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The Undoing’s Noma Dumezweni on the power of representation, those cliffhanger storylines and episode 6 spoilers


“You are witnessing me doing a head wrap,” Noma Dumezweni aka the power boss barrister, Hayley Fitzgerald in Sky Atlantic’s The Undoing , tells me as she puts down her morning coffee to get ready for the day and the sun floods into her LA apartment.


The 51-year-old British actress is staggering in her role in the TV drama that has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster at Alton Towers. And in case you haven’t been hanging off your sofa every Monday night watching it, The Undoing follows Nicole Kidman’s Grace whose world is turned upside down when her husband, Jonathan, played by Hugh Grant, goes on the run as a body is discovered. Step forward Noma’s Hayley who defends Hugh in court and serves us the best courtroom scenes we have seen since Reese Witherspoon gave us pure justice in Legally Blonde.

The first question on my mind? “What the actual f**k was that episode five cliff hanger about?” I ask. “I haven’t even seen the sixth episode,” Noma reveals. “It’s so interesting how the show leads you; first it’s a thriller, then it’s a courtroom drama. And then it’s like, ‘what the f**k?’ It’s going to be so interesting to see how they have cut it!” So, there is no squeezing any plot spoilers out of Norma, then!

Filming with the Hollywood elite was not in Hayley’s plan. Honing her craft on the stage, Noma went on to win an Olivier Award for A Raisin in the Sun before staring as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and The Cursed Child on both the west end and Broadway and becoming the therapist in Normal People.

Here, Noma opens up about her journey to the screen, representation and The Undoing storylines that shook her the most…


What was the plot twist in The Undoing which has shaken you the most?

I do remember there was a section and it’s in episode six. So that’s what I want to see. I want to see how they cut it. I’m curious because I want to see the wizard thing that happens. I remember when we were filming it because it’s from different points of view, there was Hugh’s point of view and my point of view as defense lawyer. It was a whole court moment! I find it fascinating because apart from Susanna (Bier, director), David (Kelley, writer and producer) and Nicole – who is also a producer – I think it’s only the producers who have seen that sixth episode. Us actors, as well as all of you have not seen that sixth episode!

I’ve always got a thing for bad-ass barristers. How did you breathe that powerful attitude into the character of Hayley?

This is a real vibe! First of all, it’s good writing. I remember when I was first asked to go up for it, I was sent episode one to read through and I remember thinking, “what the f**k?” That’s when I knew it was good writing because I wanted to know what the hell was going on. It was coming off the back of finishing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway and I was planning to move back to London and then I got this. I started working on it a week later after the last show of Harry Potter and I got it three weeks before we finished!

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But I have to give props to Susanna Bier. I think she’d be all right with me saying I found it a very hard transition from doing the theatre to doing TV like that. I was literally having to put on new skin, new clothes and a new way of doing things because for the last three years I’ve been doing a theatre show, and she did say, ‘We need to get the theatre out of you.’ I know there was resistance within me because I thought, ‘Well I did the audition, I’m going to base it on that.’ Now I can honestly say, I found it hard. But I am proud of where I got to. Susanna spoke to me about power and how when people are in a really good place of power, they really know themselves that they don’t have to shout, they can just speak, and you will come closer to them.

It was hard for me to learn to be still in that way, to look the other person in the eye, hold their eye and stop acting. I feel as if it’s the first time I’m actually acknowledging it, but Susanna did a great job to make Hayley Fitzgerald what you’re seeing.

What that quiet power of Hayley taught you about yourself?

Personally, I will always be front forward and want to look you in the eye and talk to you but what happens now is that I’m not scared of sitting back and just letting space occur. That experience taught me something because ultimately, it’s not just Hayley, it’s Susanna, it’s Nicole, it’s Hugh. My mentor says, ‘Steal from the best and make it your own.’ I absolutely understand what that is. I say to all young actors, ‘Steal from the best. See what you like. What is it about that person or that experience you like? Now transform it into your version!’


What did you learn from working with the likes of Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant?

First and foremost, work ethic. For me, Josh – I was talking to a friend about it this week – I’m so in awe of my story, if you put it down on paper. I arrived in this country as a family of refugees seeking asylum. Now at the age of 51, I’m having this experience of being a new kid on the block via TV and film in America. If you put those two stories, the beginning and where I am right now, that wasn’t the plan. Then the Harry Potter job changed everything in terms of how I’m seen.

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You don’t come into a space like this not knowing who Nicole Kidman is, not knowing who Hugh Grant is. When I found out that they were in it, I was like, “Please, God, please God, can I have that experience?” Nicole is a consummate professional. Then watching her, I do remember there was a moment when we were in the courtroom and she’s on the stand and the camera was on her. I had to feed in a couple of lines, small ones, but then Noma was sitting where Hayley was sitting. Noma started coming out of Hayley and we’re just listening to Nicole playing Grace, I was like, ‘F**king hell, she’s so amazing. Wow.’ I’m in awe.

Then with Hugh sitting next to him most of the time I was being a total fan. He just gave me some lovely advice and acting advice and the point we were just talking about what this business is about. I love the way he was thinking about Jonathan and the journey. So that’s why I’m so curious about episode six.


Do you feel like when you’re out there on Broadway or on TV sets you are doing it for the girl you were, arriving in the UK for the first time?

Oh, that’s a lovely way of putting it. Thank you darling because ultimately, I think so. I think I’m doing it for that girl, I’m doing for that mum and that dad who had the extraordinary journey leaving South Africa. I’m also doing it for my sister, these two kids, me arriving at the age of seven, maybe eight with my sister five coming up to six. We know these stories of statistics which are bollocks. When you start talking about the individuals within those statistics, your humanity can’t help – please god – but come out. There are certain stories we know or have been told and they’re usually straight white male.

I was watching the Hannah Gadsby (comedian) documentary and there is a line, which I now use, ‘Our stories are the cure.’ Your story, my story, my daughter’s story when she’s old enough to tell it, every individual story is the cure. If we only got one way of seeing the world to figure out where you fit in is really, really hard because you’re going, ‘I don’t see myself in that story. I don’t see myself in that experience.’

I hope that I can keep making my story, but my story has got to be Noma’s story and I need to be comfortable in it. I’m not doing it for my mum. I’m not doing it for my dad. I’m not doing it for my sister. I’m not doing it for my daughter. I am ultimately doing it for me. But if I can make them happy and feel that we’re all part of something bigger – I’m not a religious person, but I’m a spiritual person – let’s f**king share our stories man. Let’s just do it.

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The Undoing picks up on so many themes from relationships and privilege to trauma, what do you want the lasting message of this show to be?


I think I really do need to see episode six to be able to answer that totally. But what I do know, at the very minimum, it has been a great entertainment, an entertainment that takes you away from your woes, because this is an extraordinary time to be living in as we all f**king know!

I read a couple of articles which I didn’t finish saying it is a pity party for the super wealthy 1%. That’s not the point. If you’re seeing it from that way, then you’re not listening to the human stories. Look, let’s all understand privilege. Let’s all understand our points of view. Let’s all understand our perspective. The way I move through life is going to be different from the way you move through life and what we see. But the moment we sit together and have a cup of tea and enjoy a conversation, I believe that every person that you sit down with for negative or positive reasons and have a conversation with, that there will be one thing about their life and their story, you’ll go, ‘F**king hell.’ We could sit for ages and there will be something in your story that will be, ‘I can’t even imagine because I’ve never had that experience.’ So, enjoy these people. It’s an entertainment and a beautifully executed entertainment, can we say. A majority of women running the company made it happen, too. I’m very, very proud of that. I’ve grown up in a world where it’s been heavily dominated by males, and straight white males.

That just shows why representation is so important!


Yes! That’s why I don’t like the word diversity. It’s all about representation. Diversity has to be used very carefully in certain sentences, but to represent the people around you is the most humbling thing you could do from this moment onwards I think, I really do. Then you’ll listen to your humanity. I am listening to my humanity.

The Undoing’s final episode airs on Sky Atlantic on Monday at 9pm. The full season is available on Now TV and Sky Go, now.



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