22-year-old Ezekiel Ajeigbe is a fast growing young Nigerian actor born in Fort Worth, Texas. Although he grew up Arlington, Texas, he never lost his Yoruba roots, which enables him to play so well, his first major role on The CW’s Dynasty—a show based on Aaron Spelling’s 1980s classic soap opera that eventually rose to be America’s number one show.
CW’s reboot has been tweaked from its original storyline and has a new era of super rich battling for supremacy and intrigue in Atlanta. The iconic maneuvering between the Carringtons and the Colbys has produced some of television’s most memorable and dramatic moments, but who would have thought that the Colbys would be of Nigerian heritage.
In a sharp twist from the original, Sam Adegoke plays the role of the role of techpreneur, Jeff Colby with veteran actor, Hakeem Kae-Kazim playing the role of his father, Cesil. Ezekiel Ajeigbe played the role of young Jeff Colby.
As a child, Ezekiel was always drawn to the arts, mimicking those he watched on his favorite TV channels. By the time Ezekiel was 14 years of age, he knew he was destined to be on TV. With his parents by his side, Ezekiel went to a large amount of auditions, but all in the wrong places often falling victim to scams.
Years past and Ezekiel finally hit the age of 18 where he could go out and find work on his own. While pursuing his acting aspirations, Ezekiel attended the University of North Texas as an Electrical Engineering & Technologies student. Eventually he finally riled up the courage to talk to his parents about how he longed to pursue the arts, but they were not on favour of it.
Heartbroken, Ezekiel was determined to prove to his parents that he can and will make it as an actor. The first season of CW’s reboot of Dynasty wasn’t exactly a huge ratings hit yet in the US, but thanks to its Netflix deal internationally, it was re-commissioned for a second season which as seen a major boost for the show and actors on it, including Ezekiel.
I spoke to Ezekiel in the following interview to find out more about his journey and what the future holds for the young actor.
When did you start acting?
I’ve been acting unofficially since I was a kid. I remember watching the late 90’s/early 2000’s show “All That” when I was 7 and seeing Keenan Thompson on the screen doing his thing. I sat there and thought to myself “man, why is he on TV and I’m not. I can do the same thing he can, as a matter of fact, I can do it better!” Then I immediately started mimicking him throughout his particular scene.
Ever since then, I was the kid who was excited about the first day of school because I knew I would stand up in front of the class and introduce myself and say 1 interesting fact. I found myself loving to do presentations, public speaking, and just being on any stage doing something for an audience.
It wasn’t till I turned 14 or 15 that I got a little more serious about getting into acting and started going out to auditions. By law however, if you’re a minor (under 18) you have to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. I remember around the age of 16, I was going out to an audition one Saturday morning and I asked my dad if he was still taking me and he replied by saying “I don’t see anything good coming from all this auditioning you’re doing. I’m not taking you to no audition.”
Who or what inspired your acting?
I grew up watching people like Will Smith, Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Leonardo Decaprio, Johnny Depp, Denzel Washington and others. I generally loved watching Will because he along with some others I named, were diverse in their craft. He could basically do any genre of film, which is what I believe I can do for myself as well.
How did it feel when you got your first acting role?
My very first acting role was for a movie called ‘Psychotic.’ It never went anywhere and to my understanding it was basically thrown in the trash as a whole. It happened when I went to an open audition call at an art school and auditioned for the director Fred T.
Originally I went in to audition to be in something else he was doing, but he told me that there was something special about me and that he had a handful of projects he has that he believes I could do; Psychotic being one of them. I was super excited but also shocked that he was willing to take a chance on me since I had no prior training.
As far as feedback, I remember telling my brothers about it and them saying, “alright we’ll see what happens.” Which in their language means, “it’s cool, but I doubt this is going to be big.” Only a select few of my friends knew due to the fact that I didn’t have a car at the time and I would ask them to take me to my shoots when I was needed on set. They thought it was really cool though and were excited to see it when it came out (which it never did.)
And lastly, the public was excited on Facebook about it, but all that eventually died out when they realized they will never get to see it. To get into why it was thrown in the trash and never saw the light of day, the premier was very tragic. At the premiere for the film we had a full crowd and everyone was excited to see it.
I spoke with the director and he said that the editor said it was ready to be shown which got me excited as well. A few of my friends along with my brothers were there as well, so I was pretty hyped that they all got to see me act for the first time! As the movie started, it was evident that it was never finished being edited because everything was raw and still separated in clips as if we were just watching something that someone put together for a YouTube video.
There was no title card, no music, no nothing, and lasted 45 seconds when it was supposed to be a hour and a half movie. It was extremely embarrassing, and although it wasn’t the director’s fault, he apologized to everyone and took the blame anyways.
How did you get your role on CW’s Dynasty?
When I moved to Atlanta I was working as an electronic technician at an electronics shop. An actor by the name of Sam Adegoke walks in and I fix his device for him and we have a little chat afterwards.
We both found out that we act and we’re both Nigerian so we exchanged contacts immediately. About 3 months later there was a casting call for the show Dynasty & they were looking for someone to play Young Jeff, which was the younger version of Sam’s character. I screen shot the casting and sent it to him in order to congratulate him on having his name in a casting breakdown because I thought it was pretty cool.
But he then replied to me saying “you’d be good for this role, send me your info & I’ll send it to the show runners.” I was shocked because it wasn’t my intention for him to do that, but I sent it and waited. A few days later the casting director contacts me and asks me to come in and read for the role. I went in, did my thing, and took the direction they gave me, did it again, and left. I honestly thought it wasn’t that good, but they apparently loved what I did and booked me on the show.
What did you love the most about being on CW’s Dysnasty?
I love the fact that it is my first mainstream show and got to experience what I dreamed of doing as a kid. It was exciting to be in the studio and see how things were done on a bigger scale. I also liked that I got to be used as a flashback character for my first TV role, which made me know I’d be back on the series soon. (There are typically a lot of flashbacks on a lot of shows that use them.)
How did the public respond to you and you role generally?
From responses I’ve heard from people, it seems like they all enjoyed just seeing me on the screen. As far as fans of the show in general, they enjoyed seeing Jeff’s past play into his story as to why he is the way he is.
What does it mean for you to be able to represent a Nigerian family on the modern remake of such an iconic TV show?
It is a big honor in my opinion. Being on a remake of an iconic show is huge. What made it even better was that I got to represent and somewhat display Nigerian culture while doing the thing I love to do.
You are projected as a Nigerian actor born is Texas. Is this deliberate? Does this limit you or pose any challenges for you as an actor in the America?
This was deliberate, but I also may have typed my online profile in a way where it could be misinterpreted. I wrote it to show that I am American by birth, but to also display that I’m Nigerian by blood. Casting people here in the states love ethnic individuals to my understanding, especially if they’re great actors. In the case they came across my profile, I just simply wanted them to know that I’m Nigerian.
How often do you visit Nigeria?
I’ve never been to Nigeria at all! My parents have said, “we will go as a family” for years, but we have still yet to go! They’ve been back several times, but as for my siblings and me, we haven’t been yet. We have planned a trip towards the end of this year though.
What is your take on Nollywood, the present and future?
To be completely honest, I absolutely do not like Nigerian movies. Maybe it’s because I’m used to the quality of films I see in America, but for some reason I think Nollywood films are so cliché, predictable, and not well put together and shot. It could just be the old films I catch my parents watching from time to time that play a part in my opinion, but so far everything I’ve seen isn’t the type of film I would go tell my friends to see.
The only Nigerian film I truly enjoyed was a film on Netflix called ‘The Wedding Party’. That was a very well put together Nollywood film. If Nigeria can continue to make films of quality like that, then you guys could possibly grab the attention of American filmmakers as well. There was another really good Nigerian film called ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ with John Boyega and Chiwetel Ejiofor in it that I thought was great, but I’m not sure if that came from Nollywood.
What role does new generation Nigerians like you who find yourself in film and television abroad have to play in showcasing African stories and talents to the world?
I feel like doing what I do as a Nigerian breaks the mold and standard tradition of pursuing a career in engineering, nursing, being a doctor, or lawyer. Older generation Nigerians who make it to the states fail to realize that in America you can be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do and become successful at it, as long as you’re willing to put in the work.
And it’s not only Nigerians but other foreigners who come to the states as well. I’ve noticed that they all have that same mindset, which is why you always see Asians, Indians, Arabians, and Nigerians, studying those courses like engineering or something in the medical field.
Nothing is handed to you here, so why not go do something you love instead of forcing yourself to do a job you don’t really like only because it pays well. Life’s too short to not pursue something that is clearly put inside of you for a reason. For my role in the film ‘The House Invictus’ I play a kid named Jide. In some of the scenes you’ll see maybe a few direct correlations to what an actual Nigerian kid goes through growing up in America.
Would you love to work in Nollywood, and what would be your ideal role in Nollywood?
I wouldn’t mind working in Nollywood as long as the quality of the project being produced is top notch and can easily compete with those in America. I don’t really have an ideal role, but I think playing a Nigeria-American who visits Nigeria for the first time would be pretty funny if made correctly.
What else do you do apart from acting?
Aside from acting I also dance, play the saxophone, drums, percussion, and a little piano. I model as well and like to watch movies all the time. I read books and enjoy going out with friends from time to time too. Traveling is on my list of to do’s.
Your girlfriend, Sydney stewart has been chronicled as having a role in you pursuing acting as a career. Are you still together? And how is she handling the pressure now that you are famous?
That’s a very funny question. But to answer your question, yes we are still together. I went to the University of North Texas and studied electrical engineering and technologies, but because I didn’t want to waste my life/time I left school to go pursue my dreams as an actor. Sydney was there from the beginning before I moved to Atlanta to take my career to the next level.
She’s been there when I was doing independent projects, background work, and also making 6-second videos on an app called Vine. She’s handling it pretty well, which is one of the things I love about her. With all the other chicks that slide in my DM’s or try to grab my attention in person, Sydney has been a really strong woman dealing with it all, which is beautiful. She’s also in the entertainment business too, but on the music side of things, which I think helps a lot. It’s hard to date someone who isn’t in the business because there will be a lot of things they don’t understand.
How is your family taking it all now?
My parents are starting to warm up to the idea of me being an actor, when at first they absolutely hated it and didn’t support me at all. Every time my mom runs into someone famous she immediately talks to them about me which I think is pretty funny.
My dad hasn’t physically shown much, but I would like to think he’s proud. My siblings apparently tell their friends about me from time to time which I think is pretty cool.
What should we expect from Ezekiel this year and beyond from your acting career and beyond.
This year, I have a few projects that should be releasing towards the end of the year if not next year. I’m also currently in the running for an international show which will definitely be great. In the future, look out for my face because you may just see it in a lot of places!