Interview with Samuel Adewunmi who plays Hero in the new Netflix and BBC drama - You Don’t Know Me
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Can you tell us who Hero is, and where to find him in episode one?
Hero is a young guy, early to mid-20s. He's a car salesman when we meet him in episode one. It's the job of his dreams I guess, he's always loved cars and it's something he's really passionate about, something he has a lot of information on and also something that he enjoys doing.
He's got his family, his mum and his sister, who he provides for as best as he can. He's got a flat. He's doing alright for himself but nothing special. He does have a really nice car, that's one of the perks of work. He’s just this average guy going through his life. He's content, but he's not necessarily fulfilled. He's not necessarily happy. He's just sort of doing his thing, plodding along every day like we all do, looking forward to the weekends. He's a pretty private person throughout the show. We never really meet too many of his friends, and I think that's really because he doesn't have that many. He's insular, maybe a couple of people here and there, but I think he's very much a family man.
What does the job at the car showroom mean to him, do you think?
Like all of us, it's a job. It pays his bills, it gives him a roof over his head and feeds him, but it's also the realisation of a passion that he's always had. I think he was never really that good in school. He's an intelligent guy but with average GCSEs, probably didn't even do his A-levels.
Being able to sell some of the best cars in the world is the actualisation of a childhood dream for him. He doesn't really aspire to much more when we first meet him, he's happy selling these cars. He gets a bonus at the end of the month and has a good relationship with his boss. It's his haven, his comfort zone.
Can you take us through the scenes when we first meet Hero.
In one of the first flashback scenes, he's seen cooking a dish for his girlfriend. As the audience we're thinking this seems like a pretty decent guy cooking some pasta, he has a nice suit, how did you end up in court? That's the question that's on all of our minds. As the story unravels his life is turned upside down. His whole world is shaken, I don't think he's ever the sort of person that we'd consider to be on trial for murder. He tries to give a compelling argument for his innocence and tries his best to explain why he ended up there.
What changes in Hero when he meets Kyra?
The story is a love story, essentially. That's at the heart of it. With all these extraordinary circumstances, it is really just this guy that falls in love with a girl and she, essentially, is the catalyst for what happens next. They meet on a bus and he's completely mesmerised by her. She's beautiful but she's also really clever, really funny and really kind and caring. Those are the things that he's really drawn to. She meets his family as well, and the fact that she gets on so well with them means everything to him. She also helps him to dream for more, even though she doesn't really have much herself. Kyra's a really nourishing spirit for him, at first.
Explain to us a little bit about his relationship with his sister Bless, and what makes that so important.
I think the book gives a nice insight into their relationship and it really does carry over into the script. There are certain events that happen that mean Hero becomes the man of the family, the breadwinner, the provider, a guide to his younger sister in terms of a male figurehead to able to look up to or come to for advice. He's a shoulder to cry on or shoulder to lean on but as the story progresses, Hero increasingly looks to her for support.
There's a genuine love and trust. They have a really strong sibling relationship, one where they can be really honest with each other when they say they can be really vulnerable with each other. And I just love Bukky - being able to play her brother was a really fun process.
Let's talk about Jamil, what do you think he represents in show?
They come from similar backgrounds and people go down different routes. I think Jamil represents the guy that has no other option. He seems to be doing what he does to try and provide for his family, he still goes to college and he's a bit flashier.
I think Jamil represents the everyman that just ended up going down the wrong path. Maybe he was attracted by fast cars and nice clothes and nice jewellery, but he is still quite a family man and cares a lot about the people in his life. He's a bit more superficial. I think he could be painted to be a villain, but he really isn't. He's just a guy trying to get by. There are many moments where he's almost trying to be a guardian angel for a Hero. He's not a bad guy, and getting by just looks different for him, from how it looks for the average person.
The language is very important in the show, and the screenwriter Tom Edge has spoken about how actively involved the actors were. What was your involvement?
Every day - I was involved on a daily basis. I think it's right for a show like this to work, it needs to be based on authenticity. For people to go on the whole journey, they need to believe in the love story of Hero and Kyra and to care about the family elements. It's the same with the language, people need to believe that they are from where they say they're from. Language is such an important part of how we communicate our ideas and our feelings.
We discussed Hero's voice modulation, how he talks on a call would be very different to how he talks when he's speaking to someone like Jamil or how he'd speak to Kyra would be very different to how he speaks to his mum. It just trying to find those subtle changes. Trying to figure out those sorts of things was a really fun process, really challenging as well.
On a practical level, as the show's lead you were on set every day. How did you manage to sustain the energy throughout the process?
I'll be honest, some days I didn't. Some days I was really tired but I think it was one of my teachers who said some of your best work is produced when you're tired because you have nothing left in the tank other than what is there. Those days, as challenging as they were, were a lot of fun to still do. This is something that I love to do anyway, and we were lucky to be working during the pandemic.
We also had a great crew and cast. Sophie, she was amazing. She has this lovely energy that just permeates every space that she goes into. Then you've got Tuwaine, who's just a ball of energy and laughs. Bukky is a quiet person and everyone really loves her, and Roger was fully invested in the work. You could buy into that energy and ride that wave. The best thing about doing this job is working with people, that social element and knowing that we're always there to support each other.
You Don’t Know Me was filmed in Birmingham and the four-part series will begin on Sunday 5th December on BBC1 at 9pm, with the second episode airing the following day
Source BBC One
November 17, 2021 8:03am ET by BBC One