An interview with Susan Wokoma from Crazyhead

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Photography by Nicole Englemann

Crazyhead, the new Buffy?

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By Jade Bailey-Dowling

As Crazyhead launches onto Netflix today, I caught up with Susan Wokoma, who plays the lead character – Raquel. With Crazyhead being hailed as the new Buffy, at Stylenoir we knew it was something you’d all enjoy.

With demons, comedy and two women fighting the forces of evil, it’s a must watch.

I’ve started Crazyhead and there seems to be a new wave of horror comedies around. Of course there are the more serious ones like The Walking Dead, but what do you think the appeal is for the high demand of horror comedies series now?
I think you can get away with a lot more, which is why comedy is tacked onto the end of it. Also I think that even though a lot of that has a lot of special effects, there’s something very human about the scary things in life and the funny things in life. They stand side by side because that’s generally what happens, it’s not ever just one thing when you’re experiencing something, and people just want to laugh! They want the relief after the scare. Not taking things too seriously, which is how I think you draw people in and how you get connected to characters.

Crazyhead is very different to chewing gum, what’s it like when scripts like this come to you and what draws you to a script?
Well the thing that I always look for in characters is something that I can easily access. The thing about Raquel that I can easily access is her social awkwardness. [laughs] It’s something that I’ve have to admit to myself, I can act it really well! When I read her, all the things like – you want to be friends with people and you don’t know how to go about it, and that was the immediate thing that stood out to me. The thing that’s great about dramas, and this is very much a comedy drama, is that, Howard Overman our writer has put in all the reasons why she is like that. All the insecurities, you know she has this really tense relationship with this guy who’s like hovering around, she’s got a close relationship with her brother, who’s her best friend in the world but knows nothing about who she actually is. Who she actually is has meant that she’s very isolated and lonely. So for me the good thing about Crazyhead is you can see the direct link so it’s been awesome to actually play all those things out and get lots of the dramatic stuff in as well. That’s what’s been interesting about getting this script through the door.

Crazyhead has been compared to Buffy often; did you watch it when you were younger?
No! This is something that comes up a lot and I want to say that I was BUT I was more into Dawson’s Creek. I remember being at home and looking at what to watch and I would always pick Dawson’s Creek because when I was thirteen or fourteen all I wanted to do was sound like an adult. All those ‘kids’ did [in Dawson’s Creek] was use these really big words and have complex relationships with people that I just did not have! So I was much more into that than Buffy. Then it wasn’t until I got older that I realised I definitely picked the wrong show!

I got into Buffy when I was old though!
Did you? See it’s that kind of show; you can access it at any age because it’s so brilliant. But I totally know that I would have been completely obsessed fan, but in retrospect with Crazyhead and all the comparisons, I’m glad that I am not a complete Buffy-nut because I think I would have been too scared to take this on. Whereas I just ran in to it a bit naïve – ‘yeah Buffy that’s a great comparison!’ Then you meet all the die-hard fans that are like ‘don’t let us down!’

Do you think it’s important for women and girls to have examples of strong female main characters on TV?
I think it’s incredibly important. I think its one of the reasons I am the way I am and the reason I decided to be an actor is because I would see brilliant women. I do think that the important thing is that there is a range of women and I think that the idea of a strong female character can be cliché, which I definitely have experienced.

You probably haven’t seen it yet but Raquel goes on this big journey with this other character she meets halfway through and I know some people will watch it and sort of think ‘why is she going down this route?’ It’s because she’s lonely, she wants to be accepted, to be wanted by anyone is something that strong women, or women that have had to be so self-sufficient don’t want to ever admit. But when you are up against it, literally fitting and killing demons, sometimes you just want a moment to not experience that. Even though there’s a kickass part of me that wants to be like Buffy and say ‘No I just want to kill demons all the time’ you’ve got to be able to show that vulnerability so I think strong female characters are vital and a range of women is even better.

As you play a demon hunter, do you believe in demons?
Oh as in myself personally?

Yeah!
Oh my god! I used to be obsessed. Me and my older brother, he’s about a year an a half older than me. For a long time we used to pretend to be twins, I used to just want to be my brother. We used to go round our house reading books like Secret Seven, and we formed our own detective agency. So we would walk about the streets of elephant and castle, where we grew up, with walkie talkies that we bought from toyshops and we would report to each other strange goings on. It went from reporting crimes that weren’t really there, then reporting the supernatural!
So we’d talk about orbs, because we got really into Most Haunted and ghosts so we’d be like ‘there’s a presence, there’s an orb here’ and we used to blur the lines between crime and the supernatural.

There was a point where I desperately wanted to believe in ghosts, demons, the supernatural and parallel universes and I think there’s still the adventurer part of me that’s like YEAH! There’s so much we don’t know. I think it’s stupid to believe that there are not other things that exist, we are so insignificant but that definitely harks back to me and my brother on our bikes in elephant and castle looking for orbs.

So seeing this script must have taken you straight back to those moments?
Massively! When I got my extendable baton, every time I had to flick it out I felt such a rush! It was the coolest thing. I remember a big scene in this warehouse, I approached a couple of guys and extended my baton as I walked towards them and Lewis who plays Jake came up to me in-between takes and was like ‘dude you look so cool.’ [laughs]. I just thought ‘I’ve made it’. Me and Cara would love all the fighting bits, the cool weapons we got to use, like that was completely a childhood dream come true. For me in that moment I was like yeah I’ve made it. If I could do this in every job, I would love it.

As the series develops there’s lots of supernatural beings and beasts, if you could be any supernatural thing what would it be and why? Or are you happy as the hunter?
Hunter is cool, and SPOILER ALERT it gets a bit more complicated, what we discover about Raquel is interesting. Discovering all this stuff that’s within you, all this power, it’s very slow and uncontrolled but I’d feel greedy if I had a bit of both but if I could that is what I’d opt for.

Howard Overman, the writer of Crazyhead, also wrote Misfits which includes supernatural and superhuman beings, you are known as a bit of a comic book, superhero fan so is this something that interests you in scripts?
I did! And I had a very small part in the last series; I just got in there! I was a huge fan of series one and two, I had just never seen anything like that. I felt like at that time British television was trying to steer clear of the supernatural because, obviously, America has super budgets that can make stuff look great. The thing that we relied on was Dr Who, because that was meant to look sort of B Movie-ish. What I loved about Misfits was that it looked absolutely brilliant.

I’m a South East Londoner so seeing it set on Thamesmead made it very tangible to me, and also the orange jumpsuits, they had a costume! They had a uniform. I’m actually in my bedroom and I found this woman who does comic books and all the leads are very powerful women and I can see all these amazing costumes on my wall. That’s what I love! I think these images are stronger than anything, they are instantly recognisable. That’s also what I loved about Raquel, when we talked about the costume. I essentially ended up wearing what I wear every day. I walked into my audition wearing Dr Marten’s and skinny jeans and then my costume fitting once I’d got the job and the costume designer just said ‘why don’t we go with what you normally wear?’ . That instantly recognisable look is very powerful and I think that’s what I loved about Misfits so I was beside myself when I got Crazyhead and I wasn’t cool at all when I met Howard!

Lastly, what else would you like to see in store for Raquel?
We get a glimpse into what she is capable of and I would say throughout filming it would be awesome to see Raquel become an absolute ninja when it comes to her powers and ability. I said I would love to see one of those montages with Rocky playing and her learning to harness her powers and everyone looked at me like ‘yeah sure’ [laughs]. I would definitely like to see her developing in that way that’s the main thing. I’d like to see her – again spoiler alert! – leg over and meet someone!

Crazyhead is available to watch on Netflix now.

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