Although he spent his formative years in Nigeria and now calls Los Angeles home, Dayo Okeniyi—the Hunger Games alum who stars in this month’s Endless Love—has a special connection to Atlanta.
“My parents are retired now and moved to Atlanta, so it’s kind of like my home now in a weird way,” he says. “It was cool to be filming where mom and dad live. It was really awesome.”
Indeed, when he wasn’t on set for Endless Love, a remake of the 1980s favorite which features Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde as ill-fated sweethearts, Okeniyi managed to get in some serious family time.
“We were staying in downtown Atlanta,” he says, “but I was home every night for mom’s cooking.”
What was the draw? “What my mom makes the best is this tomato stew that she pours on rice, and then she has her special chicken,” Okeniyi explains. “I didn’t have room service the entire time I was there because my mom would cook for me and I would wrap the food and take it home. My mom was my room service.”
It wasn’t just dinner that brought the family together, though. When director Shana Feste needed an actress to play the mother of Okeniyi’s character, instead of hiring a stranger she brought on the real deal.
Okeniyi recalls: “We were doing rehearsals the first week of the movie and Shana was like, ‘Your folks live in Atlanta right? Are you opposed to having them play your parents in the movie?’”
So while his father was traveling, the 26-year-old actor’s mom jumped at the chance.
“She was over the moon,” he says. “She went crazy, saying, ‘I’m going to wear this, I’m going to wear that’. I was like, ‘You can’t choose your clothes! Even though you’re playing my mom, you’re still playing a character.’”