Ukweli Roach: ‘Leading Wolf Feels Great, But A Little Nerve-Wracking At Times’ – Interview

By Olivia Emily

10 months ago

Everyone's talking about this new BBC series

Everyone’s talking about the BBC’s new crime-thriller series, Wolf, which debuted last night. The magnetic Ukweli Roach leads the show as DI Jack Caffery, a man obsessed with the idea that his neighbour killed his brother when they were growing up. Based on Mo Hayder’s novels, it’s a seriously twisty show. We sat down with Ukweli to chat all about it.

Interview: Ukweli Roach On Starring In Wolf, BBC One

Ukweli Roach

© David Reiss

Hi Ukweli, how’s life going at the moment?

Very well, thanks. Busy, but that’s a good thing in this industry!

You’re currently staring in Wolf on the BBC – can you give us an elevator pitch for the show?

Wolf is a six-part crime-thriller written by Megan Gallagher, which follows DCI Jack Caffery as he is roped into solving a crime in order to unravel the mystery of what happened to his brother who went missing when they were kids…

You play DI Jack Caffery – can you describe him?

Jack is new to being a Detective. He is definitely a guy who has some issues, rooted in the trauma surrounding his missing brother, and this has caused him to have a kind of saviour complex. He feels he failed his family, and so has a drive to save others, and also to treat those who victimise the weak with extreme prejudice.

Ukweli as Jack Caffery in Wolf

© BBC/Hartswood Films Ltd/Simon Ridgway

What was it like playing him?

It was a dream for me as an actor because Jack is so complex. He isn’t a ‘White-Knight’; he often has reactions and behaviours that aren’t very heroic at all, but ultimately has a heart that wants to protect the vulnerable. There was so much substance to build his character with.

How does it feel to be leading the series?

It’s my first time being the out-and-out lead on a show, and it feels great, but a little nerve-wracking at times.

How did you get into character/prepare for the role?

I did some in-depth character building sessions with Tobi Bakare using a system he calls Multidimensional Character Choice, and that really helped solidify and build on the instincts I already had. I also made a Jack Caffery Playlist that I listened to (especially in the gym!).

Ukweli as Jack Caffery in Wolf

© BBC/Hartswood Films Ltd/Simon Ridgway

Any funny stories from rehearsals or filming?

There were probably loads of funny moments, to be honest – but, as most scenes were quite heavy, it was rarely ever too jovial on set. Although, I routinely lost my coffee flasks that I always took to set and bought about five new flasks during the job. And lost all of them. Somewhere (probably in a Monmouthshire forest), there are some very lonely and abandoned flasks hanging about.

What is the cast dynamic? Who was your fave person to work with?

The cast were all amazing to work with: supportive, easy-going and all wanted to make Wolf as brilliant as we could. Jack was often alone in scenes, but most time was spent with Kezia Burrows or Sian Reese-Williams, so I’ll say them!

Are you still in touch with any of your co-stars?

Yes, I am.

The series is based on Mo Hayder’s novels – have you read them? What did you think?

I actually didn’t read them before filming as I wanted to base my Jack Caffery on the screen adaptation only (by Megan Gallagher). Although my mum had finished the book before I even got the part. She’s now read the whole series of books. She’s eager.

You’ve also got Big Mood coming up on Channel 4 – what will that be about?

Big Mood is a great comedy following two women who are best friends but also struggling with mental health issues. And it’s hilarious.

Have you started filming? Any insight you can give us on the project?

Finished filming now. You’ll just have to watch it and see!

You’ve also starred in the likes of Blindspot, Humans, The Midwich Cuckoos… What has been your favourite project to date?

Wow, that’s a difficult question! Each of those projects had a unique experience and challenge to them, but the most artistic challenge I think was Humans as it was a complex part, and the physicality was very specific, too, so I was very proud of myself for that one. 

Any other roles in the pipeline that you’re excited about? (If you’re allowed to tell us!)

One, yes, but unfortunately I’m not allowed to disclose it at the moment! Sorry!

Who has been your favourite actor to work with in the past?

There are too many! I can’t actually answer that one!

Which co-star did you learn the most from?

I’ve learned lots in the past from Samuel West, Sullivan Stapleton, Dervla Kirwan, Ivanno Jeremiah, Aisling Loftus, Ashley Johnson, Jaimie Alexander, and more…

Ukweli Roach

© David Reiss

What’s your dream role?

Something between James Bond and Ray Charles (in Ray). I’d also love to play the part of Walter Tull (a real person), and Lewis Hamilton (if that biopic is ever made)!

What’s a genre you’d like to do more of?

Action, I think. I like doing stunts!

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Very unoriginal, but I wanted to be a football player. And an astronaut at one point. And also a cowboy when I was really young.

If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be? 

Study the subjects that interest you, not the ones that people tell you are most useful in the corporate world!

How can we all live a little bit better?

We can love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?

I’m working on a lead role in a big computer game that I’m not allowed to name, haha!

Ukweli Roach

© David Reiss

Quick Fire

I’m tuning into… Hijack and Clarkson’s Farm series two

What I’m reading… The Bible

The last thing I watched was… Narcos Mexico 

What I’m most looking forward to seeing… The Sound of Freedom

Favourite film of all time… Training Day, Scott Pilgrim vs The World and Anchorman

Band/singer I always have on repeat… Galimatias (music producer and artist)

My ultimate cultural recommendation… Watching a play or a good film in the cinema.

What’s next for me is… The cosmos!

Wolf airs weekly on Monday and Tuesday nights at 9pm on BBC One. Catch up or stream the whole series now on BBC iPlayer.