Exclusive Interview with Shades of Blue’s Dayo Okeniyi
Dayo Okeniyi began acting at a young age, and landed his break out role in 2012 as Tresh in The Hunger Games. Since then he’s been in many films including Caveman, Runner Runner, The Spectacular Now and Terminator Genisys. This January fans can see Dayo as Detective Michael Loman on NBC’s highly anticipated cop drama Shades of Blue.
Tell us about your audition process for Shades of Blue?
I got a script from my agent, read it and really freaking loved it. Then I went into NBC and I read for it, and they really liked the tape. Then they asked me to come back and do a chemistry reading with Jennifer (Lopez), and I went back and did that. Honestly it happened really quickly.
I had a deal with Terminator, a multi-picture deal. So really that was our biggest concern. Would Terminator give me permission to do a series? Paramount hit us back, and they were like, “Yep, you can do it.” Next thing I know I’m flying to New York and doing a table read with the whole cast!
So, it happened really quickly. Even for television. I mean usually with TV you wait months, but from my first read to getting the role it was really like four weeks. Which is really unheard of, but yes, I’m all smiles.
Speaking of Terminator, did filming overlap at all? Have you started filming the second Terminator?
Terminator Genisys had wrapped. The movie was about to come out in July, that was the first one. We don’t have plans to shoot the next one until next year, so I have a whole year off. But in the event that you jump on a series and the series has multiple seasons, it could then eventually cause conflict with the shooting of Terminator. Thankfully, Paramount said I can do the show, and they’ll just work around the shows schedule. It was incredibly gracious! They did not have to do that at all.
Yeah, I’m just a young guy trying to work in these streets. (laughs).
We know that your character Michael Loman is a cop, but what more can you tell us about him?
He is a green cop. It is his first day on the job. When the show picks up, he’s just made detective. He has these great ideas of what it means to be police enforcement. He’s a very idealistic guy. He’s really a bit naïve as to how things really work or how things really go down. He, of course, learns very quickly that everything he thought was very wrong.
He’s wrong about what it means to be a police officer. Things aren’t clean. Things aren’t black and white. Sometimes you have to bend the truth in order to really do justice. Over the course of 13 episodes he struggles with a lot of decisions that he makes.
What I really liked about the character is that just like him I too am new to the that world.
Is he part of Wozniak’s crew?
Yes. He’s definitely part of Wozniak’s crew. It’s his first day, so he is new to the crew, and the crew isn’t quite trusting of him. They don’t really know if he’ll make the same decisions that they make.
What is his relationship with Harlee like?
When we start the pilot episode, it’s his first day on the job, and Wozniak has put both of them together. He’s made Harlee his training officer. She’s issued to show him the ropes, show him around, show him what the day-to-day is like. Nothing too serious. Of course you won’t have a TV show without incidents. So things go south very quickly on the first day. Which they were not expecting.
She also shows him how you can clean up stuff to make it look right. She even says in the trailer that it’s all in the paperwork, and for Loman, he was like no. He definitely struggles with that and with the guilt. Our show constantly deals with those types of dilemmas.
For Loman, his fate hangs in the balance. You watch him walk this tightrope of either holding onto the law or holding onto those great ideologies that he has. And whether or not he has to go that far down the rabbit hole to become one of the guys.
As for his history, where he’s coming from, I can’t tell you that because that would be a spoiler. (laughs).
You did just mention the scene from the trailer where she says, “It’s all in the paperwork, and that’s actually in reference to her shooting you in the vest. What does it feel like getting shot by a fake bullet?
(laughs). It’s surreal. Someone just asked me that same question, and to be honest, when we shot the scene, it was very mundane just because that was my audition scene. That was the scene that I tested with, and that was the scene that I did my chemistry with Jennifer with. We knew that scene in and out. It didn’t even feel like a scene anymore, so on set, it was really a struggle to try to make the scene feel alive again, to feel immediate, and to feel like the scene still happened on set for the first time.
It was more surreal just watching the trailer because we shot that scene six months ago. When the trailer dropped, I had forgotten a lot about that day, and so it was really fun seeing it. I got a million calls from family and friends saying, “Oh my god dude. Can’t believe Jennifer Lopez just shot you.”(laughs). Watching it on TV and seeing it all put together was definitely a cool, different experience.
You’ve had other physical roles, obviously, Hunger Games, Terminator, but what kind of physical training did you have to do for Shades of Blue, specifically?
To be honest, on my own, I did a lot of stuff to get ready for this shoot. I watched a lot of YouTube videos, a lot of Police Academy stuff and tactical drills. We didn’t have a lot of time. Jennifer’s schedule was very short, so as soon as we had cast the whole show, we went into production. The great thing was NBC put us in touch with ex-cops and detective consultants, who we could call at any time of the day. They show us anything we needed to know.
For me, I was more concerned about character-driven stuff. How much does it affect Loman here? What is that family life like? What other struggles did they deal with financially? What would make Loman want to make a decision that is immoral to make money for his family? A police officer is not a very high paying job, and these people put their lives on the line.
Those are the kind of things I was more interested in, as opposed to, how do you properly get this done? How do you walk into a building? We have someone on set to tell us exactly how all that stuff goes down. Proper terminology for that situation, how to control suspects, how do you set up a perimeter, things like that. But as an actor, I like to put character first rather than all the other extra things.
How would you describe this show, as a whole, in five words or less?
It’s a show about people and the lengths they would go to protect those they love. That’s really what it’s about, and it’s also about a family. At what point should you step back and … I know I’m stepping over five words at this point. (laughs). But what point should you step back?
The show’s also about family and at what point do you have to take off your horse blinders to realize that your family members are not necessarily the right people to align with. At a certain point, you have to be willing to do that which is necessary even though it’s not what you want to do. You don’t want to betray your family, but at certain times, you have to deal with that because they’re doing things that are not good.
It’s that shade. Life is not black and white. There are always shades of grey, or in our case …
Yeah! Every episode has crazy dilemmas. It’s one of those shows where at the end of every episode, there will be discussions! People will talk about “What would you have done? What would you have done? I would have done this.” Everybody’s different, everybody has different levels of morality. I love that type of conflict. Shades of Blue is about human emotions, human dilemmas, and how people react to different situations.
What episode are you most excited for fans to see?
Oh my god. Every one. (laughs). The nature of the show … First of all, every episode is almost a day. The show has a sense of urgency to it. The show is 13 episodes and I think we experience 16 days. So it’s almost a day an episode.
Every episode ends on a cliffhanger. Every episode ends on, “Oh my god, what is she going to do next?” I can’t wait for people to watch every episode because it’s just one of those shows that leaves you wanting more. There’s no resolution at the end of every episode. Every episode ends with Harlee trapped in dismay. How is she gonna maneuver her way out of this one?
Harlee has been this informant for the FBI, and she wants to protect the unit, but at the same time, she wants to give the FBI enough information so she doesn’t go to jail forever. She’s honestly in this turmoil and it’s just brilliant. I can’t wait for people to see the show.
Excluding Shades of Blue, what has been your favorite cop show?
Man, I’m going to say Breaking Bad is a cop show because it’s about the DA trying to find out who this guy is selling crystal meth. I love that show. Technically, I would say Boardwalk Empire is a cop show because it’s about gangsters who really created the La Cosa Nostra on the east coast and how that came to be, and J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI trying to dismantle that, but at the end of the day, really collaborating with these criminals. So those two are probably my favorite crime dramas.
Our website is called Talk Nerdy with Us, so what makes you a nerd, or what do you nerd out about?
I’m a Lord of the Rings fanatic. I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I probably could quote those from beginning to the end. I love the Harry Potter saga … Harry Potter books and the movies. Yeah, I’m a huge nerd. Star Wars just came out! I love the original trilogy. I’m one of the few people who loved the prequels too.
Did you go at midnight?
I couldn’t get tickets for the midnight, but this is how much of a nerd I am. I saw it at 10:00AM on Friday. So, I saw the matinée on Friday with all the old people. (laughs).
Shades of Blue premieres January 7 at 10/9c on NBC.