in the age of isolation, to the beauty and health products they've been using to self-soothe.

Wunmi Mosaku is a powerhouse. In 2017, Mosaku took home the BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Gloria Taylor in the TV film Damilola, Our Loved Boy–only the second Black woman to win a BAFTA in the awards' 62-year history. The Nigerian-born British actress’ has also held roles on television shows like Luther, End of the F***ing World, Black Mirror, and most recently Lovecraft Country. The highly-anticipated HBO series combines elements of drama, horror, and sci-fi to tell a story about two Black families traveling through the 1950s Jim Crow America, while dealing with racist terrors and terrifying monsters along the way. In the show, Mosaku stepped in front of the camera to play the hustling and quick-tongued singer (and half-sister of Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s character Letitia), Ruby Baptiste. 

Ahead, Mosaku answers all my burning questions about Lovecraft Country, learning to take up space, and the moments of solitude and gardening getting her through quarantine. (And, of course, we discussed her beauty regimen—turns out, she's a Dose of Colors stan too). Keep scrolling to get to know Wunmi Mosaku.

Wunmi
 Tash Moseley

What has a typical day like been for you these days?

A typical day would consist of catching up with the U.K. in the morning with all the work stuff, emails, and all that. And then I would generally go for a run in the morning but sometimes I don’t make it till the afternoon. And then I'll read. I've also started gardening. 

What have you been trying to grow?

I've got zucchini, eggplant, cucumber, artichoke, jalapenos, Scotch bonnet, banana peppers, peppers, all the herbs, green beans, and arugula! And my mom's a huge gardener. She basically grows all of her vegetables in her little garden and I've used this opportunity to bond over our gardening. We garden together on a Saturday with my other sister as well. It's really sweet actually. It's been a surprising little cute thing that we've done together over different time zones and countries. It's been really sweet.

When did your love of acting and being in front of the camera develop?

I was in a girls choir when I was seven years old and I guess my love of performing started then. I was in the Manchester girls choir until I was 18. And I thought I was going to be a math professor. My dream was to be a math professor at Harvard University because both my parents were lecturers! And then I did drama in school just for fun. 

I went to college and I did math, economics, and chemistry. I dropped chemistry and picked up drama because there was a cute boy and I wanted to be in his class. I figured if I dropped chemistry, I would be in his drama class. And that, I guess, is when I really started to find a real love of acting and storytelling. I'm dyslexic, so I'm not a very strong reader. I'm not very fast at reading, so in school I found English and English Language and Literature stressful. And then I came to college, which is your high school, and really found an appreciation for short stories, and then reading wasn't a labor anymore. I took my time and I really loved it. And then I decided to apply for drama school and it was quite a tense moment with parents because math and drama are worlds apart. But I decided to do it and see what happened. And thankfully, it's worked out well.

So, you're playing Ruby Baptiste in Lovecraft Country. What drew you to this project and this role in particular?

So generally you get called in for an audition and your team kind of figures out who they think you might be best for. So I was given the pilot script and was told to read for the role of Ruby, and I loved the script. I really did. I thought it was really well written. I really loved the family dynamic, the family drama, and the road trip feel. And then on top of all of the normal family stuff, you've got the racial politics, injustice, systemic racism, white supremacy, and Jim Crow. And then you know, they had sci-fi, monsters, and magic. It just feels so wild and I just loved it.

wunmi mosaka
 Tash Moseley

There are so many themes in this show that make it so timely. What do you hope people take away from the show after watching it?

Community is key when it comes down to our success as human beings and just in general. It's never about the individual. I guess that that's something that I just feel in regards to like COVID. It's my responsibility. It's your responsibility. It's our responsibility. Everyone has to put forth a grand effort in order to make this show no longer relevant. The problem is that it's relevant now. It was relevant 10 years ago. It was relevant in the '50s. Systemic racism is something that is a shame. It's really saddening and maddening that it is still relevant today.

Community is key when it comes down to our success as human beings and just in general.

I was reading another interview you did and you said you were kind of scared to talk about race earlier on in your career. After working on projects like this that center around Blackness and race, do you find yourself more comfortable speaking out and using your voice to talk about issues that are relevant to our community?

I don't know if I feel more comfortable, but I definitely feel like I have to. I am a part of the problem if I am not trying to solve the problem and be honest. I realized that I don't think I've really ever been honest outside of our community. I never really truly said what's on my heart, how I feel, how someone's made me feel, or how society has made me feel.

I feel like my natural instinct is to be nice, play small, get on with it, and keep going. And I'm really starting to find my voice, my feet, and, you know, honoring myself, my ancestry, and my future. I'm honoring it by being honest. And I didn't realize that. And it was quite wonderful having these conversations with Misha [Green] about Ruby and figuring out why she does what she does. And sometimes I really didn't understand her and I thought she was kind of betraying herself. And then I realized, I had to go back and tap into me to figure out where that crossroad was in my life. It brings up some really difficult stuff to deal with.

In the past, you've said you had to put on this persona of the "non-threatening Black woman" in a lot of spaces. Can you kind of like elaborate on what you meant by that and the realities of being a Black actress in predominantly white spaces?

I am five foot nine, curvy, dark-skinned, and have afro hair. I think some people put an image onto me. And in order to feel like I'm getting a fair shot, you play the game. And sometimes it feels you're just not honest. You know, every time I see someone I haven't seen in a long time, they go "Oh, you're much taller than I remember." And it's because I've been playing small and how they remember me is kind of smaller in order to kind of make them feel at ease in a way like. I have absolutely played into that.

I had a rare moment on set where I wasn't smiling and I walked over to someone and I said, "Excuse me what?" And this person almost jumped back because it was the first time I didn't have a smile on my face. And that's literally I feel like how I've had to interact with the world my whole life. With a smile on my face in order to not have that reaction of someone jumping back and thinking "Oh, is she angry? What is she going to do?" And it's really exhausting and it's upsetting. It's exhausting when you just don't have the energy to smile. I'm not talking about getting angry. I'm not talking about being a bitch. I'm not talking about throwing shit around. I'm just talking about I'm just not in the mood to be sociable. I'm not in the mood to give the big smile, and I don't feel like I've ever had the freedom to do that. Because someone will be like, "She has an attitude. What's happening?" It's a lot. It's double consciousness. The energy that you spend trying to figure out how to negotiate this world in a way that you can be treated kindly. The energy you put into the performance of just negotiating the real world...If I could just put that energy into just my work, my family, my friends, my garden. and myself. I mean, what could we achieve?

wunmi
 Tash Moseley

Those sentiments are echoed by so many Black women and Black people. And now more than ever, we see how important it is for us to prioritize self-care and preserve our mental health. Is there anything that you like to do to refresh when you are feeling exhausted?

I try not to turn on the TV or anything until like 7 p.m. But I also have days where I'm like, "Oh, I'm sorry, husband. No sound. No nothing." I have days where I just stay really still in my room. Or, I just catch up with my mom and reconnect with my sisters and my niece and nephew. I definitely speak to one family member every day. I'll go for a bike ride. I like cycling a lot. But outside of my family, it's actually just solitude. Outside of my mom, my husband, and my sisters, it's just solitude and quiet. Because the film set is so loud and so busy, I come home and I really don't want any more sound in my ear. Yoga helps too.

On a bit of another lighter note, I'd love to talk about your beauty habits. What's been your approach to beauty while you've been home? Any hair, skin, or makeup products that you love?

I normally use this face oil by Lumity. That's my go-to. I am about to make my own face oil too. I bought some like organic almond oil, rosehip, pomegranate seeds, sweet orange, and Vitamin E. I'm going to make a little concoction. 

I got told on Monday that my hair regimen isn't actually great for my hair. I've always thought I had 4C and apparently I have 4B hair. So, I'm still figuring out my hair routine, but I do deep condition overnight with a heat cap. I wash and deep condition and then I use aloe vera as a leave-in conditioner. My mother-in-law brings me aloe vera and shea butter from Ghana. I'm a wash and go kind of person. I try not to use too much heat on my hair. I probably put heat on my hair like twice a year.

When I do my makeup, blusher and lipstick are the things that I really like. My favorite thing is a matte lipstick. Dose of Colors, I use it a lot. It lasts all day and all night. I went out once and I ate lunch and dinner and I did not reapply my lipstick. 

Are there any products that your makeup artists have used on set that you added to your routine?

Oh yeah, I take everything that they use on me generally. And so there was this Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer that I really like. It's really good and so natural and smoothes everything over and you don't feel heavily done.

Photos by Tash Moseley; Hair by Felicia Leatherwood.

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