'Castle's' New Addition Talks Hayley's "Unorthodox" and "Independent" Ways

"She’s very independent. She loves the job. She’s not in it for what guys she can get," Toks Olagundoye tells THR about her character.
John Fleenor/ABC

When Toks Olagundoye made her Castle entrance as stealth security analyst Hayley Shipton in the season-eight premiere, it was clear the character is strictly business.

The former Neighbors star comes from a comedy background and found herself pleasantly surprised — the ABC crime drama blends the best of both worlds in the show. While viewers definitely got a taste of Hayley in the first part of the premiere, there is still so much to know about the character.

What was it like for the actress to come into an established series eight seasons in? What will Hayley’s interactions be like with the other players? What does her shady past consist of? The Hollywood Reporter chatted with Olagundoye and found out just how big of a splash Hayley will be making in Castle’s eighth season.

What can you say about how Hayley will be shaking things up this season?

Where we are in filming the season I don’t know that she’s shaken things up all that much. However, also not knowing the show, I keep being told things are so different this season and I’m such a good addition from the cast and crew. I think what my addition to it is it’s giving them other ways to go about solving the crimes that are more unorthodox.

In the season-eight premiere we found out a little bit about Hayley and her shady past. What can you say about what will be unfolding in her personal life?

I honestly don’t know. It’s easy when you start off in a pilot and nobody knows what’s going on with the characters. It’s difficult when you’re on the eighth season and everyone knows what there is to know about their characters. I don’t know my character fully yet. I know only what they’re telling me. With new shows, they don’t know the direction they’re going in with all the characters. It’s probably halfway through the season when everyone’s figured out who they are and what they’re doing. I think that is what’s happening with Hayley, too. It’s like, "Let’s see how it plays out. Let’s see how the energy goes…the chemistry and this and that." I think [showrunners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter] have an idea, but it can change. I’ve heard so many conflicting things about her, but they are all rumors. It’s nothing that has happened yet in any of the scripts.

Is not knowing Hayley’s backstory an exciting challenge for you as an actor?

I don’t see it as a challenge, actually, I see it as a bonus. I like to know a little bit, but I don’t like to play…I don’t like to give anything away. I like to know what I need to know to play the character, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little surprise later on. You not knowing it means you’re not ever really subliminally giving it away. I’m enjoying that. I like what they did on The Neighbors. They were so clever in really taking on everyone’s strengths and really seeing where things were going. That is a similarity I’m seeing with the writers on Castle. They pay attention to your strengths. They pay attention to what’s working and they go with that. If that doesn’t mesh with the idea they have, they just figure it out and change it a little bit. I’m very lucky in that respect, I trust them and I know that whatever the decision is, it will be a good one. The show in general is a little bit of a challenge for me anyway — coming in during the eighth season is difficult.

What was that like coming into a show where much of the cast and crew have been working together for the better part of eight years?

They make it very easy to come in and work with them. They’re nice people. They’re professionals. They’re very welcoming. They’re not territorial and they’re very generous. In that way it was easy, but there is a lot of pressure. I knew it was a big show and it had been on for several seasons, but I didn’t really know until the fans started following me…. I didn’t realize how big a show it was worldwide. When I started to realize that, it added a lot of pressure. I watch television. I’ve had my favorite shows. I don’t want to ruin anything. I don’t really care whether anyone likes me, but I don’t want the character to wreck the energy of the show. I want it to still be enjoyable for people. That’s a challenge I have enjoyed quite a bit. It keeps things interesting.

You had a killer fight sequence in the first episode. Is the physical part of this job something you like doing?

Yes! I did have a stunt double for one of the things, but there are a couple more coming up. Now that everyone knows I’ll do my own stunts, they’ll throw me a stunt in the middle of a scene when there’s already a stunt person there. They know I am willing to do it. Not a big one that’s going to get anyone in trouble or me hurt or anything…. They were assuming I wasn’t going to do any of my own stunts. They didn’t ask me until pretty much right before and I was like, "No, no, no I’m doing them." They were like, "The whole fight?" I said, "I will do everything, but the flip." I find it fun. When you come from theater, I’ve done a lot of fights onstage. I have a good background in that. I also studied dance for almost a decade, so I’m pretty good at choreography and all that. Sometimes when it’s like hour two and I’ve got some bumps and bruises and I had a ripped elbow open at one point, I have to remind myself that I do need my body to function. I have such a good time doing it. It’s fun for me.

There was a scene between Hayley and Castle [Nathan Fillion] in the first part of the premiere where she was telling him he has to learn to play dirty when it comes to succeeding in his P.I. business. What can you say about that relationship and how it will play out?

We haven’t really gotten into that yet, so I’m not sure. Hayley is playing with a lot of people on the show episode to episode. It’s not just her and Castle. That’s fun, too. I like that I’m not just with one person and that I get to play with the entire cast.

Viewers got to see Hayley interact with Alexis [Molly Quinn] in the premiere, where Hayley showed a softer, mentoring side. Is there going to be more of that?

It’s so funny, because I feel like my reaction to Molly is kind of like Hayley’s reaction to Alexis. There’s something about her I really find endearing. I feel very protective of her. I don’t know why. I think that’s the same thing for Hayley. Not that Molly or the character need protection, because they are both smart girls, capable and gorgeous…great personality and character and all that. There’s just something about her that’s really endearing. You want to be around her and put your arm on her shoulder. I’m literally old enough to be Molly’s mom, so it is a cool dynamic I think they will continue to play with throughout the season.

Any possibility for a love interest for Hayley this season. Maybe Esposito [Jon Huertas]?

It has not really been mentioned. Hayley’s not really that girl. Jon’s very funny and I think as just a comedic device, he has a little crush on her. It’s not mutual. There’s no sexual tension. Hayley may be a lesbian for all we know! She’s very independent. She loves the job. She’s not in it for what guys she can get. I don’t even think she notices guys most of the time. With the way she is being written and played now, if there were to ever be a love interest it would have to be really well developed over a bit of time. She’s not that cutesy, sexy, go-on-a-date kind of girl.

Castle airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

@Sarahonthego

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