Loki star Wunmi Mosaku: I loved playing someone who doesn’t try to be sweet and palatable

God of mischief Loki has a formidable new foil in the form of Hunter B-15, played by Wunmi Mosaku. As Marvel’s latest streaming series kicks off, Asgard’s troublemaker-in-chief (Tom Hiddleston) has managed to disrupt the flow of time, inadvertently creating a new “variant” of himself that becomes a real headache for the Time Variance Authority, a sprawling bureaucratic organisation dedicated to keeping the multiverse’s chronology in good working order (got it?).

Mosaku’s no bulls**t character is one of a team of time-travelling law enforcers – and Loki’s fast-talking, shape-shifting ways get short shrift from her. Within her first moments on screen, she’s managed to nick Loki for “crimes against the sacred timeline” and outsmart him in a fight, too.

“It was really fun [to play] someone who doesn’t pull any punches and is authentically themselves, who doesn’t code switch, says exactly how she feels… and doesn’t try to be sweet or light or palatable,” says the 34-year-old, whose previous roles encompass everything from period horror (HBO’s Lovecraft Country) to dark comedy (The End of the F**king World) to cosy whodunnits (Vera) to, erm, rather less cosy crime drama (Luther). “I really liked that because I feel like, especially as women, we always go around [saying] ‘Could you maybe please, would you please…’ and she’s just not like that at all. She just doesn’t have the time or energy… It’s much more economical with your energy, not trying to appease everyone. 50 per cent of the population don’t try and do that, it’s just us.”

Mosaku, who was born in Nigeria but grew up in Manchester, hadn’t watched a Marvel movie until Black Panther was released in 2018. The film, which starred Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, made her start to think “yeah, I would really like to be in the MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe]” – although the audition process for Loki was so secretive, she had no idea she was trying out for a spot in the franchise. Actors, she notes, read for “untitled projects all the time… but when it’s really top secret, when you have to sign an NDA before you even get the dummy sides [part of the script], you’re like ‘OK, this is probably quite big…’ So you take it seriously. You just get three pages of dialogue, and you’re like ‘I’m gonna do as much as I can with these three pages and try to make some decisions for this character that I know nothing about, in this project that I know nothing about…”

When she received a call a few months later, “saying I got offered a job on Loki, I was like, ‘When did I audition for Loki…?’” Embarking on a crash course in Marvel, she “watched everything” that Hiddleston’s character was in, and was given “a whole rundown of the MCU, from Captain America and Iron Man up until our episodes.” Her character doesn’t appear in the comics, which “definitely gave me freedom, and took away some anxiety. When there are fans and they have all this knowledge that they’ve acquired from childhood, they’re so enamoured by these characters, it’s a lot of pressure… I was definitely relieved that I didn’t have anyone to live up to.”

The process of joining the show may have been shrouded in mystery, but once she had signed up, Mosaku was surprised to be briefed on “all the big twists and turns” during her very first phone call with director Kate Herron. “I feel like I’ve worked on shows that are not as big or as franchise-y as this, and they’re totally hush, hush, hush, but [with] this one, I knew exactly what was happening,” she explains. There were a few caveats, though. “I wasn’t allowed to travel with [my scripts], I wasn’t allowed them on the flight,” she notes, “so I would have one at home [in Los Angeles, where she has lived for the past few years] and one in Atlanta,” where she was filming Lovecraft Country. “And if there was someone coming into your hotel room, you would take your scripts with you – you don’t leave them for housekeeping.”

Phones were banned on set, too, so she’s a little “disappointed” that she doesn’t have “any behind the scenes pictures… But I definitely don’t like taking pictures [on set] because I made a mistake once taking a picture and the murderer was in the background… I was like, ‘Well, good job I didn’t post that on Instagram…’”

Working alongside Hiddleston as well as Gugu Mbatha-Raw ensured the show felt a bit like a drama school reunion for Mosaku, who graduated from Rada in 2007 (she had been all set to study maths and economics at university, before deciding to properly pursue acting instead). “Tom was in third year when I was first year, Gugu I think was the year above him, I’ve known Gugu for years – it’s that Rada mafia collective, we all kind of know each other,” she says. “So it was great working with each other, really lovely. And then Kate’s British, Sophia [Di Martino, her co-star] is British… It was really great during the pandemic to have some people who felt familiar, after being away for so long.”

The pandemic brought filming to a halt last spring, but production started up again September, with shorter working hours (“that’s one thing that came out of Covid that I was very grateful for – knowing that I was going to be done at 6pm!”) and no “hanging out in someone else’s trailer. We had our little individual tents… but luckily you can hear through them, so we could still talk.” Restrictions on travel meant that she went “a year and a half” without seeing friends and family in Manchester, where she grew up, and London, where she was based before her transatlantic move, though she’s recently been able to reunite with them while making a work trip. “Three weeks ago I got to see my family for a week – my first time home since January 2020, but I hadn’t seen my family since Christmas 2019,” she explains. “It was amazing… So much has happened – my niece and nephew have lost teeth, they’re not in kids’ shoes any more, I got married but I hadn’t seen anyone.”

During that time, too, Mosaku earned her first Bafta film nomination for her role in Netflix’s horror film His House (she already has a TV Bafta award for her role as Damilola Taylor’s mother Gloria in the BBC film Damilola, Our Loved Boy). The ceremony took place virtually – which her feet were thankful for, at least. “I have realised during this pandemic that I’m a lot less sociable than I thought I was,” she muses. “I was definitely someone who would go to everything, do everything. Awards ceremonies always fill me with anxiety – my feet hurt, I get really stressed about them, so it was really nice to get dressed up, take a couple of pictures, take off the heels and sit in front of my camera… [Awards events] stress me out and they definitely stress my feet out! So it felt good, not having to do that.”

Marvel Studios’ Loki streams Wednesdays exclusively on Disney+