HBO 'We Own This City': Is Wunma Mosaku's Nicole Steele based on real person?
Steele does not appear in Justin Fenton's non-fiction book of the same name
HBO's 'We Own This City' opens up with Jon Bernthal's Sergeant Wayne Jenkins delivering what would be a motivational speech for the fellow offices and eventually ends up getting arrested for the crimes he and his Gun Trace Task Force committed. One of the characters introduced in the season opener was Wunmi Mosaku's Nicole Steele, an attorney assigned to the Civil Rights DOJ that looks at police practices in Baltimore. She focuses on police corruption and how they get away with it from the key lawmakers.
Her character Nicole Steel though is a notable absentee from journalist Justin Fenton's nonfiction book of the same name. The 'Loki' star appears to be a fictional character amalgamation of one of more personalities involved in the investigation of the GTTF.
In the episode, Wunma's Steele begins an investigation into the BPD's approach and behavior after the death of Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old African American died in police custody and that murky event was one of the catalysts for the DOJ to begin investigating the cops. Her character also focuses on a particular cop Daniel Hersl (Josh Charles), known for his abusive approach.
Hersl was a member of the GTTF and was indicted after he was found guilty of supporting the unit's activities of robbing people, dealing drugs, and stealing overtime. Prior to his arrest and his GTTF investigation, the cop had a stormy history as a reportedly abusive cop who, according to The Baltimore Sun cost the city $200,000 to settle.
Talking about the show to NPR, Mosaku said she didn't know it was real until Gray's name came up. " mean, I definitely felt that change as I was reading and then, you know, popping on my phone to look at, like, Wikipedia and the internet and - like, this was all very new to me," she said. "I had started reading that script thinking it was a drama. I hadn't realized it was real until Freddie Gray's name came up."
She also shed light on the impact the events had on her. "It definitely affected me. You know, I'm Black in America. My husband is African American. I guess, like, the complicitness of everyone - it's not just the police; it's the whole system. Here, it just - it feels a little more scary because of the militarization of the police. Police officers in the U.K. generally don't have guns, you know? So the jeopardy is a little different. The fear I have is very acute here," she said.