Q&A with Susan Wokoma

Category: Press Pack Article

Why did you want to sign up for Taskmaster?

When I was invited I was so flattered, but then the fear started. I wasn’t going to do it because I thought, “I’m not a stand-up.” The only place I’ve ever done stand-up is on The Guilty Feminist podcast but that’s just a five-minute go at it, and it’s very anecdotal. My co-host Deborah Frances-White has always said that I’ve done enough of those that I’ve got an Edinburgh hour! But I haven’t been out on the road or anything, nothing like Julian Clary. So I was scared but I just thought, “I really want to do the tasks. I’ll think about everything else later but I really want to walk into a room and have no idea what’s about to happen.” So that was a thing.

I wanted to do it because I get to be a kid. That’s why I look like a child on the show. I was like, “What’s the most childish item of clothing I can muster in a couple of days?” The whole thing was fun. Turning up dressed like that, about to do something you have no idea about. It was the most glorious few days.


Did you get any advice from anybody beforehand?

I do know a few people who’ve done it. I spoke to Daisy May Cooper about it. I was working with Aisling Bea at the time, and she did early Taskmaster, I spoke to Mawaan Rizwan about it, and they all said, “Everybody who works on it is so lovely.” I was like, “Is it going to be super competitive?” but there’s no space for that because it’s so stupid.

Sue Perkins touched on it when she said, “There’s something about Greg taking the piss out of you that’s really nice.” He said to me, “You’ve had two points for that, and you can thank me for it.” I just went, “I will. Thank you, sir.” And I just thought, “I need to speak to my therapist about this.”


He's a lot of people’s weird secret crush.

I never understood that before. I was like, “Everyone grow up. He’s just tall. Everyone calm down.” But since getting the s**t ripped out of me over the prizes, I’m like, “Yeah. Lean into it, man.”


Tell me about your relationship with Alex during the tasks.

He’s not helpful. He’s low-key condescending as well: he’ll just blink at you or laugh in the corner. The number of times I caught him just shaking his head!

No, he’s great. He’s so clever. Oftentimes I’d walk in like, “You’ve got children. You’ve got things to do. And you have time to come up with these really intricate tasks?” He’s great. I sometimes looked at him and felt the opposite of Julian’s absolutely brilliant contempt. I just felt sorry for him.


Also, you know if you humiliate Alex, you’re always going to make Greg happy.

Exactly. And that was the thing that I looked for.


And what do you make of their relationship?

Just pseudo-sexual, emotional torture, lots of heightism. They’re so peculiar. I love the moments where Greg gets really into it. I love it. They were such children. I miss their banter.


Greg came up with a new nickname for you: RADA, because you kept mentioning being a trained actress.

I know! I realised that over a couple of days when he said RADA few times. I was like, “Oh, s**t. That’s what it is. Cool.” The thing is, in real life, I barely mention I’m an actor at all. But there was something about this process that just made me go, “What am I doing? I trained for real, and now here I am.” It’s so funny. When you have those situations where you have a third eye on yourself, and if you’re doing something really stupid I find it funny to be like, “I’m a 35-year-old woman!” and then carry on. It’s the same sort of thing.


Did you know any of the other contestants?

No, obviously I knew of them, but I’d never met anybody. I bonded with Sue because we share a name. That’s how unpopular that stupid name is, that the moment that you meet somebody, you’re like, “My friend!” It was so stupid. I love Sue. We laughed constantly and then we’d go inside our little dressing room, which is when we’re meant to relax and there was loads more laughing and it was just so great.

But it was awesome to meet everybody. They’re a really sweet bunch. A mad bunch. Plenty of times I’ve looked at Sam and Lucy, just like, “What?” It’s so funny. Also, when I laugh a lot, I get hiccups quite badly, and there’s always a point in the recordings where I’m in a corner hiccupping because they’ve said something weird. But they were a lovely gang. And Lucy! She has a list of things that she doesn’t like, like ice cubes or like, “I don’t like finding things.” “Sorry”? It did feel like someone just went online and did a cast generator. We’re all so different. I love it, though. I really do.


Going back to Sue. Have you got plans to go on holiday together?

Listen, we’ve swapped numbers. We’ve been texting each other. There was one particular day where we did text each other afterwards and said, “That was the best time of my life.” That probably went on for days. But we could not stop laughing.

A couple of weeks later, we bumped into each other at an awards and it was one of those things where we were really hugging and everyone was like, “How do you know each other?” and we’re like, “We can’t say” because our names hadn’t been announced. I love that woman. I hope we’ll be friends forever. All of them. All four of them. They’re so brilliant.


Were you competitive?

No! That was also one of the reasons why I nearly didn’t do it because I don’t really do competitiveness. It’s been a problem and that’s not because I’m an angel. – it’s because I do not back myself, not even playing Connect Four. But sometimes you’ve got to fight for yourself, and that’s what Greg wants. And obviously, as I’ve established, all I live for is what Greg wants. I think he likes it when we defend ourselves. But there was no obvious competitiveness. And also, when you watch it, the scoreboard does change so dramatically, like you can be riding high, and the next show you’re at the bottom.


What have you learned about yourself?

Do you know what? Before I did the show, I felt that I was quite together, sorted. A calm, logical person. In my friendship group, I’m known as the smart one who can give really good advice, a real problem-solver, as well as being a good-time gal. But when I watched this, I was like, “Who the hell is that?” and “Can we put her down? Why am I weeping? Why am I running? Why am I screaming? Why am I strutting at one point?

I was like, “Who’s that?”. I don’t know who I am. And I don’t know whether that’s my real essence, or whether problem-solving calm Susan is my essence and I’ve just unleashed a playfulness that’s been dormant for a bit. It’s probably that.

I’ve genuinely seen some of my actions and thought, “I didn’t know that was still there. That’s really nice to know.” It’s been a tough few years for the world collectively, and it’s so lovely that I can still be excited about stupid things.


What were your favourite tasks?

I loved the creative tasks. I was so cocky though. “A sleeping task? I’ve got this. I’ve slept loads. I’ve done the research.” So yes, I was cocky about that.


Do you think this is going to take your career in a different direction?

Oh, yes, the direction of the bin. There was one particular task that, when I finished it, I walked out of the room like, “I don’t think I’m ever going to win a BAFTA now.” There’s no performance in any category that would redeem me after something that I chose to do like that. It’s humiliating, and I chose to do it. No one told me to do it. I chose it. I don’t know how it’s going to change how I’m cast. Luckily, I’m writing my own stuff so hopefully I can revive my career after a few years’ hiatus.


What else have you got coming up?

I’m doing a play in Chichester, which is written by Deborah Frances-White, and that’s with Greg Wise and Alexandra Roach called Never Have I Ever. It’s a comedy, so that’s going to be fun. Then I’ll be shooting my directorial debut, a film called Three Weeks, which I’ll hopefully be doing in November, which I’ll be directing and starring in. So that’s the big bastard. That and Taskmaster.