EXCLUSIVE: Jodi Lyn O’Keefe on ‘Hit the Floor,’ Working with Dean Cain & ‘She’s All That’s 15th Anniversary
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe. That name probably sounds familiar, especially to those of us who obsessed unhealthily over ‘She’s All That’ back in 1999. If you don’t recall (because, clearly, you’ve been living under a rock), O’Keefe played the popular, yet not-so-nice, Taylor Vaughan, alongside Freddie Prinze Jr.’s Zack Siler and ugly duckling turned swan Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook).
As much as I could go on and on about O’Keefe, ‘She’s All That,’ that memorable dance scene with Matthew Lillard and the movie that made us all want to dance like there’s no tomorrow to Fatboy Slim’s “Funk Soul Brother,” that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
With that said, let’s talk O’Keefe’s new series regular role on VH1’s scripted series ‘Hit the Floor’ that revolves around the professional basketball world and its dance team. Enter O’Keefe (also known for her roles in ‘Nash Bridges’ and ‘Prison Break’) as Lionel Davenport, Pete Davenport’s (Dean Cain) estranged wife, who is not only an A-list actress working all publicity angles as she prepares to release a big film, but she’s also sharp-tongued and, most likely, returns to stir up trouble.
Yesterday, O’Keefe was nice enough to take time out of her busy filming schedule to chat with me about the show, her role and, of course, ‘She’s All That’s 15th anniversary.
TVRage: Not a whole lot has been released about your role on the show, so why don’t you start off by telling me about your character?
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe: Well, there’s not that much I can tell you, because they keep threatening me not to spoil anything. (laughs) It’s such a big secret. It’s so funny, it’s one of the first times I’ve not been able to talk about what I’m doing, which is really hard for me. I can tell you this. I’m Pete Davenport’s estranged wife, so we’re in the middle of a divorce and one that, apparently, my character has been dragging out over a long period of time. No one’s really sure why. He [Pete] was a basketball star turned coach, and I’m an actress who’s apparently very successful. So, [we’re around] paparazzi and all that kind of thing constantly.
TVRage: Can we expect anything romantic between Pete and Lionel, or can’t you comment on that either?
O’Keefe: I cannot comment on that either. (laughs) Here’s what I can tell you. I can tell you that I show up to cause a lot of trouble, and that’s exactly what you can expect. (laughs)
TVRage: What was it that attracted you to the role?
O’Keefe: This woman has so much spirit and she was so fun to me in the script pages that they gave me for the audition. And, I was reading it and I thought, this is a sassy broad, I really like her. It just seemed like fun.
TVRage: You always seem to play characters that stir up trouble, and like you said that are always sassy, and you’re very good at it. So, is that something you enjoy?
O’Keefe: I do love it. Whenever you get a chance to do that, it’s always a little bit more fun. It’s not something that I do in real life, so it’s really fun to do it on-screen. (laughs)
TVRage: As you mentioned, you play Dean Cain’s character’s estranged wife, so what’s it like working with him?
O’Keefe: He’s such a gentleman. He’s been so sweet and lovely to me. I was nervous when I got there for the first few days, because that cast is like a family. And, it’s hard to be the new guy. There’s a little bit of apprehension. How’s it going to feel? How’s everybody going to treat you? They’re all so close knit already, but between him and the rest of the cast, they were so wonderful to me and made me feel so welcome right away that it was easy for me to transition.
TVRage: Now, Pete also had a relationship with Sloane [Kimberly Elise] and they had a daughter. So, what’s the relationship going to be like between Sloane and Lionel? I’m sensing it won’t be too friendly. And, judging from the promo [below], it looks like they’re going to get under each other’s skin.
O’Keefe: Judging just from that promo (laughs), yes, absolutely. It seems a little bit frosty. But, I suppose, if you’re this character, you’re a woman and you’ve been with your husband for a very long time and you meet the woman he was with before you, you might not be that friendly.
TVRage: What would you say Lionel’s ultimate goal is? Why is she there?
O’Keefe: Well, I can’t tell you that much about Lionel’s ultimate goal, also, because that will spoil things for you (laughs). But, I can tell you that she is showing up to be in courtside seats, initially, when we first see her, because her next movie is coming out. So, they’re doing a preview of her movie during the broadcast of the basketball game. She shows up to promote her movie, and show up and people will see her -- for the fans and that kind of thing. She initially is doing that. I can’t tell you anything further than that, which I hate! (laughs)
TVRage: Well, I guess that’s good. It will just keep people tuning in to see what happens and what to expect from her.
O’Keefe: I can start saying things after each episode airs, so that’s good! (laughs)
TVRage: Back to what we were talking about before, you play the type of character that, I guess, can be considered the villain. Do feel like you’re typecasted? If so, do you find it difficult to land other roles?
O’Keefe: No, I just think those are the parts, for me, that get the most attention and that’s where people remember me the most. ... I think it’s just kind of a juicier role, where people responded to me in those types of roles. I don’t think it’s going to stop me from doing anything else, but it sure is fun.
TVRage: Well, it always looks like fun. And, I have to say, I first became a fan of yours when you were in ‘She’s All That.’
O’Keefe: Oh my gosh, thank you. (laughs) Did you know it’s the 15th anniversary of ‘She’s All That’?
TVRage: No, I didn’t know that!
O’Keefe: Yeah! So, I’ve been doing interviews for it, and, tonight, they’re doing a midnight screening of ‘She’s All That’ in L.A. that I’m actually going to go to and do a Q&A. I could not believe it when I heard that it had been 15 years. You look at the calendar and it’s been 15, but I thought, ‘Wow, that makes me feel old!’ (laughs)
TVRage: It’s definitely a movie all of us still love, and I still get excited when I see it’s on TV.
O’Keefe: (laughs) It’s funny. It’s one of those movies that people really respond to, and people still stop me and tell me how much they love Taylor Vaughan.
In addition to ‘Hit the Floor,’ and for those of us who keep ‘She’s All That’ on repeat, keep your eyes peeled for O’Keefe in a movie produced by Cain titled ‘Merry ExMas,’ which she shot while also filming with Cain for VH1. Furthermore, she recently shot a pilot in New York aka the untitled John Cusack Wall Street drama for CBS, which did not move forward at the network.
The second season of ‘Hit the Floor’ debuts this Memorial Day, Monday, May 26 at 9/8c on VH1.