Loki's Wunmi Mosaku breaks down new role in tense ITV thriller

wunmi mosaku, passenger
Loki star breaks down new role in tense thrillerMatt Squire - ITV

Loki star Wunmi Mosaku has packed away her TVA uniform and suited up for her new role as police detective Riya Ajunwa in the ITV mystery thriller Passenger.

The show picks up in a gloomy Northern town where the disappearance of a young woman hangs over the day-to-day drudgery of the residence.

A deeper, more sinister mystery is rooted in the town and Riya knows it, even if everyone around her refuses to believe it.

This tense and gripping role is the latest in Wunmi's career that has gone strength to strength, from her BAFTA TV award-winning breakout role in Damilola, Our Loved Boy to starring in Marvel juggernaut Loki to now.

Wunmi caught up with Digital Spy to tease what's in store for Riya and her town gripped by fear.

Riya's carrying some really deep-seated trauma. Was it difficult for you to tap into that level of anxiety for your performance?

She has her defences well and truly up. In Three Sisters, there's the character Masha, and she says, "I'm in mourning for my life." From the get-go, that was my little mantra for Riya.

Because that was the reason why she was still in this little town, with her husband, looking after her mother-in-law. She's kind of mourning for her life. She's too scared, too frightened to get out of this comfort zone – a comfort zone that she finds no comfort in.

But she knows it. She's happy to be a big fish in a small pond. She's happy to be the person who's always playing devil's advocate or whatever. She's happy to not be at peace. She's too scared of the growth, and the unknown, and being honest with herself.

So, yeah, I think that's her motivation for staying put, which is kind of the motivation for most people when you want to stay put – it's fear. It's fear of the unknown, and fear of whether or not you can live up to the hopes and dreams, you know?

Does this lingering mystery, this huge secret, push her out of her comfort zone?

Yeah. There's something about this town. She thinks of herself as a good police officer detective who left the Met in London to come up for love so that she can have a family and all this stuff – and that's just all fallen apart.

The one thing she can hold onto is knowing that she's a good detective, and she has the instincts and she's like: there is something not right with this town.

There's a part of her that I almost think sometimes is doing it just because – because it gives her purpose. And then there's the stag. She can't get that out of her mind. We can just say it was roadkill but it's definitely not.

wunmi mosaku, passenger

So when she eventually discovers this massive secret, does it tie into her trauma? Is it connected to her flashbacks?

I feel like the whole show, the theme of it is fear. Like, your fear, and how you overcome it. Do you try and overcome it? Or are you happy to stay in your little pot?

I always think of things like plant analogies. People put a plant in a pot. It stays this size. It won't grow bigger than the pot. Are you ready to grow a little bit more, and just upsize a little bit?

So I think that's part of the theme of the whole show – fear, not just hers. I mean everyone's.

Did you take any learnings from your character B-15 and her trauma in Loki to the character of Riya?

You know, I feel like they're very different. There's a crisis of faith with B-15. She believed that she was on the right side this whole time, and then she realises that she's not and now we have to do something new.

With Riya, I feel like they're so different. She doesn't have that strong faith in something. I feel like B-15 is like: "I believe in this." And then she's like: "Oh, I'm wrong? Then I'm going to do something about it."

I feel like Riya is less steady and less certain, and more uncertain, but hides it with this "I know what I'm doing when I really don't". There's this hardness. She hides it behind this hard exterior but really, inside, she's really scared and really lost. I think she's lost.

rowan robinson, passenger

Riya and Katie are almost flip sides of the same coin, in that Riya comes from this big city to a small town, and Katie's looking for her way out of this small town. Did you discuss those parallels during filming?

We had rehearsals, so we spoke about each character, and their fears, and their hopes and dreams, and their similarities, and whatnot. It became clearer and clearer to me that Katie and I were two sides of the same coin but I don't know if we really played it. I'm glad it came across – because it really hit home… I don't know when.

Maybe in episode three, that's when you kind of see the connection between them, and that's when I really felt it, that scene in the pub between the two of them.

I like that, though, because they're so different, and their motives are so different but then they're so similar.

You have this really lovely, explosive scene with your husband when he returns home from his ventures. It looked like a lot of fun to film. What was it like to get to those emotionally tense places?

That was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. I had only met Tom a handful of times before that scene – maybe twice. We got on well and we did the downstairs scene first, so by the time we got upstairs, the shouting and everything felt a lot more free. That was probably one of my funnest scenes to film. I kept adding too many F-bombs, and I had to rein it in because there's a quota.

But, yeah, I really enjoyed that scene. That was fun. There was laughter in it sometimes and lots of flubbed lines. But it was good.

wunmi mosaku, ella bruccoleri, arian nik, passenger

How do you think viewers will feel when they get to the finale? Will they be surprised? What can we expect?

I would say that… I would hope that some questions have been answered. However, I know there will be a tonne of new questions that you'll have – I hope, anyway.

Potentially going into a season two?

Yeah. The thing is, nothing is finished. Nothing feels finished. Everything feels like a whole, new universe has opened up and in the end, it's like, "Can I see what's coming next?" He just explodes it all. There are detonators everywhere and you're like, "Can I see behind…? No, you won't let me?"

It's definitely not closed. Lots of questions, I think, will be buzzing around the audience's mind.

Passenger is airing on Sunday, March 24 and Monday, March 25 on ITV1, with two episodes arriving weekly. The full series is also available to stream now on ITVX.

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