Actress Olunike Adeliyi

And Her Cat Michael Jackson

By The Get Leashed Doggy Style Team

Photo: Rotimi Adeliyi

Confident, cool, and oh so glamorous, actress Olunike Adeliyi has been getting noticed both on screen and on the red carpet. You may recognize her from Flashpoint and Workin’ Moms, or for her Canadian Screen Award nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category. Beyond her acting chops, spanning TV, film, and theater, another thing we love about her is her proud cat lady status. Read on to learn more about Olunike and the special feline adding much happiness to her life, Michael Jackson.

Please tell us about yourself, your profession, and what a typical work day is like:

I was born in Toronto, Ontario, I’m of Nigerian-Jamaican descent and was raised in both Jamaica and Canada. I’ve always dreamed of being a performer and it started at my family’s church in Jamaica when I would sing in the choir and act in the Easter and Christmas plays. I stuck with performance throughout junior high and high school and it just became my passion.

I was formally trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and I have been a professional actress for many years. My breakout role on the popular television series, Flashpoint was the beginning of my public persona. I appeared in projects such as SAW 3D, French Immersion, The Listener, Being Human, Republic of Doyle, A Christmas Horror Story, Lost Girl, Killjoys, Boost, The Girlfriend Experience, and Workin’ Moms to name a few.

The industry has its ups and downs, but it has also been very good to me. A typical work day is very long hours waiting to film. On and off set I stay creative and focused through preparation, working out, meditation, good healthy snacks, and relaxation with great books and music.

Photo: Rotimi Adeliyi

Please tell us a bit about your kitty MJ. How did he come into your life? Is there a story behind why you chose the name?

My kitty Michael Jackson was a gift to me and my daughter when I landed Flashpoint. It was our deal to each other for all our hard work together. She was my original script coach and cheerleader. She was so good at getting me off book with the lines. We had a deep emotional connection when I was going through a gut-wrenching divorce and we lost our first cat Trigger in the settlement. It was heartbreaking to lose him after my daughter and I rescued him from the streets of Brooklyn. Michael Jackson wasn’t Trigger’s replacement but became the extension of that deep love we had for Trigger. MJ is named after my favorite musician of all time. He reminds me of the music videos when MJ would morph into a beautiful black panther. Epic!

Photo: Rotimi Adeliyi

Sadly, black kitties are often overlooked at shelters because they “don’t photograph well” (eye roll) or due to superstitions. What do you love most about MJ?

I love how friendly and loving Jacky is with me and other people. He doesn’t run away, he’s in your business and wants to get to know you. We both share a false narrative about blackness. I grew up with black cats in my home, because my grandmother said it was tradition to have a black cat for good omens. So, I never equated black with being a negative thing. This includes my own experiences as an African person. My skin was seen in my family as regal and beautiful. The excuses people make about blackness is appalling, animals included. Look at me and MJ in these photos, we photograph very well. MJ is my talisman and I will love and care for him till the end of his days. I also love how we shadow box in the mornings to start our day.

Photo: Rotimi Adeliyi

We saw you looking absolutely amazing at the Canadian Screen Awards. How would you describe your personal style and red-carpet style?

Thank you for your kinds words. That was such a magical day. My stylist, Alesha Bailey, and I came up with a concept that included words such as regal, powerful, glamorous, classic, and feminine. Then we connected to incredible designers with stunning gowns that fit our vision. It was a very hard choice, but I think we nailed it. My hair and skin were to be the highlights as I don’t wear much jewelry. It’s important that I keep my natural essence and reflect how much I love who I am and what I look like.

Photo: Rotimi Adeliyi

What projects do you have coming up that we can look out for?

My next film Darken directed by Audrey Cummings will be released early this summer. Also, I will star alongside Anna Paquin, Cynthia Nixon, Melissa Leo, and Denis O’Hare, in Stephen Moyer’s feature film directorial debut, The Parting Glass.

Another project I will also be working on is a feature with Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Mads Mikkelson, Nick Jonas, and David Oyelowo in the anticipated dystopian sci-fi film, Chaos Walking directed by the infamous Doug Liman.

Photo: Rotimi Adeliyi

What does your ideal weekend look like?

I LOVE hanging with my girlfriends that I’ve known since junior high school. They keep me spiritually grounded and loved. We have fun outings like women only dinners, BBQs, escape room adventures, traveling, dancing, and simply enjoy what life has to offer. We are very lucky to have each other, and our children are friends as well.

If I’m not with the ladies I’m spending the time by myself (but also with Michael Jackson) and enjoying my own company with wine, jazz, and a great book.

Photo: Rotimi Adeliyi

What inspires you?

The persistence of women inspires me. Persistence changes the world. There was a time when women were told they didn’t have a voice to stand up for the ideals they believed in. That time has ended. We can accomplish anything we want to, and with excellence and love. I’m inspired by women like Oprah, Maxine Waters, Nina Simone, Christiane Amanpour, Mya Angelou, Sonia Gandhi, Malala Yousafzai, Angela Davis, Kimberle Crenshaw, bell hooks, and women that stand on the front lines to open doors for other women. I’m also inspired by children and their ability to tell the truth before the world gets involved.

Who do you dream of working with most?

I dream of working with Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, and Angela Bassett.

Photo: Rotimi Adeliyi

Finally, can you leave us with a funny story about Michael Jackson?

There used to be a neighbor we lived right next to and every time we couldn’t find Jacky we knew he snuck out to go visit their kitty. We didn’t press him about it, because he was fixed and it’s his business, but we were curious about his friend. One day me and my daughter were watching TV and Jacky walks in with his girlfriend and she’s crazy beautiful. Mixed with grey and white and prancing around our house like she owned the place as he gave her a tour. We just sat there and watched this happen and didn’t say a word. After the tour, they came to chill with us on the coach and watched TV with us as if everything was normal. I guess she approved of us, because she kept coming back so we kept the back door open for her visits. Eventually she moved away, and Jacky was depressed for a bit, but we nursed his heart back to health. Her name was Sophie.

Photo: Rotimi Adeliyi

Be sure to follow Olunike on Instagram @olunikeadeliyi.