Since graduating from the University of Toronto, Mouna Traoré has had many gigs including American Gods, Condor, In Contempt, and Murdoch Mysteries. However, most people probably know her from her role in season two of Netflix’s Umbrella Academy, where she plays Jill, a member of Klaus’ cult who Ben falls in love with while possessing Klaus’s body.
I got the chance to talk with Mouna about how she got into acting originally, her audition process for Umbrella Academy, what it was like working with Robert Sheehan and Justin Min and so much more. Keep reading to see what she had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you got into acting originally.
I got into acting when I was a kid. I remember watching people on television and wondering why I wasn’t doing what they were doing. I slowly figured out what acting was and when I was about seven or eight years old, I started asking my parents if I could take drama classes. From there I started taking classes on weekends, I attended an arts camp in the summer, and eventually attended a Performing Arts High School. And that’s how I got into it!
Was there a specific person or experience that you would credit with helping you decide that acting is what you wanted to do for a living?
I don’t know if I can credit anyone with helping me decide that acting was what I wanted to do for a living. I think I came to that conclusion entirely on my own. But I definitely think that my grandparents gave me the support I needed to feel like I could do it. There are a few other teachers and babysitters who also encouraged the spark in me as well.
Do you have a personal acting “bucket list” of things you still want to accomplish in your career? If so, what are some of the things on it?
Not only do I have a bucket list, I have a vision board. I don’t want to share too specifically because I believe you’ve got to protect your dreams. I would love to star in adaptations of my favourite books. I also would love to helm my own show, produce a feature and do a crazy action movie! The list keeps growing and changing, and the possibilities are endless!
Let’s talk Umbrella Academy. What was your audition process like for the show?
The audition process was interesting, because the script I was given wasn’t actually from the show. I was given what we call ”dummy” sides – a fake script. When I actually got the part, the role, the dialogue, even the character’s name were completely different than what I had auditioned with.
Were you familiar with the comics before joining the show? If not, have you gone back and read them?
No, I wasn’t familiar with the comics, and unfortunately, I haven’t read them either… Hopefully I will by the end of this pandemic!
On the show, you play Jill, a member of Klaus’ cult who Ben falls in love with while possessing Klaus’s body. I know a lot of actors bring a bit of themselves to the characters they play, but in what ways do you think you’re similar to Jill and in what ways do you think you’re different from Jill?
Jill is the nerdy, subdued, introverted and inquisitive version of me. Less vain and arrogant, more subservient and free-spirited. I think we’re similar, because I have all of those things in me, just at different degrees.I’m much more obnoxious and concerned with my looks than she is. I don’t know if I would ever be part of a cult (again).
Speaking of Klaus and Ben, what was it like working with Robert Sheehan and Justin Min?
Working with Robbie and Justin was wonderful. They both have such different energies, and it was so easy to get into character with each of them. Robbie brings so much energy, and commitment, it’s hard not to have fun with him. Justin is such a sweetheart. We talked a lot about books, and our shared interests. He really made me feel comfortable on set.
You also recently starred opposite Octavia Spencer in Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker. What was that experience like?
It was a dream come true! I got to work with so many people I’ve admired and watched since I was a kid. Growing up, I read a lot about historical figures like Sarah Breedlove aka Madam C.J. Walker, so it felt very special to be able to be part of a show bringing her story to life. It was also inspiring to work on a show that was dedicated to having black people, especially black women on both sides of the camera, including our amazing directors, producers, showrunner and writers.
I know that a lot of things have come to a halt because of the pandemic, but what other projects are you working on?
I’m writing some of my own stuff. I just developed a concept for a new short film… We’ll see where it goes. I’m also reworking a play I wrote years ago. I’ve been fortunate enough to also get a few acting and voice gigs. I’m filming a few other projects right now, nothing I can talk about, but very exciting stuff!
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
I’ve been reading a lot about The Mithraic Mysteries, because I’m obsessed with Raised by Wolves on HBO Max. In the dystopian future depicted on the show there’s a group of humans who follow Mithraism – a very specific religious order that originated in Roman times. I had never heard of it prior to the show and I am very intrigued. I’m curious about it’s origins because I really want to understand it’s role in the show.
Make sure you follow Mouna on Instagram.