Interview: Toks Olagundoye Talks 'The Neighbors,' Written by: Karen Benardello
Most coming of age stories chronicle the difficulties teenagers often experience during their adolescence to fit in with their peers, and the lengths they go to as they seek acceptance from those around them. However, the idea of teens learning how to adjust to the social human norms isn't the main motivating idea in ABC's new comedy show 'The Neighbors,' which airs on Wednesdays at 8:30pm. Instead, the series uniquely chronicles how aliens try to assimilate into American life, but continuously have difficulties trying to adapt to a new society.
The series, set in New Jersey, revolves around Marty Weaver, played by Lenny Venito, and his family, who has relocated to a gated townhouse community called Hidden Hills. Upon their arrival, they discover that the entire community is populated by residents from the planet Zabvron, including First Lady Jackie Joyner-Kersee, portrayed by Toks Olagundoye, who's married to Supreme Leader Larry Bird, played by Simon Templeman.
The aliens receive nourishment through their eyes and mind by reading books rather than eating, and cry green goo from their ears. Since the aliens have assumed human form, they can also revert to their original appearances by clapping their hands above their heads. They have been stuck on Earth for 10 years, and are still waiting for instructions to return home.
Olagundoye generously took the time recently to discuss filming 'The Neighbors' over the phone. Among other things, the actress spoke about what attracted her to the role of Jackie; what her working relationship with Templeman is like on the set; and how the series is a family show, but is also high concept for adults.
Question (Q): You play Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the First Lady of the alien race, on the new ABC comedy 'The Neighbors.' What was it about the character and the initial scripts you received for the series that convinced you to take on the role?
Toks Olagundoye (TO): Well, to be completely honest, it was a job, so of course I was interested. (laughs) I think Jackie's lovely, and I have a lot of fun playing her. I liked the quirkiness of her, and the fact that she's trying her best to be as perfect as she can, but she has flaws. She tries her best to make everyone else happy. I think she's a lovely, goofy, interesting lady.
Q: How do you prepare for your role of Jackie for each new episode? Were there any particular sci-fi inspired movies or television shows that you watched for inspiration?
TO: No, no. She is completely my own thing. I read the script, and it's my own take on it. I like to do my own quirky thing. Not that I haven't been inspired by things, I'm sure, throughout my life. But when it comes to Jackie, I have a lot of fun playing her, as far as what the script is calling for her that week.
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