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Samuel Adewunmi: 'You will be the 13th juror in You Don't Know Me'

Samuel Adewunmi
Samuel Adewunmi stars opposite Sophie Wilde in this four-part series (Image credit: BBC)

Samuel Adewunmi stars as a young man on trial for murder in four-part BBC1/Netflix miniseries, You Don't Know Me.

The courtroom drama tells the tale of a young man facing life in prison for a crime he swears he didn't commit, who shares his story with the jury in a desperate bid to keep his freedom. 

With his trial coming to an end and a guilty verdict seemingly inevitable, he uses his closing remarks to share the extraordinary tale of how things began to fall apart when he fell in love with a girl called Kyra. 

Based on the novel by barrister Imran Mahmood and adapted for the screen by Vigil creator Tom Edge, it's sure to be a hit with viewers and Samuel tells it all about it here...

Samuel Adewunmi on his character, Hero? 

"I might be a bit biased because I play him, but he felt like someone who has a real sense of integrity and morality. He’s a car salesman who cares about his career, he loves his family — his mum and his sister — and he starts a relationship with this girl he meets called Kyra. He’s an everyman that just happened to be in these really extraordinary circumstances.

"He’s trying to get along and live a pretty simple life, but ends up being dragged into a world that he would not have expected. I was desperate to do it because I felt like this was a story that I hadn't seen before and even if I hadn’t got the part I was really excited about watching it!"

"He’s able to speak so well and sharing his story like this shows how eloquent he is, but he’s also incredibly brave as it’s his life on the line. I actually wanted to be a lawyer when I was in college and visited court a few times to see how things worked so I knew what to expect, but I had to stand in the dock for five straight days during filming doing big monologues, which was pretty arduous! 

"We don’t know if Hero is telling the truth or not, so in a way the audience is the 13th juror. I love stories like this that don’t make any decisions for you, because it trusts that the viewers are intelligent enough to think for themselves and come up with their own ideas."

How would you describe Hero's relationship with Kyra? 

"It’s a love story really and in the first episode he meets her on the bus and is completely mesmerised by her. She’s beautiful, but she’s also really clever, really funny and really kind and caring. Hero thinks he has it all, but things soon go wrong. Love is kind of crazy like that isn't it? We think it's gonna be wonderful, but love is challenging as well. It's difficult and it forces us to grow and find things within ourselves that maybe we didn't even know were possible to find. 

"Hero never would have thought he'd be doing some of the things he does, but he loves Kyra deeply and he would do anything to save her. Some people might be thinking: “Just leave her man!" But he's not that guy. Love kind of motivates him to do the wrong thing for the right reasons."

You have great on-screen chemistry with Sophie Wilde, who plays Kyra...

"We didn't have that much time to rehearse together as Sophie came on board quite late into the casting process. She's actually Australian so after she came in for the chemistry read, she was back in Australia, so there was no sort of chance even after she'd been cast to really get to know her and stuff. We chatted a bit and texted and FaceTime and stuff. And of course, we were also shooting during the pandemic, so there were quite strict rules on how we were allowed to meet where we were allowed to meet when we were allowed to meet.

"It was a situation, but I feel like we really clicked and she's just a lovely, warm, kind person." 

You Don't Know Me

Sophie Wilde plays Hero's girlfriend, Kyra.  (Image credit: BBC)

Did you enjoy working with Bukky Bakray, who plays Hero's sister Bless? 

"I was a massive fan of her in Rocks. I think we're just going to get to know Bukky over the coming years, because yeah, she's just like a real talent. We already know she's a BAFTA Rising Star and I'm super-excited for where she's going. She's just got such an old head on young shoulders. She's really intelligent and really conscientious and talented, but her talent isn't really the thing that I took away from working with her. It was like, 'Wow, I really just like you as a person' and I learned so much from having conversations with her and even talking about like the show and the script and stuff. She's so creative." 

Did you discuss the story with the novel's author, Imran Mahmood?

"Imran worked as a barrister in London for many years and those experiences inspired him to write the book. The series is based on his novel, but the story is slightly different, so I didn’t chat to Imran until about halfway through filming. He told me he based the lead character on a specific case where he was representing someone who was very intelligent and very eloquent and he was imagining what would happen if that guy gave his own closing remarks. He’s seen the show and I think he felt really emotional while watching it!"

What does Tom Edge's direction add to the series? 

"I love the way he switches from courtroom to flashback and the way Hero narrates the story, because that really helps you get inside his head. That guy really knows how to grip you and keep you engaged! I remember reading the end of episode two, which finishes on a big cliffhanger and I was like ‘Whoa!’"

You Don't Know Me starts Sunday, Dec. 5 on BBC1, while it will be on Netflix at a later date in the US.