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In the spotlight: Wunmi Mosaku

On the rise: Wunmi Mosaku

WITH JUST four years of professional acting work under her belt, Wunmi Mosaku has racked up some pretty impressive credits in both theatre and TV.

Arguably best known for her roles in the BBC dramas Moses Jones and The Body Farm, Mosaku also won critical acclaim for her starring role in last year’s Channel 4 film I Am Slave, in which she played a young Sudanese girl abducted from her home village and sold into slavery in London.

The film was based on the real-life experiences of Sudan-born Mende Nazer, who, as a child, was abducted and forced to work in a London home. The role saw 25-year-old Mosaku named as one of the Seven Fresh Faces of Toronto International Film Festival, where the film premiered last year.

Back on UK soil, Mosaku’s talents haven’t gone unnoticed, as the Nigerian-born, Manchester-raised actress won a prestigious Screen Nation award in the female performance in TV category.

The ceremony, which took place last Sunday (Oct 16) at London’s IndigO2, aims to acknowledge and celebrate black talent from the worlds of TV and film.

Here, she talks about her excitement at being nominated, and expresses her gratitude to the black actors who paved the way for her own career.

How did you get into the acting world?
I’ve always performed, whether it was with my choir or dance group. I really enjoyed being on stage but I wasn't a very good dancer and couldn't sing without the other 44 girls! Acting was the only thing I felt comfortable and confident doing on my own on stage.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
I think the highlight of my career thus far was playing the role of Malia in I Am Slave. I felt so unbelievably blessed to be given the opportunity to be a part of the team that gave Mende's story, and stories alike, high visibility. Slavery is still such a profound and immediate problem.

Was it a challenging role to undertake?
Yes, it was. A lonely and lowly state of mind is not a place you want to be in for 13 hours a day. Playing someone who has been in that place for her teenage years was a massive challenge.

In 2008, you took part in [actor] Fraser James’s photographic exhibition Underexposed, which featured photos of 30 black British actors, in a bid to highlight black acting achievement. What made you decide to get involved in that?

I think Fraser James's point of black British actors not fully getting the kudos of all their hard work really spoke to me. If it wasn't for the 29 other actors up there, plus many more, I most definitely wouldn't have the opportunities I have today.

Many black British actors have spoken about the difficulty to land roles that aren’t based on racial stereotypes. Have you experienced any issues of this nature in your career?
I feel very lucky to have agents who really think outside of the box. They really push for me to be seen as characters that they think that I am capable of playing, regardless of race. Yes, there are stereotypes; I am not naive enough to think all is fair in this game. But I just feel I have a team behind me that is working hard to change that.

What advice would you give to aspiring black British actors?
I suppose I’ve learnt over the last couple of years that people can be divided into three categories: those that are for you, those that are with you and those that are against you. This industry is filled with people that are with you and it's actually quite an insecure place to find yourself. So make sure you surround yourself with people who are for you. I think that goes for anyone in any industry really.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Being happy, healthy and hopeful.

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