Interview with Ann Akin (Detective Ekwensi)

Below is an interview conducted via email with actress Ann Akin, who portrayed Detective Vanessa Ekwensi in Strike – Career of Evil.

If you need reminding, or if you haven’t read the book yet, Ekwensi is a Detective Sergeant in the Metropolitan Police who is working alongside Detective Inspector Eric Wardle on the Shacklewell Ripper case. 

What attracted you to the role of Vanessa Ekwensi? What are your thoughts on the character?

Well, from my CV you may be able to see that I have played a lot of police roles, so I think the role may have been attracted to me first 🙂 and in the original script, my role was actually smaller than it ended up being. But I love that Ekwensi is a strong and intelligent woman and can stand her own ground. It’s great to have female roles like this on TV.

What was the audition process like? 

The audition process was really relaxed. The casting director, Shaheen Baig, has seen and cast me a few times, so it’s always lovely to walk into a room that feels friendly. Also Charles Sturbridge, the director, is such a lovely man. I had just finished performing my one-woman show just before my audition, and we ended up spending a lot of time talking about the show and my love for British Sign Language.

What was your experience like on set?

I started filming at the end of January and finished in mid April, so I was in for a few months. I had the majority of my scenes with Tom and Killian and worked with Holliday briefly, but I honestly had a really great time. We all got on really well. But my experience on set always goes beyond the actors. There are always such a great crew behind a film/TV show, and I also had a great time with the crew. The runners and the assistant directors and the camera crew. It’s a lovely experience.

Were you familiar with the Cormoran Strike books before getting the part? Have you read the books or any of J.K. Rowling’s other works?

I wasn’t familiar with the Strike books, but I was very familiar with the Harry Potter Series. I’m a massive JK fan. Both of her personally and her work. I was in Thailand the day of the table read, so I missed meeting her and I was a little devastated! She’s an inspiration woman and writer.

J.K. Rowling has hinted that she has plans for Detective Vanessa Ekwensi. There’s a fan theory that she could even join Strike and Robin in their detective agency. What are your thoughts about Ekwensi becoming a more prominent role and would you be up for it?

I would definitely be up for a more prominent role within the team, and I can see how the fans have come to that theory but at the moment you all know as much as we do, so we’re all going to have to wait and see but sometimes that’s part of the excitement. Waiting in the wings for what may happen next. 🙂 

You’re the founder of and Artistic Director at HARTS Theatre Company. Please tell us a little about that.

Yes, I founded Harts in 2013. It’s a community arts theatre company and we use performing arts to work with young people. We run weekly drama classes on Sundays at Battersea Arts Centre for young people aged 5-16. We also run a new writing festival called ‘Young Harts Writing Festival’ in collaboration with Lyric Hammersmith, and we deliver a mental health awareness workshop called Normal? Education. We also work in partnership with NCS the challenge and produce an annual mental well-being music and arts festival.

What is your next project?

Currently Harts’ is producing Young Harts Writing Festival. Submissions are now currently open for any emerging writer aged 10-25 to submit a 10-minute play. It’s a really great initiative. We select 6 writers who get a small commission. We also commission 5 professional writers to also write a play. The emerging writers, once selected, receive a free masterclass with a professional writer. All of the plays are cast with a mixture of professional and emerging actors and perform on the Lyric stage on the 6-7th April. When the plays are performed, the audience aren’t told who has written each play and they vote for their favourite play. When the winner is announced, the authors are announced.

I have also written a one-woman show called Trying To Find Me which is being produced this year. We go into research and development/rehearsal at the end of February, so keep an eye out for when that hits the theatres. It’s a show I’m very proud of.

You can follow HARTS Theatre Company on Twitter here.