Wunmi Mosaku On Playing Detective Riya Ajunwa In ITV’s New Comic Thriller, Passenger

By Olivia Emily

3 months ago

Passenger launches tonight on ITV1 and ITVX

Stranger Things and Twin Peaks fans shouldn’t miss this new comic thriller, launching tonight (24 March) on ITVX, that spins the classic psychological police procedural format on its head. Across the six-part series Passenger, we meet Former Met Police Detective Riya Ajunwa (Wunmi Mosaku), who finds herself at the centre of a mind-bending case when strange things start happening in the quiet (fictional) northern town of Chadder Vale: deer keep showing up in pieces by the roadside, and one day Katie Wells (Rowan Robinson) disappears without a trace, but reappears 24 hours later seemingly unscathed.

So, what is going on in Chadder Vale? We sat down with Wunmi Mosaku to dig beneath the skin of Passenger.

Interview: Wunmi Mosaku On ITVX’s Passenger

Wunmi in pink dress standing in a field of wheat

© Ashley Randall

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

Life is good, embracing the chaos of the unknown day ahead!

You’re about to star in Passenger – can you give us an elevator pitch for the show?

Set in a small town up north called Chadder Vale, Passenger unsettles the super normal with the super un-natural. There’s something about the town and the people, but fear keeps the blinkers on and Riya wants to rip them off.

You play Met Police Detective Riya Ajunwa – how would you describe her?

She has something to say about everything, and isn’t afraid to speak up, but ultimately she’s stuck and afraid, too cocky to be challenged out of her comfort zone, too proud to ask for help out of her meds.

What was it like playing her?

Fun! She’s got many layers, a hard mask, and a hurt and tender centre. Always fun to play a fully rounded character.

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

Luckily for us, we had a couple of weeks of rehearsal and got our character histories clear.

Any standout moments from rehearsals or filming?

Singing show tunes on a night shoot in the snowy forest with Arian[Nik], Ella [Bruccoleri], and the hair and make up department.

What is the cast dynamic? 

We all got on really well. Its a ensemble piece, so we never got bored of each other! Or at least I didn’t!

Who was your fave person to work with?

I don’t do favourites, everyone was a dream! But big shout out to Funke Alafiatayo.

WUNMI MOSAKU as DC Riya Ajunwa in Passenger

WUNMI MOSAKU as DC Riya Ajunwa. © Sister Pictures/ITV

You’ve also starred in Loki and Lovecraft Country, but what has been your favourite project to date?

I’d say His House is something I loved working on from beginning to final product, from the audition to Sundance film festival. I’m very proud of our film, and working with a first time writer and director was really inspiring and exciting!

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

Yes, but I’m not allowed to say!

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

I can’t begin to answer that! You meet so many wonderful people along the way!

Which co-star did you learn the most from?

I learnt from watching Brenda Blethyn that the audience is always in the room with you. The camera is the audience – you can’t ‘ignore’ it.

What’s your dream role?

Miss Hanigan in Annie.

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

Romance and musicals.

A close up

© Ashley Randall

Do you get to spend much time at home?

Yes, home is my favourite place.

What’s your interior design style?

Mid century modern.

How do you find balance in your personal and work lives?

It’s hard to when I’m working – it takes up 12–15 hours of your day! So there’s not much balance when working. But I make sure when I’m not working to keep my dearest friends and family close by or in frequent communication.

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

A maths professor.

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

Stretch regularly!

How can we all live a little bit better?

Honour the divine in every single person, creature, thing, place and time! Be honest but always with kindness.

Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?

Yes and yes, I’m sure of it. I just don’t know what it is yet!

Wunmi in a red dress in a field of wheat

© Ashley Randall

Wunmi Mosaku Recommends…

I’m currently watching… Boarders

What I’m reading… Research for my next role

The last thing I watched (and loved) was… Broadway production The Wiz

What I’m most looking forward to seeing… Fat Ham at the Geffen Playhouse

Favourite film of all time… Annie

Favourite song of all time… ‘Don’t Wait’ by Mapei

Band/singer I always have on repeat… The War and Treaty

My ultimate cultural recommendation… NKYINKYIM Museum in Ada Foah, Ghana

Cultural guilty pleasure… Musical theatre (I only feel guilty because it’s so darn expensive!).


Wunmi Mosaku plays Detective Riya Ajunwa in Passenger. Watch the first episode on ITV1 at 9pm on Sunday 24 March, or catch up on ITVX.