“Hit The Floor” Actress Jodi Lyn O’Keefe Opens Up About Playing Lionel, Other Passions & More

Viewers asked for it, and now it’s back with the drama, dancing and the plot that keeps everyone on the edge of their seat. Every Tuesday night, fans tune in to Black Entertainment Television’s ‘Hit the Floor’ series, now in its fourth season, to not only catch a glimpse of the sick choreography, but to enjoy the situations that draw you in with each episode. Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, who plays the beautiful and stylish “Lionel Davenport” brings a seductive, yet powerful charge to the show. A charge that most cannot get enough of due to the character’s strong, yet slightly sinister personality.

You can’t help but wonder what Lionel’s next power play or conniving move will be. “She is for sure a boss and most comfortable when in charge. Lionel is her best when she’s in a position of power and she owns a sports network at the moment. Definitely a woman with goals and aspirations,” Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, who is having a ball playing the character, details. “She’s the ex of Keith Davenport and Oscar Kinkaid. She at first was driven by love, but this time around she is driven by love of self which is the difference,” O’Keefe explains.

While bringing “Lionel Davenport” to life, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe is having the time of her life wearing the fancy high heels of a woman who does what she wants and says what she’s thinking, no matter the outcome. It was obvious from day one that there was something special about O’Keefe, because after countless reads to obtain the role, finally she and actor Dean Cain (plays Pete Davenport) completed a chemistry read together and won favor with casting.

Jodi Lyn O'Keefe
Hit the Floor’ is definitely a favorite that you don’t want to miss on a weekly basis. “The whole purpose is that we want to entertain you. The show is a guilty pleasure because you are letting go of your world for a while and it’s everything you want in late night television. You get to watch this fun soap at night that’s sexy and filled with drama and entertainment. And the dancers are such amazing women. I am their biggest fan,” O’Keefe says with a smile.

O’Keefe explained that there is great energy on the set when the cameras are off as well. According to her, everyone on staff became like family very quickly. When work is over, everyone eats together and even exercises together.  “In all honesty, we spend a little bit too much time with one another, but we know that we are all very blessed. You can see it all on our Instagram, it’s really silly,” she laughs. “As soon as I arrived, I fell in love with these people, the writers and producers, which is very rare because you can be talented, wonderful and amazing, but if we can’t get along, then we’d all be miserable because we have to spend so much time together,” she continued.

Hailing from Cliffwood Beach, New Jersey, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe began her journey into the entertainment industry modeling as a way of earning tuition money. Her sister and cousin were having a great time in the modeling world prior to her entry into the arena, so she figured that was a good road to take. Books were her reality at all times, along with aspirations of becoming a writer and marine biologist. But the latter shortly flew out the window rather quickly. “I’m afraid of things that live in the water. My friends call me ‘bait’, because inevitably something always bites me. I’ve done scuba diving, snorkeling….you name it! Something goes wrong!” she jokes. “I was always reading and my mom would get mad at me because I would be reading while I was supposed to be doing my chores. She would say ‘I’m gonna take that book away!’” O’Keefe recalled with a hearty laugh.

Jodi Lyn O’Keefe
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe as Lionel Davenport from BET’s “Hit the Floor”

While watching old black and white movies with her grandfather and being totally enamored at what was on the screen, O’Keefe never dreamed that she was destined to be an actress—until one day when her modeling and talent agency merged and she got a script accidentally because she fit the part. Call it fate. Things began to drastically change. “When I got this script and read it, I fell in love with it. It was a whole new world for me. I wanted to tell them how amazing this script was. As I was younger, I was not really sure who I was and with being so awkward, it was very comfortable for me to pretend to be anybody but myself. But in the process, I figured out who I was, and fell so deeply in love with what I do. When it happened for me, I grabbed it with both hands and never looked back,” she continued.

At 39, Jodi Lyn can be considered a veteran in the acting game, she jokes that she’s been in the business for 157 years; hence her first acting gig was during her teens. And as with any pursuit of dreams, there comes challenges along the way. The world of entertainment can indeed be fickle, and she’s had her share of closed doors following with the word ‘no’. “You have to grow a thick skin. Sometimes it’s not about your skill set. It can be you’re the wrong height, you have the wrong hair color, they don’t like the tone of your voice. There’s a very small percentage of people who are actors who actually work. It takes years and years of being told no, and then you can be told yes right out the gate. The key is patience. It’s a period of a lot of work, then dryness. You have to keep at it, no matter what. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a side hustle!” she said.

After landing her role as ‘Gretchen’ in ‘Prison Break’, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe found herself in a little box that she couldn’t get freed from. “I would go and read for something, and they would say ‘oh no, we see you as the girl from ‘Prison Break’. I could not get cast as a doctor, a nurse because people could not get past that role. Until ‘Vampire Diaries’ I was pigeonholed. The character was the good doctor and now people don’t see me in just one light. It opened new doors for me. They couldn’t believe I could be two different people at once,” said Jodi Lyn.

The grueling world of acting can take a toll on one’s self esteem and confidence, however, it is perseverance and family support that kept Jodi Lyn on her A game. “I can remember telling my manager ‘I cannot continue down this road. I’ve put my all into this business and I’m not being given the chance to do what I want to do creatively. He told me, ‘Hang on kid. It’s gonna work out.’ When I didn’t have the confidence, people around me did, especially my family,” she said.

Family, of course, is her backbone and even though they cringe at the romantic scenes that she has to do, they let her know that they are still very much proud of her. “I call my mother and ask, ‘mom, are you clutching your pearls? That is the joke. My dad told me ‘we should’ve put you in the convent when we had the chance. It doesn’t help that I am the baby. I have two older sisters,” she laughs. “Everyone watches the show with one eye closed because they’re worried I’m gonna have sex,” she continued.

Jodi Lyn O’Keefe
Aside from wowing audiences on screen, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe spends her time sketching custom made pieces for her jewelry line called ‘Q’. Lately she’s been doing engagement rings and recently designed one for her sister. “Someone told me once that there are two types of people in this world—people who like sparkly things and liars,” she laughs. “I didn’t have to ask any permission to do this and it was what I loved. In the end, it is worth it,” she continued.

Another fun fact is that in her spare time, she loves to cook and is always in her kitchen preparing meals for friends and family. And being mommy to her three bulldogs always makes her days as well. She loves any television show that has a do-it-yourself focus and is a big fan of HGTV and The Food Network. “I love to cook vegetarian and vegan meals to keep myself healthy. I have tons of veggie cook books. I also have a spin bike in my house. I can look like a crazy person and be on my bike and not be judged!” she laughed.

There are up and coming future acting projects in the works. But when asked about possibly authoring a cook book, the sky’s the limit. “Hmmm. That would be putting together my love of writing and cooking! Not a bad idea,” she gleamed.

Watch BET’s ‘Hit the Floor’ Tuesday nights 10pm EST/9pm CST.

Follow Jodi Lyn O’Keefe on Social Media
Twitter @JodiLyn_OKeefe
Instagram @JodiLOK

Images courtesy of BET

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