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Ukweli Roach

In conversation with 1883 Magazine, actor Ukweli Roach speaks about his lead role in Wolf, his first ever acting job, and what he would like to try his hand at next.

Appearing as DC Jack Caffery in the BBC’s latest horror/thriller series entitled Wolf, Ukweli Roach is proving he can take on complex lead roles with ease.

The London-based actor is currently appearing as the main lead in the six-part show alongside Iwan Rhoen, Sacha Dhawan, and Sian reese-williams, plus more. For Roach, it’s a well-deserved career milestone, the Rada (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) graduate has spent the last several years appearing in an array of interesting dramas, bringing his talents to television screens with his supporting roles on Humans,The Midwich Cuckoos, and One Day to name a few. With Wolf It’s been his biggest challenge yet and rather than buckle under the pressure, Ukweli Roach has thrived. Allowing him to produce one of his most thrilling roles so far. 

Wolf and its protagonist DC Jack Caffery is based on Mo Hayder’s acclaimed novels. The show itself follows the DI as he deals with the murder of his younger brother which he suspects was committed by his neighbour in the 90s. Meanwhile, Wolf’s second narrative also unfolds where a wealthy and isolated family is terrified by a crazed individual. Throughout the six episodes, Roach is able to bring a likeable yet traumatised and obsessive character to life with his own unique spin on the character. It makes for a seriously addictive and tense watch. 

In conversation with 1883 Magazine, Ukweli Roach speaks about his role in Wolf, his first ever acting job, and what he would like to try his hand at next.

 

 

Ukweli, thanks for chatting to 1883 Magazine. Your latest project the BBC horror/thriller Wolf has debuted. Given the fact that your character DI Jack Caffery is rather complex as he’s struggling with something traumatic from his past, what are some of the little nuances you purposely put into your version of the character to help bring him to life? 

When I was preparing the character using a multidimensional character choice system), we discovered some really interesting and useful facets of Jack’s character. For instance, when I was operating as a police detective I wanted to behave like a drill, one that punctures the scene, displaces what was there previously, and leaves a gaping hole, once Jack had left.

I also wanted to highlight his lack of rest and the anger he hast at himself, his parents and Penderecki. I wanted to showcase how this would affect his approach towards his life and job. Jack’s growth was somewhat stunted when his family was ripped apart. So there is very much still a wounded little boy visible in his character. His constant playing with his injured thumb represents his inability to get over the internal injury caused when Ewan (his brother) was taken.

 

The show is based on Mo Hayder’s novel but it’s interesting that you purposefully chose not to read the book as you wanted to be more inspired by Megan Gallagher’s screenplay instead. How do you think this benefitted your performance? 

I think it focused my version of Jack. I know that the book is a little different from the screenplay, so I had based my characterisation for the auditions on Megan’s screenplay. I didn’t want to confuse my idea of Jack with the differing writing and storytelling styles of the two writers. 

 

As a project Wolf is quite special because it’s your first main leading role. What was the audition process like when you were going up for it? And as your mum read the book before you were offered the job, I can only imagine her response was so wholesome when you told her you got it! 

Yeah, this is my first time being the out and out lead on a TV project which feels quite special. I’ve had many years learning from the lead actors on projects I’ve been involved with in the past and I’ve seen from that how you lead the rest of the cast. The audition process was four rounds over a few months whilst they narrowed down their choices.

I really wanted this job in a way I don’t think I have ever wanted a job before. I knew I could bring something to Jack that would be of value and was hoping they would feel the same way! My mum and dad were very happy for me, my mum began to read the other books in the series once she knew I secured the role.

 

Alongside yourself, the cast is absolutely crammed full of talent. Iwan Rheon, Sacha Dhawan, and Sian reese-williams to name a few. Are there any funny behind the scenes stories you can share with us from your time working on the show? 

To be honest I can’t really remember anything funny behind the scenes-wise but I do recall how every single member of the cast gave their all to ensure the show was as great as it could be!

It was humbling to see such established and talented actors all getting along, and working long difficult hours for each other. It was a real team effort.

 

 

Without giving away any spoilers, what scene in Wolf did you find the most interesting to shoot and why? 

For me, it was definitely the underwater scene because it was very challenging and a little daunting to shoot. It had very specific actions involved as well but I thrive off those sort of things. I love it!

 

What is one fun fact that people may not know about yourself? 

I am also a choreographer and director with my dance company, BirdGang LTD. We make dance films and some of our pieces have won awards!

 

Can you recall your first ever acting job? What was it and what did you learn from the experience? 

Yes! I played Tybalt in Romeo & Juliet at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. I had been allowed ot leave Rada a few months early to do it, so I technically finished my degree working at the Globe!

I learned so much on that job, it was a real baptism of fire and a lesson in how to control fear. Having packed audiences three-stories-high all around you is a bit scary when it’s your first ever job. But after doing it I learned how to control my fear on stage.

 

Finally, what type of roles would you like to try your hand at next? 

I want to take on more characters that are complex, assertive, and hopefully with an element of action as I love doing stunts and physical work. Something like Jason Bourne…. maybe even Bond one day, who knows haha.

 

Wolf is available to stream on BBC iPlayer now. Click here to stream it. Follow Ukweli Roach @UkweliRoach

Interview Cameron Poole

Photography David Reiss

Grooming Laura Dexter

Styling Ellie Witt

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