In Season 1 of Hit the Floor, we heard quite a bit about Pete Davenport (Dean Cain)’s estranged wife, Lionel. But guys, we finally get to see the off-camera character come to life as She’s All That alum Jodi Lyn O’Keefe joins the cast playing the infamous actress and potential trouble starter. When Wetpaint Entertainment caught up with the actress, she talked to us about joining the cast for its sophomore season, her love of making fine jewelry, and celebrating She’s All That 15th anniversary!
Wetpaint Entertainment: Could you tell us a little bit about your character Lionel and describe what she brings to the show?
Jodi Lyn O'Keefe: She is an actress and she’s living a life very much in the public, so she’s followed by the paparazzi all the time, and that makes her world very interesting. It’s a little uncomfortable because everywhere she goes, there’s always photographers around her, so she’s always worried about her image — which, I don’t have the same problem that she has — but I can understand trying to keep a public face which she’s concerned about a lot of the time, and she’s showing up to the arena to see her estranged husband, because she secretly wants him back, though she says it’s all about her public image and doesn’t want him to be seen with another woman while they’re still legally married.
Last season, your character was painted in a not-so-great image as she was an off-camera entity, who was all about money. Are her motives purely love?
I thought the same thing as you, but then I realized that you’re only hearing one side of the story. And when people break up there’s always two sides to the story, so you’re only getting his version of it without her actually in it. He’s just talking about it and leaving out a lot more details, but also when he’s initially speaking about her, it’s to people that he’s dating, so he’s probably not going to give any of the really good details as to why they broke up. That’s why I thought that maybe he’s not telling everyone everything.
She may have ulterior motives. I thought in the beginning … as we go along, we learn more about the characters, [the producers] don’t tell us everything upfront, so it was kind of an interesting journey, and we didn’t know anything up until right before we shot. We find out as we go along, so we have to figure out as we go.
It looks like Lionel just might miss Pete, considering her eagerness to help his daughter, Ahsha, in one of the more recent episodes.
Yeah. I think she maybe made a mistake in the way she left him. She left to try to wake him up and it didn’t work. And now she’s back trying to find another way for him to realize what he’s missing.
And it looks like she’s going to play dirty to get him back, huh?
I think so! I think that’s the game plan. I also think there’s a lot of sneaky in her too.
Since we can’t talk spoilers, tell us about joining the cast this season.
It was really intimidating, actually, to join a cast already basically family. The had the experience of being in the pilot, then the show getting picked up, and then doing through a whole season together. They got to know one another and developed a rhythm, so the jump in as a new character — even though I know I had been talked about a little before, but then that adds even more pressure because maybe they had a vision in their brain of who Lionel would be and then you’re the new guy on set. It’s interesting, because it gives you the first day of school jitters, but double! It’s twice the normal amount that I usually have, and my first day was hard. It was really hard. The good news is that this cast loves what they do, they love being there, and they’re the friendliest group of people I think I’ve ever met. I mean they have giant hearts to go along with all those beautiful faces, and they were so good to me that within a few days I was just comfortable. It became easy and second nature to be on set with them.
And how does it feel coming back to TV as a series regular?
It’s really nice. It’s good. I function better in a world where I have to wake up every morning to go to work. It’s nice for me. And it gives me more of a purpose. It’s hard being an actress when you go, shoot, and then stop shooting and you have that lag time to worry about what’s your next gig going to be … and for me series work is the best because I know there’s going to be a certain amount of episodes, I’m going to work a certain number of months, and there’s a routine I can get into.
What are some things that you do when you’re not working?
I make jewelry. That’s quite possibly my favorite thing in the world right now. I have my line of jewelry called Q and I’m currently working on my custom jewelry line. It’s my favorite thing in the world, I don’t think there’s another thing that comes close in the world to it.
It’s been 15 years since She’s All That and we all remember you for your iconic role. Are you surprised that people still recognize you from that movie?
Absolutely shocked. It’s the film that people recognize me from the most. Every time someone recognizes me from it, I’m surprised. It’s more often than any other role, it’s incredible. And anytime I seem to be in an airport, someone recognizes me from She’s All That. I just a did a screening for the 15th anniversary at a movie theater in Fairfax, and I was thinking on the way over there, ‘I wonder if anyone’s going to come’ and when we got there, the place was packed with diehard She’s All That fans, it was fun. We got to do a Q&A and fans got to ask questions. It was great. I got off of work just in time to make it, and most of the cast [of She’s All That] were working on shows or movies, and we got emails from cast members who were out of the country to read to the fans. It was really cool.
Why do you think She’s All That has become such a cult classic?
I think it was the first of its kind, really. It was such a big hit when it happened, and the other thing is that it shows on TV now, so every year it gets a different group of fans, you know. So more and more young kids are discovering it and those are the people who come up to me. I just met a 14-year-old girl who was a fan and excited to see me. I think it’s fantastic. It paved the way for the “Teen Movie” genre, I think just after that, it started happening. Just a bunch teen movies came out after than movie.
Are there any other projects that you’re doing?
Well, I just finished up a little independant project with Dean called Merry ExMas and then I have Hit the Floor. After that, I’ll be looking for my next gig and then it’s off to breath for a little bit.
And if you weren’t acting, what would you be doing?
I’d be making jewelry. That would be it. I’m trying to do that and do what I’m doing now, but it really was a life changer for me. I sell out of a boutique in Los Angeles called Church. They have my fine jewelry collection, and now I’m working on my costume jewelry pieces. I’m excited about that. In my fine jewelry, I use a lot of inverted black diamonds, I use a lot of rhodium, and 18 carat gold, white gold, as well as rose. I do the sketching and then it goes to a 3D artist and then we create a mold. I have my website online, and I’m hoping to expand. I sorta want to just create jewelry and make what I make in the world. It’s so freeing just making what I want to make in the world, so I’m hoping that I can continue with making my jewelry, and I’ve had some interest with some boutiques, so hopefully it’ll grow.
Last but not least, why should fans continue watching Season 2 of Hit the Floor?
It’s the best guilty pleasure you can get on a Monday night. It’s a great guilty pleasure. My dad said — which was really sweet, he sent it in a text — ‘Babe, this show has everything: it’s got sports, it’s got sex, it’s got drama, and it’s got comedy. I love it.’ And that’s a great compliment coming from my dad! And let’s talk about how amazing those dancers are — are they not phenomenal? I show up to work even when I don’t have to be there just to see them. Even after my scenes have been shot, I stay there just to see those women, they’re so incredible. To watch it happen in person, it blows my mind every time.
How do you think Lionel’s shaking things up on Season 2 of Hit the Floor? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!