Get to Know "The Neighbors" Toks Olagundoye

Friday, 04 January 2013 22:41 Written by  Charmaine Little

Toks Olagundoye doesn’t have to wait to live her dream to be a famous actress, she’s experiencing it now, she reveals.

“It’s a hard profession. There’s a lot of stuff I’d be able to do easily but this is what makes me happy,” she says.

Toks, a Nigerian native who was born to a Norwegian mother and Nigerian father, has been involved in theatrics like dance and ballet since she was four. But making the decision to drop out of law school and pursue acting full-time is what ultimately lead her to her dream.

“When I went to university, I was a pre-law student; because you don’t do theater when you’re a ‘serious person.’ I didn’t get very far because acting was my passion,” says Toks, who’s known for her roles in Brown Sugar, A Beautiful Soul and Switched at Birth.

She currently stars in ABC’s The Neighbors, a sitcom about a family who moves to Hidden Hills, a gated community in New Jersey, only to find it’s occupied by aliens from another planet, Zabvron.

“I think it’s very clever actually. A bunch of aliens try to make a new home because the climate on their planet isn’t doing so well. They’ve been on Earth for 10 years [in human form], waiting for orders to go back home. But they lose touch with their home planet.”

Tok’s character, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, is the matriarch of the lead alien family. They’ve taken on the last names of famous athletes, cry green ooze from their ears, read books for nourishment instead of eating and can change back to their original, alien-esque appearance by clapping their hands over their heads.

“Jackie is my ideal character. I like a challenge and Jackie is just...Well she’s a challenge! I always get things that aren’t the easiest for Jackie, but I like it. I love the story, the scripts, writers and everyone I work with,” she says. She jokingly shared that she loves acting so much, if she wasn’t doing it her career would be lying on her bed crying hysterically.

She says taking on her character’s personality from the inside out is the best way to stay in “Jackie mode.” Even though all of her tactics may not always get the green light, she’s able to laugh it off and take constructive criticism to grow as an actress.

“I read scripts and look at what the character would sound like. Voices and accents are very important to me,” says Toks. She has mastered Nigerian, English and American accents.

“I used to think I had the best American accent until I actually moved to the states in college. People thought I was Canadian or Australian; or anything but American,” she recalls. “From time to time I try different movements and facial expressions of the character. Sometimes I work really hard on something and they’re like....‘Yeah that doesn’t work,’” she says.

One of her most challenging tasks to truly adapt the role of Jackie was to trade in her pumps for a pair of flats.

“I’m always in heels! I live in heels. But the network didn’t want me to be like an amazon and taller than everyone else,” Toks states. “It was a good choice actually because it made me a little more sweet and awkward with flat shoes. Even though Jackie has it all together, she’s really awkward.”

Toks is one of a small handful of African-American female actresses represented on a primetime, major network show. When asked about the difficulties of being a black actress in Hollywood, she said she’s experienced very few, if any.

“I’m not going to take anyone’s experience from them, but being a woman of color has never gotten in my way. I never felt like I’ve gotten turned down for it,” she says, referencing the likes of Halle Berry. “Clearly there are fewer roles written for people of color in general but I think if you’re really hard working and good enough you’re gonna book it. You can’t take things personally.”

Aside from acting, she says she also enjoys writing and producing films. When she’s not working on television shows or movies, she creates jobs for herself.

“I have three web series in the editing stage right now. I’m goofy so it’s a lot of funny stuff. It’s a thriller but it’s goofy because’s me,” she says.

Toks is at the top of her game, but don’t expect her to slow down anytime soon. “I’ve been working towards this for a really long time and I could really cry right now talking about it. I’m so fortunate.”


Be sure to follow Toks on Twitter: @ToksOlagundoye and connect with her on fan page on Facebook.

"The Neighbors" airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on ABC.

Photography: Jeff Gottlieb

Key Words: actress, The Neighbors, ABC, Toks Olagundoye, Twitter, Facebook, Halle Berry, Nigeria, New Jersey, Black actresses

Charmaine Little

Charmaine Little

Charmaine Little is a contributing writer for GMO. She's a lover of all things writing and entertainment. One of her biggest passions is interviewing and sharing the story of up and coming as well as established artists, fashion designers and entrepreneurs.


Charmaine currently lives in Orlando, FL and can be reached at