From the hit streamed broadcast of Hamilton on Disney Plus to indie film Lynn + Lucy, actor and writer Susan Wokoma tells Fergus Morgan about what she’s been reading, watching and working on during lockdown
Actor and writer Susan Wokoma is rapidly becoming a household name. She graduated from RADA in 2010 and has never been far from stage or screen since. She has performed in Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female Shakespeare productions at London’s Donmar Warehouse, Michaela Coel’s E4 sitcom Chewing Gum, James Graham’s Labour of Love in the West End and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
“It’s been intense, and I don’t think I’m the only one that has found that,” Wokoma says of the months in lockdown. “I’ve been grateful and relieved I still have some work, but also feeling guilty because a lot of my theatre clan don’t and are really struggling. Then there’s all the external stuff – worrying that my loved ones are going to be okay, the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter protests. There’s been no respite from staring life and death in the face.”
She continues: “My two flatmates and I spent the period of strict lockdown together in our flat in Ladbroke Grove. They’re complete hippies and so am I. We burned sage together. We meditated together. We cooked together. We read together on the grass by the canal. That was kind of glorious.”
I finished Succession and I’ve just started watching Pose. It’s a US series that went out on the BBC and is now on Netflix. It is about the late 1980s ballroom scene in New York. It has the largest number of trans characters for a TV series ever. It’s really beautifully done and the epitome of how to do diverse casting, whether that is race or gender or sexuality. I’ve been completely swept away by it.
I am a Spice Girls child. I was born at the end of the 1980s – on New Year’s Eve in 1987 – so I don’t really remember them, but I love anything that is period and the ballroom scene in New York then was incredible.
I’m in the middle of reading The Hungover Games by Sophie Heawood. She’s a journalist I’ve admired for many years and the book is about her unexpectedly becoming a single mother. I’m writing a film – a romcom about abortion – and I read an extract of this book somewhere and felt very drawn to it.
I’m halfway through it and I love the way she uses language – it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s painfully honest. The way she describes her relationship with her daughter – I’ve never heard a mother-daughter relationship described like that. It’s stunning.
I’ve subscribed to so many streaming services I’ve no idea what I’m a member of now. I watched a film called Lynn + Lucy on the BFI Player. It’s a low-budget independent film by a director called Fyzal Boulifa. It’s about two women who were best friends at school and who live opposite each other as adults. Something horrific happens to one of them, and the film is about those claustrophobic friendships and small towns where everybody knows your business.
It’s absolutely tremendous. On television I write a lot more comedy, but for film, I’m looking at writing drama and Lynn + Lucy is exactly the kind of film I aspire to make.
I watched Hamilton on Disney+, and Sea Wall with Andrew Scott. It’s interesting how theatre translates on to screen. I think Sea Wall worked because it is a monologue and Andrew Scott is the master of making things intimate.
I wonder about what shows we get access to and which shows we don’t, though. There were shows I really wanted to see, or that I loved and wanted my friends and family to see, but didn’t get an NT Live – Nine Night, for example, that would have been great.
On a few commissions. One is a feature film called Three Weeks, which I’m developing with Dorothy Street Pictures and BBC Films. I started writing it last summer and I’ve been able to revisit it a lot over the last few months.
Before lockdown I recorded an audio version of Anoushka Warden’s play My Mum’s a Twat for Audible. I saw Anoushka do a preview before she performed it at Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year, and I remember being very moved and inspired by it. Then, while she was doing the run in Edinburgh, she called me and asked me to do the audio version.
There was one obstacle, which was that I’m black and the character is based on Anoushka who isn’t. But very early on we decided that didn’t matter. That’s the beautiful, freeing thing about audio – you can play whoever you want. After that it was a case of not letting a friend down. It’s moving when someone trusts you with something so personal.
You can download My Mum’s a Twat on Audible now