Tara Bennett from Fear Net recently had the opportunity to interview Dayo Okeniyi about how he transformed himself into Thresh, the Hunger Games dvd and more.
Here’s an excerpt of the interview from FearNet :
Were you hyper prepared for the read?
It was super secretive. I couldn’t tell anybody about, not even my parents. I went in and read and it was just one page. I tell you, my roommate and I went to the same college together and is also an actor so he was the only person I told and we must have read that one page 50 to 100 times. It was like five lines but I practiced it in every possible way. So I felt very confident going into the audition. Also my managers sent me in because they know Debra Zane very well and they just wanted to see how I did in the room. But it led to me getting the role and I’m very aware that it doesn’t happen for people like that. I kind of have survivor’s guilt. [Laugh]
When did you meet Gary Ross and did he give you any specific notes on what he wanted to see from Thresh?
I read about four times in the room and honestly it was just, “Ok, great. We’ll get back to you.” It wasn’t like I gave a Sean Penn performance or anything but I felt strongly about it. I never got a call back but every time I talked to my manager about different projects The Hunger Games kept coming back. Finally they said Gary Ross liked my tape. Then we got word that they wanted me to come in and do a test screening at Gary Ross’ house. It got pushed and I got a call it had been cancelled and that Gary just went ahead and cast me. So I only read for the role once. It was so surreal.
The books are written from Katniss’ POV, so we don’t get much back story on any of the Tributes. Did Gary provide a back story or encourage you to create one so you could connect to your character?
Gary was surprisingly very freeing for a young actor like myself. He gave us space to do whatever we wanted to do, of course being adamant we follow canon, the story. He put creating a back story in our hands. There were a lot of great young actors in this movie, and a lot of first-time actors which was a great way for us to bond. He trusted us and let us create what we wanted to create. When we came on set, he tweaked us a little, but he trusted us.
How did you become Thresh?
I just wanted to feel like this bear of a person. Katniss describes him as being a physical wonder. But Gary was very clear that he didn’t want him to feel like a villain. [Thresh] is still a kid. He’s pretending to be tough and cold as ice, but he’s really freaking out on the inside. As an actor I like to work the outside in, so when you take care of the physical it will inform what’s going on inside. I was really about getting into the body of the character. I was roughly 162 pounds when I got the role so it was about getting my weight up. I wanted to feel like one of the biggest Tributes so I got up to about 185 in the gym. Plus I trained with the guys from 87Eleven Stunt Design and they’ve trained everyone in the business. They definitely got me where I needed to be physically. When you feel stronger than anyone in the scene, you carry yourself different.
Read the rest HERE