We Hunt Together interview - Dipo Ola

"Baba can't survive without conflict, it's what drives him, it's what makes him..."

Dipo Ola as Baba

Dipo Ola as Baba

How would you describe We Hunt Together?

We Hunt Together is about looking at yourself in the mirror and either accepting or running away from what you see. You're going to see people surviving in this series. The survival comes from themselves and the outside world. You're going to see people at the end of their tether and what seems like a new life. You're going to see a lot of beginnings and a lot of ends, but the most important thing you'll see is the kind of murky middle ground that happens between.

Tell us about Baba.

Baba is a person who grew up in the Congo. He was unfortunate enough to be involved in the child soldier industry, as I like to call it, which ended up scarring him for a large portion of his life. He then sought refuge, moved to the UK and spent five years living under the radar. When we meet him, he's just trying to live a normal life or as normal as he can. I think he's a person who doesn't necessarily know he has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as I don't think it's an option or that the language is available in Congo. He knows these are terrible things but maybe he doesn't attribute those necessary terms to them, so I think he's a person coming off the back of dealing with lots of trauma and it's at that moment that he meets Freddy.

How does Baba's past affect his actions?

I think Baba's past affects what he does in the present a lot because it shapes him. He's the way he is because of what he's been through. It does catch him by surprise at times, but I think that's quite a human thing in that you never know what's going to unlock that little box in your heart that makes you very vulnerable, scared and fearful. His past in particular is something that drives him to religion in the story, as he's maybe trying to find a reason for all of his suffering.

Do you think Baba was born to be a killer?

I don't think he was born to be one. I think he was born to be a part of a cause and I think that's what he did in the Congo with being a child soldier, in the sense that he was enlisted to a cause. I think in the UK with Freddy, he's again enlisted to a cause and that's the one thing he needs in his life. He can't survive without this conflict, it's what drives him, it's what makes him and I think when you take that away, there's no more him.

How did you go about creating Baba's accent?

At first, I wanted it to be as specific as possible, but then as I developed my accent, I personally found that the natural Congolese accent wasn't necessarily helping for what I wanted to do with the character. So, I had to kind of mix it into more of a general African, regional West African accent. I myself am from Nigeria, so I drew on those influences and tried to mesh them with the Congolese accent to find something that I could sit more comfortably in from day to day doing the scenes. I was born in Nigeria and I came over here when I was three years old in 1997. I tried to draw on as much as I could because I know it's very different, what my childhood would have been and what Baba's childhood was, but I tried to identify any parallels I could. The Congolese accent is a lot lighter than the Nigerian accent is, you get a lot of deeper tones.

What drew you into the script?

The thing that appealed to me was the opportunity to play somebody who I didn't think I'd get the chance to play at this point in my career. I think what's great about Gaby and his writing is that he's very good at capturing life and capturing all aspects of people. His writing reminds me of a quote from Judi Dench about how she prepares for a character. She said 'don't worry about being the character at all times, just show aspects of them and hope that it adds up'. I think that's what Gaby's writing achieves in this whole series, in that you have aspects of these people that you think ok, I see Baba, I see Freddy, I see Jackson, I see Lola. Even at the time you might not completely understand why they're doing that, but it's an aspect of that person's personality which has to absolutely be prominent at that moment in time, in that scene. So, that's what I think is the powerful thing about Gaby's writing.

How much do you think We Hunt Together reflects the idea that 'the damaged do damage'?

What I realised when researching the role, was the idea of what happens when the damaged do damage. The more I look at it the more I don't think it's necessarily about that, I think it's more about how pain is pain. Whether it's for Baba growing up in the Congo and doing terrible things, or for Freddy where it's just a complete lack of love from her parents. In those situations, they both feel the same pain and it's hard to say that just because one person grew up in a dirt road in the Congo and another person grew up in a suburban house they shouldn't be allowed to breathe in these similar ways. That transcends and crosses over for Jackson and Lola's characters as well. Lola has gone through a lot and Jackson goes through his own thing in the series, and there's nobody who can say you shouldn't feel this way because this happened, and you shouldn't feel this way because that happened. It's just about how pain is pain, to me anyway.

What are the similarities between the four characters?

There aren't many parallels between Jackson and Lola and Baba and Freddy. At the base of it, we're all pretty bad people and we're all pretty good people. Jackson's character is born in Gambia, my character is born in the Congo, one of them got out safely and the other didn't. Lola and Freddy are again similar. One of them maybe had a better childhood than the other, which meant that they were able to form a successful career. The parallels aren't huge, but I think it's mainly opportunity and luck between the two. That's the main difference for me, they could have easily been in the other one's shoes.

Do you think there is a fine line between which path you choose in life?

I think there is a fine line between good and bad and the path that you choose, but I also believe that some people are destined for greatness and some are just destined for turmoil and terrible things. I think that's where Baba and Freddy find themselves. They're the people that are just destined to suffer and cause suffering to other people. There's no amount of good luck and good charm that can change that for them, it's just that when there's good there has to be bad. It's hard to differentiate the good guys from the bad guys. I mean, the only real indicator is that the bad guys end up doing the bad things, but the good people do bad things although not to that extent. If you give them the time and the opportunity, maybe they will become those bad people because a bad guy might be classed as a good guy to someone else. With Baba, Janet and Martin who he lodges with only know how great and lovely he is and what he does for the church, but they don't know what he's capable of. I think that's the line, you never really know.

Why does having a twosome as hunters and the hunted work dramatically?

I think having a duo and partnerships works because when you're pursuing somebody, in a crime drama, you never account for a second person. There's always an unexpected twist when there's a second or third person involved, so I think the twosome works in this scenario. For Jackson and Lola, it comes to them very quickly that they might be looking for two people, but it's more a question of finding out who that second person is. I think that's the interesting thing for their journey. Obviously, as the audience, we know something that they don't, so it's about how they arrive at Baba from Freddy and how they put those two together. I think it's interesting.

What drew Baba and Freddy together?

I think the thing that initially draws Baba to Freddy is the fact that she stops him. I don't think anyone has ever done that before. Everybody has either facilitated his rage or encouraged it, but it's that first initial meeting where they meet in the alleyway that she actually says no don't do this, don't commit this because this isn't the right thing to do. I think that's what opens the channel for him to be drawn into her, the fact that she sees something different in him. It's interesting to see how the relationship between Baba and Freddy develops over the series because, on the face of it, it seems like a romantic relationship, but you see that what they need from each other is more primal and carnal. They become very dependent on each other, in terms of moral support, physically, romantically and emotionally. They depend a lot on each other and one fills a void that the other has been missing for some time. In terms of who leads who in the relationship, I think Freddy does lead Baba, but Baba's very complicit and he wouldn't do anything he wouldn't want to do. The show is called We Hunt Together, so they have to be complicit, they have to be in a partnership. Whether or not Freddy feels like she's manipulating Baba, or Baba feels like he's being manipulated, they both know what's going on. From my point of view, Baba has been manipulated once in his life and he can see it, but when there's a cause he'll enlist himself and I think that's what's happening. He feels that Freddy comes into his life at the point where he needs that, so all the guess work is irrelevant. It's more about what we get from each other, from his point of view.

What do you hope viewers will take away from the series?

I hope viewers will take away the idea that you have an obligation to care about people, no matter what they've been through and no matter what you see when you look at them. I think that's something that can lend itself to our society today. Just because you see a certain version of somebody doesn't mean that that's the person that you perceive them to be. They have a whole history that you know nothing about, and they have a whole future planned that they want to fulfil. Ultimately though, if their history gets in the way of their future then they'll be stuck in the present, just kind of living day to day. I think that happens for a lot of characters in that they're so scared of their history that they don't fully jump into their future. What I want viewers to do is to look around them and say how can we help people a little more.

Who are some of your favourite police or criminal duos?

One of my favourite crime fiction duos is in a show called Lie to Me. It's about this man who runs an agency called the Lightman agency and he specialises in body language, so he's basically a human lie detector. The relationship between the lead, played by Tim Roth, and his right hand woman is so fascinating because they're both steeped in darkness and they're both steeped in light and it's how they transition from light to dark with each other in their cases, in their personal life and in their work. It's one of my favourite TV shows ever and it's probably my favourite duo.

Why do we all love crime drama?

I think we all hear that little voice in our head sometimes goading us to do something and crime drama gives us the chance to see people actually act on it. It's interesting to watch that and I think it's a weird line that we cross sometimes because we love crime dramas, but then we're so appalled when we watch a crime documentary. It's almost a kind of agreed fiction that we accept this and say we love a crime drama because it's not real, but we're so appalled by crime documentaries because we know that comes from a real place. I think we just make ourselves feel better about watching crime dramas.