10 Questions for Dayo Okeniyi

Samantha Ofole-Prince catches up with the 27 year-old Nigerian native who plays a detective on the crime drama “Shades of Blue.”

Dayo Okeniyi

He played Thresh from District 11 opposite Jennifer Lawrence in the widely popular “The Hunger Games” film. Since then, he’s starred in several feature films including “Terminator: Genisys,” “Endless Love” and “Runner Runner,” opposite Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake.  Samantha Ofole-Prince catches up with the 27 year-old Nigerian native who plays a detective on the crime drama “Shades of Blue.”

1. ‘Shades of Blue’ marks your television debut, what was the attraction to the role of Detective Michael Loman?
I wasn’t really trying to go for television to be honest, but the script came and it was just that good so I auditioned and had a chemistry test with Jennifer Lopez and got the part.

2. It’s almost like a ‘make or break it’ moment as she also serves as executive producer. Was it nerve racking?
It was very like art imitating life as you know she’s a judge on American Idol so when I went in there I kinda felt as though I was auditioning to go to Hollywood for ‘American Idol’ for a spot. I tend to look at work like that in a comedic way just to ease the tension a little bit. She has a warm nature to her and she makes you feel at ease and is very professional.

3.The show is filmed in New York, which required you to make another move since you were based in Los Angeles. How do you like the Big Apple?
I am from Lagos and it does feel like New York. Lagos is a weird fusion between of New York and Los Angeles. It’s a very small city and I like the nature of that. The cool thing about New York is when you open your front door life comes rushing at you. Los Angeles is different and you spend 90% of your day in the car because it’s so spread out. It’s more of a sprawl type of feel.  They have both have their pluses. I love them both equally, but I think New York tips the scale a little bit better.

4. Were your parents always supportive of your decision to pursue acting?
I kinda Jedi mind tricked them a little bit. I went to college and got my degree so I pleased them. Then I asked if they could give me a year to go to Los Angeles and get this acting thing out of my system. Literally a year to the day of moving to Los Angeles, I got “Hunger Games’ so there was really no turning back.  I think I made it easier for them to support me.  They have seen me on stage my whole life and they knew I had the heart for it and the drive for it and ultimately they had to respect that.

5. It’s got to a dream role to play a cop on television. What are some your favorite cop dramas?Dayo Okeniyi in Shades of Blue
A lot of cop dramas are crime series. I like “Sherlock Holmes” which like is a cop drama and I also love “Luther” which is an amazing cop drama and “Breaking Bad” is a show that I really love as it has that cop police element that cat and mouse story telling I really love.

6. What is it about “Shades of Blue” that has turned it into an immediate success and made it a hit with viewers?
What I do know as a viewer is that it comes down to characters for me. If you have interesting characters and put them against the wall and they have to make decision that’s what makes for interesting television.   That’s what I love the most about ‘Shades.’  It’s really about characters and the decisions that they make and it’s not a procedural type of show. There is no new crime that has to be solved every week. You are following a core group of characters over the course of the season and you get to make all these decisions with them whether good or bad and you see the consequences of these decision.

7. Michael has a huge conscience and seems to struggle with straddling the morality line. Do you share any similarities with him?
Everybody makes mistakes and you can’t fault him for the first mistake he made. I love the fact that he tries to pick up the pieces. He went through the guilt of it and he is at a place where he is trying to right the wrong. When I make mistakes, I tend to evaluate the mistakes and move on. Loman licks his wounds a little too long and I am just not built that way.

8. You have been acting since you were a tween. What was that pivotal moment that made you decide to make a profession?
Seeing Kevin Spacy in “Seven” and Denzel in “The Hurricane” had a long lasting impression on me. Those are movies I watched and thought about for years. It was a combo of watching those guys.

9 Being Nigerian, I am sure you are familiar with the booming Nollywood Film industry. Would you consider a role in a Nigerian production?
Yes for sure, but it comes down to character and story. There are amazing filmmakers coming out in Nigeria now. A great director and a great script I will go out to the trenches with you.

10. The role has certainly tripled your fan base, but with fame comes responsibility. What do you love and loathe about being famous?
I love the platform. When you have a lot of eyes on you, you get the chance to say and do things that really change people’s perspectives. I don’t just go on social media and write anything nowadays, I am very conscious about the message that I am putting out there.  You have this platform and you have to use it wisely. I think the worst part is not letting it become the reason you do what you do.  You have to chase projects that speak to you or something that you want to share with the world as you will never feel whole inside if you don’t.


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