Exclusive Feature: Dayo Okeniyi

ABOUT A BOY. A newcomer in the industry, Dayo Okeniyi’s talent is not hard to notice. We rap with “The Hunger Games” star about acting and beyond.

Shirt: Staple Ford

Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, with the name Oladayo A. Okeniyi that means “our wealth has become joy,” Dayo Okeniyi’s start seems like a far cry from Hollywood’s glitz and glam. As a matter of fact, the 25-year-old rising star still remains grounded and humble despite of the American dream he has in mind. Nailing his first role on “The Hunger Games” as Thresh, a solitary fighter with standout physical features, Okeniyi didn’t wait long before he then landed a small role in “Runner Runner” and a leading role in “Slew Hampshire.” This young, passionate thespian has several other projects in the pipeline for next year, a solid proof that his first audition in “The Hunger Games” was not merely a fluke.

DA MAN: Hi Dayo, how is it going? What are you busy about now?
Dayo Okeniyi: I recently wrapped up Universal’s remake of “Endless Love” a couple of months ago, which stars Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde, and is due out on Valentine’s Day 2014. It’s going to be great. I’m currently promoting James Ponsoldt’s “The Spectacular Now,” an indie movie called “Cavemen”—which will premiere at the Austin Film Festival—and 20th Century Fox’s “Runner Runner” with Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck—which premiered on October 4.

DA: You played alongside Justin Timberlake in “Runner Runner.” How was it?
DO: It was excellent. He is a great guy and extremely professional.

DA: How did your career in showbiz begin?
DO: I’ve been an actor my whole life. I did a lot of theater growing up but decided to take acting seriously after I graduated from college in 2009. After moving out to LA later that year, I hustled my way through a handful of short films which eventually led to “The Hunger Games.” It was heaven-sent.

Shirt: Your Neighbors, pants: THVM Tapered, watch: Kenneth Cole

DA: So how was it like being involved in the “Hunger Games”?
DO: It was everything and more that I could have expected from my first studio movie. That experience was a total blessing, no doubt. Just getting the chance to work with Academy-Award-caliber actors and actresses was beyond awesome.

DA: Who would you like to work with in the industry? For what kind of project would it be?
DO: There are too many to name. I want to work with great directors. Great directors in turn attract great actors, so I would be killing two birds with one stone by doing so. Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, just to name a few. I don’t care so much about the subject matter, just that it explores the human condition truthfully.

DA: Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?
DO: Academy Award winner/Philanthropist. No pressure!

Shirt: Staple Ford, sweater: CPO Provisions

DA: Besides acting, we heard that you could rap. Where did you pick up that skill?
DO: I started with friends in high school and I still do it a little on the side. It’s a huge hobby of mine and, who knows, maybe a career path some day.

DA: What inspires you in general?
DO: God, family and my peers. I watch way too much film and television for my own good. Always studying the greats.

DA: Who is your role model?
DO: Denzel Washington.

DA: If you could step into someone else’s shoes for a day, who would that be?
DO: Jay-Z.

DA: What’s your typical weekend like?
DO: Doing stuff with my friends. [Going to] movies, bars, clubs, etc.

DA: What is your guilty pleasure?
DO: Food Network/HGTV.

DA: Describe yourself in five words.
DO: Passionate, Hustler, Dreamer, Nerd and Empathetic.

Photographer: Bryan Kong
Stylist: Judie Reyes
Makeup/Hair: Grace Phillips @ Exclusive Artist