Rising star Dayo Okeniyi, who has a pivotal role in “Terminator Genysis,” is extremely proud that his character has such a significant, scientific presence. In an exclusive interview, he also explains what “Terminator Genysis” means to him in retrospect to his previous parts in “The Hunger Games” and “Endless Love.”
For those who have not seen Terminator 2 and know of Joe Morton’s involvement, explain your role in Terminator Genysis.
Well, Danny Dyson, even though he’s a small card in this big machine, he’s definitely a huge catalyst for a lot of the craziness that is happening in that world. He’s the son of the great inventor, Miles Tyson. He jumps into the story a little differently from Terminator 2 where the character was first introduced as a little boy. Now he’s an adult. He’s right on the cusp of taking the reigns from his father and becoming the CEO of Cyberdyne. He is in charge of the project at Cyberdyne dealing with Artificial Intelligence and hopes it will be used for the betterment of mankind. What he doesn’t know is that there are those secretly creating this Trojan horse that can bring about the apocalypse. He’s kind of living in a little bubble that is about to burst.
Were there any trepidation stepping into this role?
Not at all. Of course there is always going to be some fear. First day on set you have to stand in front of a crowd of people and give a three-page monologue. But you have Courtney Vance, who is an amazing actor there, and I mean he was just like a coach, really cheering me on and championing me. Alan Taylor is just one of the most relaxed and collaborative directors, so I was just excited. Doing something like The Hunger Games before this definitely gives you a nice little look at that inside world, sort of speak.
What kind of skills did you have to bring to Terminator that was different from other the other franchise and blockbuster?
I think it was more of myself. I think this character is more of me than any other character I’ve played. I mean with Hunger Games there I was with a sword. I had never had a sword in my real life. And something like Endless Love, I got to play this happy, go lucky, carefree guy that does whatever he wants and is completely spontaneous in the moment. That’s not necessarily me. Danny Dyson felt more like me. Here’s a guy who loves technology and is developing a great technology. He loves science. In college, I loved technology; I love what Neil deGrasse Tyson is doing.
He looks up to his father; his father is like the biggest thing in his life. I mean I can relate to that one hundred percent. My father is the biggest inspiration in my life. Here’s a guy who came from absolute poverty in Nigeria. Didn’t have a pair of shoes until he was 17 years old and somehow worked his way so that all his kids could go to college in the United States.
Understanding you studied advertising, marketing and coding in college before you graduated, I would think the advertising and marketing, in particular, has been an asset to you?
I mean a huge part of what you do as an ad person or an account manager is you pitch, which is very similar to auditioning. When I did my internship you’re doing that constantly, constancy going up to a bunch of people pitching an idea. You have to have a thick skin and be immune to criticism. It’s very similar to acting. Some people say, ‘don’t you thin k if you quit college you’d be further now?’ and I say, ‘no,’ because everything I went throug during college prepared me for what I’m doing now.
You’re one of the hottest ticket in town now, in just about every mainstream magazine as the next hot wave of talent. Does any of this ever go to your head?
Not at all. I go home and my mom is still like, ‘wash those dishes,’ ‘take the trash out!’ My niece starts crying, and she’s like, ‘change that diaper.’ In my household, they don’t let anything like that slide at all.
“Terminator Genysis,” which opens July 1, also stars Emelia Clarke, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and J.K. Simmons.
Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org