Dynasty Actor Sam Adegoke Speaks On Life Before Hollywood, Growing Up As A Preacher’s Kid, & More
Sam Adegoke is definitely one to look out for and one you cannot help but look at. The Nigeria-born actor gained his big break after being chosen as the winner of the 2015 ABC Discovers National Talent Competition. Hand-picked from thousands and thousands of talented hopefuls, Adegoke took home the winning title, landing himself a one-year holding deal with ABC. Shortly after, he appeared in ABC’s Wicked City, a crime drama, assuming the role of ‘Graham Walker’. That, however, was only the beginning of what was to come for Adegoke.
An attention-grabbing talent and captivating onscreen presence, he has since become a prominent face on the forefront of up and coming actors. With credits such as Murder in the First, which also starred Taye Diggs, Switched at Birth, and, more recently, Lifetime’s celebrated Michael Jackson biopic, Searching for Neverland, (portraying the lead role of Jackson’s bodyguard, Javon Beard), and many others. Sam Adegoke continues carving his way through Hollywood, impacting audiences, one memorable character at a time.
His latest impact happens to be through his legendary character, Jeff Colby, in The CW-produced reboot of the hit 1980s soap opera series, Dynasty. Developed by Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage, and Sallie Patrick, the much-talked-about revised drama follows two wealthy families and their ongoing feud for control over fame, fortune, and their family.
The series, which once featured an all-white cast, is breaking barriers with its diversity, as it has been named one of the ‘Top New TV Shows You Should Be Watching’ by TIME Magazine.
Here’s our exclusive interview with Sam Adegoke, where we talked about life before Hollywood, growing up as a preacher’s kid, Dynasty, and much more!
Parlé Mag: So, though you were born in Nigeria, you were raised in Minnesota. What was it like growing up there?
Sam Adegoke: Yes, I was born in Nigeria. We migrated to the states when I was a young child, spent some time in New York, but mostly Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. There’s actually a strong African community in Minnesota. My parents were missionary ministers and started their church in a humble house. We always had a lot of migrant Nigerian families staying with us and that became our community. It definitely shaped a lot of how important my culture as a Nigerian is, despite most of my formative years being in the states. That said, Minnesota is not a place for Africans to live in the wintertime. I don’t know if my parents were confused or what, going from like the hottest place on earth to the coldest.
Parlé Mag: [laughs]
Sam Adegoke: Summertime is beautiful in there. Everyone’s out on the lakes, enjoying the weather while they can. But, winter, I’m happy to be out of there. [laughs] It is a great state, though. People don’t associate Minnesota with diversity; they don’t think there are African-Americans or anything other than Caucasians there. It’s actually more diverse than folks think, and it has a huge theatre arts scene, which certainly shaped some of my interests in the arts.
Parlé Mag: Nice! So, your parents were also ministers. How was life as a preacher’s kid?
Sam Adegoke: [laughs] Gosh! We were in church every day of the week. Bible study on Mondays, kid’s meeting on Tuesdays, singles meeting on Thursdays. I’m like, “Yo! I’m ten. Why am I at a singles meeting?” I lived in church. Back then it felt like a burden as a child when you just want to be outside playing. But I am grateful for it now and can say that I appreciate the morals that they raised me with and sense of family. I’m the youngest of seven in a very close-knit family and my parents were always in church so my older siblings raised me.
I would definitely say that it was tough being a pastor’s kid. I will say that it’s not only just as a ‘preacher’s kid’, but a Nigerian minister’s kid! I couldn’t do anything! I remember I wanted to go to a dance in high school and my dad wasn’t having it. So of course, I snuck out and went anyway. Like, I’m in high school! I’m grown and I can’t go to a high school dance? [laughs] My dad shows up at the dance, I swear. I couldn’t make this up; this was like out of a movie. He’s furious, when he arrives to, shooting daggers at me, like, get in the car your life is over. So, I quickly had to split from my date. I’ll just leave it at that. The rest is history!
Parlé Mag: We know that your big break came when you were chosen as the 2015 winner of ABC Discovers: National Talent Competition. However, before that, tell us a little bit about how your love for acting sort of ignited. Was this like a childhood dream of yours?
Sam Adegoke: Yeah, it really goes back to church. As a young child raised in the church, we did a lot of plays. We did plays that weren’t even in the Bible. You have the classic stories birth and death of Christ and things like that, but my youth group had all sorts of fictitious stories that were derived from, but not based on the bible. That part of church I did enjoy. I just remember enjoying being up on stage, make-believing with my friends, dressing up in like biblical sacloth or whatever it was. I enjoyed that interaction, which is something that didn’t really leave me. I was heavy into arts in high school and enrolled in an arts program in college. But arts weren’t really encouraged as a career in my family and with half of my six other siblings being doctors, no one was really thrilled with my major of choice. So, I actually transitioned out of an arts program into a business school, because I cared what my family thought and figured that might appease them. Black academic excellence, great internships, scholarships, pledged a historically black fraternity—I did all of these things that I thought that I was supposed to do to be “successful.” I even had a great paying job in corporate America waiting for me a full year before I graduated college. But working in Corporate America, I was miserable, and I couldn’t get away from this itch I wanted to scratch. I wanted to tell stories, in one way or another, and it wasn’t until one of my really good friends passed away that I finally decided to go for it. I didn’t get into study of acting thinking, “Oh, I want to be famous and rich.” It became almost like therapy for me. It was a way for me to feel, learn and understand myself in ways I didn’t really know before and I just kept exploring it. I’m just really, really grateful for what’s come from taking that step out on faith.
Parlé Mag: Honestly speaking, would you say that your church upbringing has a direct effect on the type of characters that you decide to portray?
Sam Adegoke: You know, I don’t really think so. No. My belief is that you grow up and you shape your own beliefs. Definitely, the influences are there, but I know there are certain stigmas attached to certain things—depending on what your spiritual belief is. To me, if there is a story to be told that impacts me in the way that I was impacted, that tends to shape my thinking, that could make me be a better person, that could make me want to learn something or challenge something that I was very adamant about, I’ll tell that story that I believe in. If I believe that it’s true and genuine and that it’s a perspective that maybe we haven’t seen, or we haven’t seen in this light, I’ll tell that story.
Parlé Mag: Let’s talk about your recent project, which happens to be CW’s reboot of the 1980s’ soap opera series, Dynasty. You take on the character Jeff Colby. So, how would you describe Jeff?
Sam Adegoke: Jeff is a self-made billionaire who bootstrapped his way up from humble beginnings and earned his first billion almost overnight with a tech software he created. On surface, he seems like a flashy dressing playboy, but there’s much more than meets the eye. He’s very sharp, witty, and has a strong moral compass of what he believes is right and doesn’t deviate from that as much as he can help it. He’s balancing that moral compass with a secret past that later comes to light and tests his moral compass but that’s what creates drama and fun scenes to play. Jeff genuinely has a good heart and despite having demons and a tumultuous past, he wants to do the right thing at the end of the day and will fight for his family and loved ones till the death.
Parlé Mag: Having the opportunity to be a part of something so classic, walk us through the process of you actually getting this role
Sam Adegoke: It was detailed and lengthy audition process. I was actually filming another project, Searching for Neverland, which is the Michael Jackson biopic that Lifetime aired in May. The challenge was it filmed smack in the middle of pilot season and my goal was to book a pilot. I just felt and new it would happen. I saw the Dynasty project I just connected with a character, and had a great read in my first audition. They called me back for another read, then again for a producer session, then again for a studio test audition. The last audition for the role is the network test for the network execs who then decide who they want for the role. I was shooting the Michael Jackson biopic when I was supposed to go for the network test, which is the last level. biopic was shooting, and they didn’t want to release me for the network test. I was like, this “is the last step, I think. This looks promising.”
But the schedule for the MJ biopic was pretty set and there was no way I could get released for the Dynasty network test when I had a full day of shooting. My team and I were bummed but we understood my obligation at the time was to Lifetime. So, Dynasty casting was like, we’re sorry. We really wanted you to come to the network test; we’re just going to have to show the network execs your tape from the last audition that you came in for.” I mean, taped auditions are a huge part of an actor’s career, but to me, there’s nothing like feeding off of the energy of people in live audition room and utilizing that in my work. I like to be in a live room. So, I felt like I was at a disadvantage and had almost immediately moved on in my mind. Like here’s no way I’m going to get cast off tape when others get to perform in a live room. I can’t lie, I was bummed. But I got to place of just thinking “You know what? If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, man.” Lo and behold, I’m coming offset, and my team called me, and they were like, “They want you!”
Parlé Mag: I know that had to be a happy moment!
Sam Adegoke: I was over the moon. It was all God! Definitely amazing.
Parlé Mag: How do you think Dynasty kind of fills those missing pieces of what TV needs today?
Sam Adegoke: First and foremost, we have a tremendously diverse cast. The historical, iconic character, Jeff Colby, was once white; now, he is a black male. Sammy Jo, who used to be female, is now a Latino gay male. We’re weaving stories with contemporary mainstream political issues. Not only that but our amazing showrunner and executive producer, Sallie Patrick, is so open to allowing us to use our own personal stories and our own backgrounds to use in these characters.
Parlé Mag: What’s in store for you that we can look forward to in the months to come?
Sam Adegoke: In terms of the show, it’ll be fun. It’s drama, it’s soap. We’re not necessarily changing the world, but we are pushing the envelope for a show of this tone and audience with a diverse cast and diverse issues. So many great characters and stories we get to tell. People are going to relate. At the end of the day, its imperfect people trying to live right, fighting for what they believe in, fighting for their loved ones, and going to great lengths to protect them Jeff Colby is definitely at the forefront of fighting for what he believes is right. So, it’s entertaining! We’re having a lot of fun making the show.
Image Credit: Vince Trupsin
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