Movies & TV / Columns

Oyin Oladejo on What’s in Store for Season 2 of Endlings, the Development of Joann Owosekun on Star Trek Discovery

January 15, 2021 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Oyin Oladejo

411 recently had the chance to chat with actress Oyin Oladejo ahead of the launch of Season 2 for the live-action/CG series, Endlings, this week. In Endlings, Oladejo portrays the compassionate Abiona Maina, the caretaker for Tuko, who is the last elephant on Earth. Abiona eventually joins a group of children who befriend a benevolent alien, later nicknamed Ling, who is seeking to rescue endangered species that are of the last of their kind on Earth. Besides Endlings, Oladejo also has a prominent role on another hit sci-fi series, Star Trek: Discovery, in the role of Lt. Joann Owosekun. She’s been part of the cast since the first season, and she will be returning to the role in Season 4, which is currently in the works. Here’s what she had to say about her burgeoning career and work on these two great series:

Jeffrey Harris: How excited are you for the launch of Season 2 of Endlings?

Oyin Oladejo: I’m really excited. I think in the first season, we were all trying to figure out what this world is. For me, acting with kids and acting with CGI characters, but I think this Season 2 coming out, our characters are fleshed out already. And we see a transformation in all characters, and I’m actually excited for the audience to see the characters make decisions that they wouldn’t otherwise make and sacrifices. I’m excited for the audience to see the transitions each character goes through.

Jeffrey Harris: How can we expect things to develop for Abiona in Season 2 in terms of her bond with the children and the aliens?

Oyin Oladejo: Abiona is known as a conservationist, an animal activist, and yet, when she came from Africa to the farm and with the alien, the first thing she did was hit him with a car. It shows that Abiona is strong, she’s a fighter, but at the same time, she can be misguided by her cause. And now, throughout Season 1 and into Season 2, you see Abiona almost like an acceptance that she’s not the only one who is fighting. She’s not the only one who is passionate. There are several other people out there in the world doing the same thing that she’s doing, and they have different ways of doing it. And I think in Season 2, you see Abiona almost starts to like take a hands-off approach to allow the kids to lead their own paths, to make their own decisions like they are capable. And that was even surprising for me for Abiona because she’s a doctor. She understands everything. She knows things that the kids don’t know that people around her don’t know.

Jeffrey Harris: Would Abiona go to space to help the aliens find endangered species on other planets to help?

Oyin Oladejo: *Laughs* I cannot tell you that! We’ll wait to find out over the course of Season 2. I think there’s been hints and questions around what happens to Ling, and the bond between Abiona and Ling. Where does that go, and do they continue on the planet, or do they go somewhere else? We go further into that in Season 2.

Jeffrey Harris: The show is set in the future, and Abiona is introduced as the caretaker for Tuko, the last elephant on Earth. I think that’s an important message right now. So how great is it for you that you get to live in this space as a character who understands how precious and amazing these creatures are?

Oyin Oladejo: The funny thing is I never really bonded or had a different understanding of bonding with animals until I started working on Endlings and then going to the elephant sanctuary in Zambia and looking into the eyes of the elephant. I mean we know that animals have a life of their own. They’re sensitive. They feel things. They just may not be able to communicate easily with us, but they are feeling beings. And they go through hurt, they go through PTSD, they go through trauma. They go through all of these things. In doing Endlings, I think my knowledge of including things that are not just human in my life and doing deeper in that research, it’s opened me up, and I am thankful for it because my relationship to animals and wanting to be protective of animals has changed. Before that, it was never on my mind. It was just, ‘Oh, that’s an animal and that’s it.’ But now it’s like, what is their life like? Where are they living? All these things that I would ask about humans, I’m curious about those things. So, I’m thankful for Endlings exposing me to it.

Jeffrey Harris: How is the performance process in using your imagination for the aliens and creatures who aren’t there onset but created later with CGI?

Oyin Oladejo: I have to admit, my god, it was very, very difficult at the beginning because we’re so used to acting with other people. And the first time I had to act with Tuko, Tuko was never there. Tuko was never there throughout Season 1 or Season 2, but they give you a rough idea of how big they are, your eye line, but you have to trust in yourself that the thing that you’re talking to — in my mind, I have to speak to the thing that is not there as if it is there and view it is there and imbue it with as much emotions as I would. And then when you see it afterwards, when it’s completed with the CG, you realize, “Oh, this is what I have been doing all this while!” It just goes to show you that the world we’re living in and the technology we have right now is — so much can be done with it. One minute, you’re acting against a tennis ball. The next minute, an animal that you would never see in real life is next to you onscreen. It’s brilliant.

Jeffrey Harris: How routinely impressed are you by your young costars?

Oyin Oladejo: I am beyond blown away. This is my first time working with kids for a long period of time, and I’m always baffled as to how smart and how generous they are. And sometimes, I mean I’ve been acting I’d say longer than most of the kids were, but I was able to learn so much, and they teach me so much as actors on set. But also, realizing I don’t need to come in thinking that I need to know it all as an adult. I get to sit down and the kids get to own the space, and I’m being taught so much by them. I’m being humbled truly by them.

Jeffrey Harris: What were you doing when you found out you got your role in Star Trek: Discovery

Oyin Oladejo: When I found out that I got it, I was actually in Vancouver raking leaves, literally raking leaves and got the call and dropped my rake. But also, I didn’t understand the magnitude of what Star Trek was. I had heard about Star Trek. I never grew up on it. I didn’t know the magnitude of what I was walking into. I was just so excited that I booked a TV role because I never did book one. That was my first-ever gig, so I was excited. But not until my first Comic-Con which was the second year, second season. It was the first time I fully understood what I’m a part of, how big it is, seeing people come up to you saying you’re changing their life or they’ve been watching it since — their father was watching it, and now they’re watching it. I realized how big Star Trek is and how many people it’s reached. I’m still living in shock of what that is, but I’m enjoying it more now. Before it was overwhelming, now I’m sitting a bit more comfortably in it.

Jeffrey Harris: Is there anything you suggested that was used in the development of Owo in the series?

Oyin Oladejo: Not anything that I really suggested, but I realized that the showrunners, and I’m so blessed and thankful for the showrunners, and our executive producers and producers because again, like I said, it was my first gig onscreen, so I was green. The camera would come right in front of me, and I would stumble. I did my first line, I repeated it like 20 times. But the thing I was going to say is that they gave me room to fail, and I’ve always been insecure about my accent. And that was the feedback I got when I wasn’t booking anything. But Star Trek saw that. They saw the things I was struggling with, and the allowed it out and they included it in my character, bringing my Nigerian culture, my accent, but also I did mention I want to use my body more. And I did say that to the showrunners, and they’ve been incorporating that. In Season 3, there’s a lot more of me physically there, so speaking to them and them also watching me, they’re listening to what Owo means through me, I guess, is what I can say.

Jeffrey Harris: Have you kept any props from the set?

Oyin Oladejo: *Laughs* I’m gonna keep that a secret until I find out that it’s safe to share that.

Jeffrey Harris: This is a franchise and series with such a rich history and such well-defined ensemble casts. How does it feel for you to be a part of history with this franchise and being part of your own Star Trek ensemble?

Oyin Oladejo: I think my brain doesn’t fully yet understand what I’m a part of. I’m slowly understanding it, but knowing that I go on set and we’re all treated like a family. We know that the bond is going to last for years, but what we’ve created onscreen and what we bring onto the screen, I know will last for years. I even see audiences and fans saying that the bond that we as the bridge crew or Discovery family have, they’re comparing it to the original Star Trek, and that makes me like I am doing my job to an extent. I am living up to this big name by bringing a sense of family into it. In the bigness of what Star Trek is, I’m still getting used to it. But in the sense of family and knowing what family means, and how enduring that is, I feel that, and I feel a part of a big family.

Thank you to Oyin Oladejo for taking the time to speak with us. Season 2 of Endlings will begin streaming on Hulu on January 15. You can also check out Oyin Oladejo on Star Trek: Discovery, which is available on CBS All Access. Season 4 is currently in the works.